Dawna Kelly worked with a trusted franchise consultant and decided on Abrakadoodle. Her decision, however, wasn’t made overnight. It took about five years, but once she made her decision, she jumped in with both feet. Now, 10 years later, Dawna and her husband Al have an award-winning franchise that employs 25 art teachers throughout Detroit.
Abrakadoodle is a children’s art education franchise and an international leader in arts-creativity education. The low cost, home-based, children’s art education franchise enables owners to build sustainable and recurring business throughout the year. Abrakadoodle opportunities include art classes, camps, and special events.
Dawna shared with me that she and her husband chose Abrakadoodle, because they always wanted to own a business that was “full”—purposeful, impactful, and meaningful. Combining their passion for education and making learning fun, Abrakadoodle was the perfect fit.
But, like with most franchises, every owner purchases a “business in a box,” where the basic business model, training, operational support, and marketing are provided. What really determines the extent of the success franchise owners could potentially achieve and how successful they eventually become, are the owners themselves.
Dawna Kelly leveraged her degree in computer science, her M.B.A. in finance, and her professional experience as a financial analyst for Ford and a management consultant for Microsoft. This enabled her to create a business plan for her Abrakadoodle franchise, which set it up for overwhelming success. She knew that really exploiting the tried-and-true model was key.
Dawna and Al took a hardcore approach to get contracts with schools and integrate the program into the schools’ curricula. In addition, they built strong relationships with the principals and parents, becoming mentors for the children—because they were not simply just business owners. Dawna stressed that “relationships are everything” when building a business. Today, 90% of their business is from school contracts.
When I asked Dawna if she encountered any obstacles being an African American business owner, she gleefully expressed “quite the opposite!” Being a minority helped her when approaching Detroit schools, because they felt she could relate well to the children of color and the diversity the area presented. Dawna was able to provide customized programs to meet their needs. Adding to that, the schools knew from the start that Dawna and Al wanted to build a business that was respected, with a reputation for being flexible and easy to work with.
Dawna’s advice to aspiring and current business owners is, if you’re working hard on your business, but don’t feel like you’re going anywhere—keep working! Having your own business is hard work, but the rewards are great, and you have something that you can be proud of.
So, what does the future hold for Dawna’s Abrakadoodle business? Well, a few years ago, Dawna opened an art studio in order to host classes and events for children outside of school. And, of course, she plans to continue growing and get the program she and her husband offer into more schools, with the goal of becoming an outsourced program for an entire school district.
There’s no doubt that Dawna and Al will continue to win community and customer service awards. Hopefully next year, they will experience a repeat performance of winning Abrakadoodle’s 2016 Platinum Plus Splat Award, for being the top performers in the company.
Currently, Abrakadoodle is looking for experienced professionals with good relationship building, communication, and people management skills. No teaching or art experience required.
Capital Investment: Under $50,000.
Nancy Williams earned a degree in sociology from UCLA with a specialization in urban studies and business. Her first business was a partnership in a small record label right out of college. After working with a few tech startups, she concluded her career in the corporate world with 14 years at Sprint, a majority of that tenure as a director in customer and sales operations. Nancy started NValuable Franchise Consulting, in order to provide free consultation, relevant insight, pertinent and candid feedback to her clients, so they are able to confidently purchase the right franchise. As a result, her clients achieve financial independence and a positive, enduring impact on their families and local communities. Follow her on Twitter, and check out her website for more information.