By: Mudeeha Yousaf

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This year’s largest Canadian franchise-only exhibit was held by the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA) who created the setting for the perfect opportunity to showcase low-investment business prospects to those looking to expand an existing franchise, or invest in a new one. Using the Toronto Congress Centre as its stage, the tradeshow brought together the most notorious brand-name franchises under one roof who sought to inform the public and potential franchisees about their respective products, all in the while networking with industry members.

The two-day event, held February 22nd & 23rd, was exclusive in featuring CFA members – all 550 corporate members nation-wide – and the association proves to be the base for franchising in Canada and works with all levels of government to ensure the development of industry-made solutions. The first CFA Franchise Show was held in the fall of 1997, and since then the association has been diligently hosting 4 shows annually – 2 in Toronto, 1 in Montreal and 1 in Vancouver.

Franchises offer prosperous venues to succeed in today’s economy and present an alternative for those looking to start a business venture. Those looking to take the leap had the opportunity to chat with industry leaders who were happy to answer any questions from soon-to-be business owners. Over 100 brands showcased their products and services from a wide range of industries, the most prominent being within the Food & Beverages trade. The big players in the field proudly offered samples of their products, such as Booster Juice, Kiwi Kraze and Pizza Nova, and others on the list included Mr. Souvlaki, Smoke’s Poutinerie, Burger King, and many more. As well, a growing niche that was evident this year was the home health care and senior services sector, and as a result of the aging population, many corporations are taking advantage of the demand that this brings, such as Medical Care Store Franchise Inc. and Senior Homecare by Angels who proudly promoted their services. Beauty supplies, fitness studios, education centres and marketing firms rounded out the efficacious exhibition list.

In addition to discovering new opportunities and creating brand awareness, attendees were able to gain knowledge about the ever-changing industry through seminars held throughout the weekend. Gary Prenevost, Canada’s top franchise matchmaking expert and President of FranNet Southern Ontario, hosted his views on his perspective into the industry, and enlightened attendees about the do’s and don’ts within the competitive franchise world. His seminar, “A 360° Perspective on How to Choose the Right Franchise,” outlined 9 rules for finding the right business, including browsing an array of opportunities before making the decision to buy, and taking the precautionary initiatives through laws and regulations before signing a franchise agreement.

“It’s about building relationships, and people gather around these types of shows for a solutions mode and education mode to help move further into the process,” says Prenevost. “It’s a great platform for the franchise industry to showcase opportunities.” When asked where he sees the industry heading in the future, Prenevost believes it is “going up. The opportunity ladder is getting broken in the corporate world and so a franchise is safer than starting from scratch.” Although 2/3’s of prospective investors do not buy, 15 percent of individuals do make the plunge, and platforms such as FranNet are there to coach them through their options while providing optimal information. “I want them to understand emotional drivers as well as logical drivers. I like knocking people out of their comfort zones because there is no way you can’t make any mistakes.” His seminar, which metaphorically compared purchasing a franchise to buying a vehicle, tackled all aspects of the ‘buyers beware’ world and emphasized how important it is to “investigate before investing.”

This year’s show exuded diversity in entrepreneurial spirit, and many businesses with female leadership at the helm were visible. “I have seen a 100 percent increase in women coming into the business,” says Prenevost.

Krista Thompson, President of Boomerang Kids Franchise Corporation, was a first-time attendee at the tradeshow, though has been in the business for over 20 years, and proudly displayed her female-owned-and-operated corporation. “Four of the women who have purchased a stake are on maternity leave, which just goes to show you that women don’t have to limit themselves and can handle anything.” As well, Kristen Wood, CEO and founder of The Ten Spot — an anti-spa beauty bar – advocates the importance of empowering women to get into business for themselves and says “there’s a real lacking towards female first-time entrepreneurs.”

The Franchise Show concluded optimistically and guided individuals — whether they are merely thinking about a franchise opportunity in the future or business savants’ vigorously pursuing prospects – in realizing their dreams within a practical arena.

For more information on the CFA, visit