How did you get into the industry?
In April of 2018, Jerry Ferraro and Graham Kelley were in Minneapolis, Minnesota for Graham’s bachelor party. Included in the agenda of the weekend’s activities was to go axe throwing at a local facility. Within minutes of their first throw, the two quickly agreed that axe throwing was an activity that would thrive in their native New England and throughout the Northeast. Upon their return, Graham and Jerry met with Jerry’s longtime business partner, Maggie Slivinski, to pitch her on the concept of axe throwing as a business and to ask her to join in on the venture, both of which she agreed on.
The three partners immediately began to strategize and map out all of the necessary pieces for their yet to be named business. With Jerry’s entrepreneurial background, Maggie’s understanding of business planning and operations and Graham’s sales and account management experience, it didn’t take long as Blue Ox Axe Throwing, LLC was formally established in June of 2018, just hours before Graham’s wedding (which Jerry served as a groomsman).
Blue Ox Axe Throwing’s first facility opened in Wallingford, Connecticut in August of 2018 and has become Connecticut’s highest-rated axe-throwing venue, according to Connecticut Magazine. Blue Ox has opened a second Connecticut location in Bridgeport, Connecticut in the fall of 2019 and will be expanding operations to multiple locations throughout the country in 2020.
What’s New in the Business or in the Franchise Model?
We have introduced a Franchise Management Software solution to serve as the internal franchise intranet and training and support hub. This will allow for a more efficient training period prior to opening and will continue on to lead to increased efficiency in franchisee continuing education training and internal franchisor and franchisee communication and support.
Where do you See Opportunities or Challenges for the Franchise/Business Moving Forward?
We see opportunities in the amount of green space that exists within the industry. With it being such a new industry, there is ample opportunity to be the first facility within a specific territory and to be extremely successful by establishing a presence as the premier axe throwing facility in that area.
The challenges that exist are in the amount of axe throwing companies that continue to be established throughout the country. While there are many open territories that are available for business, there are also competitive companies that are expanding just as quickly with an equal ambition to establish a presence nationally.
What is your Goal for the Business Moving Forward?
Our goal is to expand to 50 locations within the next five years. We will focus on East Coast expansion before venturing out to Central and Western United States.
Talk to us About Training and Support, How Do You Deliver?
Initial assistance provided by The Franchisor will include the following franchisee training programs:
– Phase I — Training provided at a location designated by the Franchisor:
Blue Ox management will work with franchisee to understand and fully grasp what an ideal location will be for the business. It is expected that the Franchisor will provide franchisees with one to two weeks of initial training at the Franchisor’s headquarters in Wallingford, Connecticut, or at a location designated by the Franchisor, beginning approximately six to eight weeks before the franchisee is scheduled to open for business. Phase I instruction will pertain to administrative, operational, and sales/marketing matters; it will also include a liberal amount of on-the-job training with the franchisee spending time at the location and working in the day to day business itself. This training will be provided for the franchisee and up to two other team members.
– Phase II — Training provided at the franchisee’s location:
On-site training typically takes place when the franchisee commences operations of their Blue Ox model. An experienced trainer from Blue Ox will provide on-site training for a period of up to one week during the opening and commencement of operations
No franchisee will be allowed to commence operations until the franchisee has successfully completed Phase I of the initial training program. The franchisee will not be permitted to continue operations until successfully completing Phase II of the initial training program. If the franchisee fails to meet the initial requirements specified by the Franchisor, the Franchisor may, at its option, require the completion of additional training or may cancel the Franchise Agreement.
Franchisees will be required to attend up to two separate sessions of two days of refresher/update training per year. Space permitting, the Franchisor will provide the opportunity for franchisees to send additional personnel to refresher training. This training will be provided at no cost, but the franchisee will pay for all applicable travel, lodging, and out-of-pocket expenses.
A member of Blue Ox field support staff will visit each franchisee according to the following schedule:
First Quarter – Monthly
Second-Fourth Quarters – Bimonthly
Second Year and Beyond – Quarterly
It is estimated that Blue Ox will need to hire one field supervisor for every 20 franchises in the field. This is a relatively “de-leveraged” support model, which should allow for the high quality of support and guidance provided to franchisees. The Franchisor will incorporate a formalized mechanism for ensuring quality control among franchisees that will be implemented by these field supervisors. Designated staff members will perform supervision of field support duties.
In addition to field support, members of the Franchisor organization will provide the services listed below. The Franchisor must assign a specific person to cover each of these support areas (one person can be assigned to more than one task). The names of support staff members who are officers, directors, or have significant management responsibility in conjunction with franchisees will be disclosed in the Blue Ox Disclosure Document. The Franchisor has the responsibility to assign a person/people to each task during the development of the franchise program.
– Operational Support
The Franchisor will provide ongoing training and support in many areas critical to the success of the franchisee’s business, including unit operations and maintenance, customer-service techniques, product ordering, new event development and maintenance, suggested pricing guidelines and administrative procedures.
– Blue Ox Marketing Support
Blue Ox will coordinate development of advertising materials and strategies for the benefit of all members of the franchise network. It will also supply franchisees with consumer marketing plans and materials for use at the local or regional level, and retains the right to approve all local advertising materials that the franchisee chooses to develop. Eventually, all marketing materials and collateral may be uploaded on to a cloud-based database that would provide the franchisees the ability to download documents whenever needed.
– Site Selection
The Franchisor will provide a set of guidelines to acquire the proper location for a Blue Ox location. The franchisee will then submit a list of sites to be approved by the Franchisor.
The Franchisor or its affiliate will negotiate quantity discounts on behalf of all of its members, passing some or all of these savings on to the franchisees. This will include elements such as the hatchets, targets, equipment, marketing materials and other needed items for operating a Blue Ox location.
– Blue Ox Accounting/Audit/Legal
Reporting directly to administration, this department is responsible for the financial and legal oversight of franchisees. Blue Ox will be providing support and guidance to franchisees on how to manage their books, but they will ultimately be instructed to hire their own CPA for their individual business.
– Ongoing Research and Development
Blue Ox management and leadership will continue to research methods and techniques for franchise operations (including purchasing and promotional methods) that enhance unit-level profitability. There will be continued research and development on how to better operate the locations and how to more profitably manage a Blue Ox franchise. This would include improved food services, better group marketing strategies and new missions and props.
– Franchise Sales and Overall Program Oversight
Although franchise sales are not a support function, the expense involved for the franchise sales department needs to be considered with all other personnel expenses. Franchise Marketing Systems may be responsible for the qualification, follow-up and sale of franchises. In growing a franchise organization, it is neither necessary nor advisable for a Franchisor to initiate activities with a fully staffed organization. Staffing should occur on a gradual basis in anticipation of the actual need.
An evaluation of the existing organization would indicate, for the short term that the above responsibilities could be incorporated into the existing structure. However, as sales goals are met and the franchise network expands, the Franchisor should expect to hire additional support personnel as needed. Franchise Marketing Systems will be working alongside with Blue Ox management to run the franchise company and manage the new work that comes with the franchise growth model.
Your most difficult moment at the Franchise Business?
the most difficult moment at the franchise business has been developing leads for potential franchisees. As an emerging brand, we have a small footprint within the industry and are looking for interested entrepreneurs that are optimistic about the prospect of working with a fast-growing and up and coming company that is expanding its presence across the country at a rapid pace. This gives us a small pool of initial candidates to sort through and work with at the start.
How is your Franchise Model Structured?
A. Training and Support Model?
We provide the following areas of support:
Operational Support – You aren’t just buying a name; you are buying proven operational practices that have grown our business! We provide ongoing training and support in many areas critical to the success of your business, including unit operations and maintenance, product ordering, new event development and maintenance, suggested pricing guidelines and administrative procedures.
Marketing Support – Exclusive to your territory, Blue Ox will coordinate development of advertising materials and strategies just for you! It will also supply its franchisees with consumer marketing plans and materials for use at the local or regional level.
Purchasing Perks – We need to mention that on top of an already affordable and highly profitable franchise, we will also negotiate quantity discounts on behalf of all of our franchisees, meaning more savings for you! This will include elements such as the hatchets, targets, equipment, marketing materials and other needed items for operating a Blue Ox location.
Other Areas of Support – Blue Ox will provide ongoing oversight of financial, legal, and accounting for its franchisees. Additionally, we strive to discover and research methods and techniques that will enhance profitability.
Training – We know how to set our franchisees up for success, with detailed training programs and extensive support throughout your journey. It begins with one to two weeks of training at the infamous Blue Ox headquarters, followed up with an additional training segment at your location. All training is paid for by us!
B. What is the Fee Structure?
Franchise Fee $30,000
Royalty Fee 6%
Total Average Initial Investment $134,471 (includes the training, franchise fees and all other expenses) with a low-end average of $94,442
TOTAL BEFORE FRANCHISE COSTS $94,442 – $174,500
AVERAGE TOTAL: $134,471
C. Territory Definition?
An exclusive franchise territory is generally considered a major selling point. Blue Ox will be offering exclusive territories to their franchisees as one of the key benefits to early adopters.
Exclusive territories can offer a competitive advantage in the franchise sales and marketing environment. As a result, the Blue Ox franchise system will be granting its franchisees an exclusive territory. The territory will include a defined area and will be documented as a 50-100,000 population center or a 5-mileradius from the location, whichever is less.
Territories will be mapped based on the individual market circumstances for each unit sold. We will map out an area based on market research and the most recent available census data to come to territory modeling conclusions.
D. Day in the life of a Franchisee?
The day in the life of a franchisee will vary and depend on the role taken by the franchisee.
An owner-operator will be more hands on and will be involved in all required activities, including: board cutting, target drawing, attendee & lane management, front desk customer service, maintenance.
An absentee owner will be more involved in reviewing the business and accounting. This includes reviewing deposits and facility traffic in Square, reviewing financials in QuickBooks, meeting with the General Manager &/or facility Manager, reviewing monthly financial numbers with franchisors.
What does Your Franchisee Do in the Business Every Day?
It’s all about management and structure. As the franchise owner, you need to ensure that the workers are on time, there is quality control on the jobsite, routing and scheduling is organized, and most of all franchisees should have a commitment to great customer service. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so you need to be on top of your team to represent the business.
Who is the Ideal Franchise Candidate?
Targeted groups include the following potential franchise candidates:
1. Sales Professionals
3. Existing Business Owners
4. Families – Husband / Wife Teams who would like to start a business.
The best Blue Ox franchisees will be great in dealing with people and will operate with complete integrity in the business and in front of the customer. They will understand and grasp the culture and the change that Blue Ox brings to the franchise industry. The number one quality we will look for in a potential candidate for Blue Ox is their comfort level in sales and marketing the services and managing relationships with customers – we want business people to join the Blue Ox franchise model who will be aggressive and share the same vision for the company.
Blue Ox is seeking candidates that are eager to launch into an industry full of potential and fun. We believe that husband/wife teams, sales professionals, existing business owners, or investors would all be viable options for franchisees. More specifically, we would love to see:
A “people person” who will bond with customers and who is not afraid of daily, outgoing customer interaction. Our owners/operators are the cornerstone of the customer relationships that build loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals.
Great time and schedule management skills are a must-have for our franchisees. Currently, Blue Ox operates on nights and weekends, seeing a steady, full schedule during these hours. Franchisees need to be able to manage a small staff and keep everyone organized and on task.
A top-notch axe throwing experience goes beyond a fun atmosphere and sharp hatchets. High quality customer service is what attracts customers in time and time again. We want individuals who take honesty, integrity, and excellence as seriously as we do.
Franchisees of Blue Ox should have a fun, outgoing, and adventurous attitude and mindset. You may be right for Blue Ox if you are business minded and grasp how to effectively and efficiently run a business.
We need candidates that meet the initial financial requirements in order to successfully launch their business.
What Goals Do you Have for the Franchise Model in the Future?
We have a goal of having ultimate franchisee success. This means that all franchisees will be opened and operating within the communicated expected time period of three to six months barring zoning and real estate.
Another goal that we have is for franchise owners to achieve a projected franchisee income of $200,000 after two years of franchise ownership. This also includes a 155% return on investment by the end of the second year.
We expect to have all franchisees fully onboarded onto our Franchise Management System prior to opening in order to provide full access to our training modules, operations manual and support portal.
For more information on the Blue Oxe Franchise, visit the franchise site here: http://blueoxaxefranchise.com