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A glittering success

Written by Hannah Prevett on Friday, 10 January 2014. Posted in Franchise

Laban Roomes’ Goldgenie is a perfect fit for business people who feel they have the Midas touch

A glittering success

When Laban Roomes, the founder of Goldgenie, appeared on Dragons’ Den in 2009, the investors were staunchly against him franchising his gold-plating business. Theo Paphitis said he’d need more money to franchise the company. Peter Jones predicted difficulty finding successful franchisees: “You need to go and find another 30 Labans – and I think you might struggle,” he famously said. But, in a twist of fate, as the BBC show has been beamed around the world, it’s given Goldgenie’s franchising model the boost it needs to become a glittering success.

“It’s funny because when I first went onto Dragons’ Den, they were completely against me franchising. They thought I’d need a lot more money to do the franchising successfully,” says Roomes. “But Dragons’ Den is shown in so many different countries, every time they show the Dragons’ Den show in a new country, that country seems to want to buy a franchise. It’s an amazing tool that’s still working for me up until this day.” 

Goldgenie has two different propositions for people wanting to buy into the brand. Firstly, it offers so-called ‘business propositions’. This is where a punter will hand over £3,000 in exchange for all of the materials and equipment required to get up and running. They’ll also get training – either in person at Goldgenie’s HQ in Pimlico, London, or via video tutorial. Where a business opportunity differs from a franchise is that the former doesn’t entitle a company or an individual to use the original brand now, Roomes explains. 

“They can call themselves a Goldgenie-certified professional, but the company can’t be called Goldgenie. So the company may be called ‘John’’s gold-plating company’, but John is a certified Goldgenie operative.” There are currently just under 60 Goldgenie business opportunities across the UK. 

From a 100ml bottle of gold, Roomes says business opportunity purchasers can expect to make £2,000- to £3,000. The appearance of the gold is surprising – far from being the molten gold conjured by makers of epic movie The Hobbit, the solution is actually purple, but when used in conjunction with activator chemicals and then charged with electrical current, the gold soon shines through. (Elite Franchise can confirm the process is as simple as Roomes attests having gold-plated a spoon at the Goldgenie offices last month.)

The decision to plump for business opportunities rather than full franchising was an effort to protect the Goldgenie brand, says Roomes. It also meant he could keep costs down for those wanting to buy a slice of the company. “The reason we don’t want people trading as Goldgenie is because we’ve built the brand so much over the years… to trade as Goldgenie you’d have to pay a lot more than £3,000.” 

This is one tenet to the company’s business model. Another is the selling of master franchises overseas. The first was sold in Cyprus three years ago, but master franchises have now been sold in 20 countries, including Qatar, Oman, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Sweden and Germany. Roomes says the cost of purchasing a master franchise varies and can cost as little as £3,000 or as much as £100,000 depending on the market. 

Goldgenie invested heavily in its website which means that when a new master franchisee comes on board now the website can be immediately duplicated in the franchisee’s country. “It’s a good way to make extra revenue,” admits Roomes. “Also, we were getting so many calls from people outside of the country about gold-plating, we thought wouldn’t it be good if we could have people based all around the world who could take up this service themselves.”

Once the master franchise is sold, the onus is on that franchisee to market the business within their region, and to sell business opportunities in their domestic market. They also sell Goldgenie’s higher end luxury goods. “We become like a wholesaler,” explains Roomes. “Our Cyprus model probably takes £50,000 or £60,000 of products from us every single month.”

For the entrepreneur, selling master franchises has enabled the brand to grow much more quickly than if he was selling direct in each country. “I haven’t got time to go and set up in a foreign country where I don’t know the laws,” Roomes says. “Also, that means I’m going to be away from my core business. It’s much better to get somebody to actually invest money into the company, and at the same time take the business forward in their own country. They know the rules, they know the market. It’s worked successfully in every single country.”

Owing to the weight of responsibility on master franchisees, Roomes says it’s vital to choose them carefully. “We’ve got a process to make sure they’re the right type of person that we are looking for – it’s very important for us. The last thing we want to do is sell a franchise to someone who’s just going to sit on it. And then it’s almost like that country becomes dead.”

One of the concerns of the Dragons back in 2009 was that marketing would cost a pretty penny – but the show has done the lion’s share of the promotion for Roomes and his team. Each time the show is aired in a new market, that usually leads to a master franchise enquiry, he says. From the point the partner signs on the bottom line, the impetus is on them to market the brand on their home turf.

But Roomes says master franchisees aren’t just buying a slice of the company, but a bit of Laban Roomes too. “Everyone’s buying a piece of me,” he laughs. “I think they buy into the sizzle, they buy into the dream I’ve got for this business. It’s not about the machine, or the chemicals, or even the product, it’s more about the lifestyle.” 

Roomes takes his inspiration from his business heroes. “I try to emulate the style of business visionaries like Richard Branson, who is the face of his brand. You’ve got to be someone interesting, and come across as someone interesting, so people want to buy into your brand. It can help tremendously if you can do that.” 

About the Author

Hannah Prevett

Hannah Prevett

Prevett likes to think she's something of an expert when it comes to small business. Having cut her teeth writing about tech, she latterly moved on to such illustrious titles as Growing Business, Management Today and the Sunday Times to indulge her enthusiasm for entrepreneurship: from P&Ls to private equity and all that's in between, you can't keep this girl away from the heady world of start-ups. 

Back in the day when she had spare time, she would spend it networking, horse riding, drafting and re-drafting ideas for novels, and playing auntie to her niece and three god-children. Those were the days...

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