National Franchise Exhibition 2021

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The National Franchise Exhibition- 01/10/2021

After an interesting arrival to the NEC carpark, due to Jon’s vans wingmirror being hit by a rather oblivious Range Rover driver, we made it to the NEC and into the hall for the National Franchise Exhibition.


Together we navigated the floor and picked out businesses that were in operating in a similar sector to Hot House Music, specifically children’s activities and creative organisations. This would enable us to develop a wider scope of transferable knowledge and advice that related to our industry and market.


To begin our networking, for the day, we spoke to Vicky Whitwell. Vicky was a very approachable and friendly franchisee at the Creation Station (Arts & Crafts Classes & Parties For Kids | The Creation Station), a group which provides arts and crafts to all age ranges. It was very beneficial and fresh to get the perspective from a franchisee as all the other companies we spoke to were franchisors. We all agreed that the main points we took away from this conversation was the need to ensure your franchisors feel supported through clear communication and advice. One way that the Creation Station achieves this is by holding a zoom call with all its franchisees, every 2-4 weeks, to enable ideas to be shared and problems to be solved.


Another creative organisation at the exhibition were Art Class International (Beginners Art Class | Seasons Art Class United Kingdom | England (, a business which provides art classes to adults. The conversation we had with this company was very informative in respect of how they market their franchises. Their marketing is done 50% physically and 50% digitally, these were figures which we all found rather shocking given the digitalised world which we now live in. Ironically, I am currently writing this blog whilst Facebook (and all the companies owned by Facebook) are down. Maybe we are too reliant on our digital world and should ensure some of our eggs are put into the basket of physical marketing? Now there’s a thought for you!


Whilst walking around the exhibition, we observed lots of different marketing techniques. Upon our team reflection, these were the few which we highlighted as the most interesting to us, personally, but also to the company:

Interestingly, upon talking to Jon after the event, he informed us that, in the meetings and conservations he had had, it was highlighted that ‘gimmicky’ stands often didn’t come across as serious and attracted customers rather than investors. It is, therefore, important we try and establish a balance between eye catching and appealing but also professionalism. We concluded that it may be appropriate to be able to alter the image we convey, depending on whether we’re customer facing or investor facing.


It was common practice amongst all the companies we spoke to that they get a visit at least once a month to ensure that everything is running smoothly in their franchise. However, we did also collate some conflicting information…

There was a mixed opinion, between the businesses we spoke to, on discovery days. Clip ‘n’ climb, and Monkey Puzzle Day Nursery (Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries | Quality Childcare | Nursery Near Me) offer discovery days, with the later offering discovery days for family as well. However, Small Talk Nurseries (Quality Childcare | Where Childhood Begins | Small Talk Nurseries ( and Ashtons Franchise Consulting (Ashtons Franchise Consulting – Leading Franchise Experts across the UK) weren’t for discovery days. Ashtons Franchise Consulting made a point that you must be careful that you haven’t dedicated valuable time and resources for no-one or very few people to turn up.


Our conversation with Ashtons Franchise Consulting was very worthwhile. They gave us a sheet detailing what they help you with in each of their consultancy plans. Although we may not choose to use their consultancy service, the list made quite a clear ‘check-list’ of what needs to be covered when setting up a franchise.

Another advisor at the exhibition were the BFA (British Franchise Association) (Home – British Franchise Association ( who were very approachable and friendly. We spoke to a woman called Helen Thompson, who is their head of franchise support. Helen recommended getting an outsider to read your business/ franchise pitch to highlight what they see as your USP. This can then enable you to see if what they pick up on is what you want to get convey and, if not, devise a strategy to ensure that this is the case in the future.

To conclude, we thought that it was a very valuable opportunity to attend the National Franchise Exhibition. It was a great networking experience as well as informative to compare different companies approaches to franchises. By being face-to-face this enabled the conversations we had to be much more engaging and beneficial as it was easier to gauge people’s reactions and gave more opportunity to ask appropriate questions. Although the COVID lockdowns have forced us all to engage online a lot more, they have also highlighted the benefits of being able to converse face-to-face. I think that we can all agree there’s nothing worse than a slow internet connection!

It was unanimous, between the apprentices that attended, that we would attend the exhibition again. However, we didn’t think that it would be beneficial for us to attend as an exhibitor, at this current time, as this has huge costs associated with it and we believe that you can reach the right people via social media and online forums tailored to people looking for franchises in specific fields.

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