Riding For Victory: Coconut’s Cycle Challenge!

For the countless women struggling to re-enter the workplace, Smart Works is a lifeline! Through interview coaching, and the donation of an interview-ready outfit, women are being empowered to change their own lives. Which is why Coconut embarked on a fundraiser to support EWiF’s chosen charity.

It’s been a week since the Coconut team of five, donned their cycling shorts and embraced the community spirit of the outside (or inside a sweaty gym perhaps). With pedals spinning for dear life but spirits high, our team of amateur cyclists pedalled their way to their goal targets, all in support of Smart Works’ mission to empower women in the workplace.

The journey was nothing short of exhilarating. From early morning training sessions to late night gym fixes, the team shared a sense of purpose and determination. Each mile conquered was a step closer to driving positive change in the world. As we pushed through the pain, we were reminded of the obstacles many women face as they try to enter the business landscape. To date, Smart Works has empowered over 35,000 women, many of whom are at greatest risk of economic hardship and discrimination. In the last year:

  • 44% of clients had been unemployed for over a year,
  • 18% had applied for over 50 jobs,
  • And 10% had applied for over 100 jobs before coming to Smart Works.
  • In addition, 37% were single mothers,
  • 16% have a disability
  • 52% were from an ethnic minority.

It’s no easy feat! So, we pressed on, determined to make a difference. Each member of the Coconut team had a goal: to cycle 100 miles and raise at least £100. But of course, we managed to top that, collectively raising £612! We’d like to thank our very generous donors for the support given to help us reach our target! Every penny raised will support Smart Works’ vital work in providing unemployed women with the tools and resources they need to build confidence – especially after a career break, or negative workplace experience.

As one client says, “I remember very clearly how bleak life felt when I visited Smart Works three years ago, feeling hopeless, like no-one would give me a job because of my depression. The hours I spent with the women there – I’ll never forget them; and I hold Smart Works in my heart.”

The Cycle for Smart Works Fundraising Challenge was more than just a bike ride; Our team was joined by individuals from all walks of life, each with their own reason for taking part. Some, like Nathalie Buckley (a new mother!!) were looking for a new challenge, whilst our MD Paul Clegg, wasn’t sure if his 30 year old bike still worked! Together, we shared our progress and had a laugh along the way.

When she finished, Lyndsey Hancock, echoed the thoughts of most of us when she said, “101 miles cycled! I’m NEVER cycling again!” But despite the sore legs, it was all for a good cause.

Coconut, together with EWiF, are proud to support a charity helping women reach their full potential. The Cycle for Smart Works Fundraising Challenge has reminded us of the power of collective action, and we look forward to taking part in

more fundraising challenges in the future!

Empowering Women in Business 2023

Pip Wilkins QFP, CEO to the BFA (left), Nathalie Buckley, Coconut (mid), Lyndsey Hancock (right)

Pip Wilkins QFP, CEO to the BFA (left), Nathalie Buckley, Coconut (mid), Lyndsey Hancock (right)

New to Coconut, and new to franchising, we sent Nathalie Buckley and Lyndsey Hancock to their first ever franchise event. Here, Nathalie shares what she loved about attending the BFA’s EWIB conference!

On Wednesday, 27th September, 2023, my colleague Lyndsey Hancock and I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Empowering Women in Business (EWIB) conference hosted by the British Franchise Association (BFA). As newcomers to both the worlds of Coconut and franchising, this event was an eye-opening and inspiring experience for us.

The visionary behind the operation, Pip Wilkins QFP, CEO of the BFA, ensured EWIB made a triumphant return, for its 10th year, with a resounding focus on the theme, ‘Making Every Moment Count.’ The event brought together a diverse network of women from various sectors within franchising, and it was nothing short of exceptional to be a part of it.

EWIB showcased an outstanding array of guest speakers hailing from diverse business backgrounds, and included:

  • Harpreet Kaur, co-founder of Oh So Yum Desserts & winner of The Apprentice 2022.
  • Sam McAlister, who provided exclusive insights into the notable Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew, titled “How to Convince a Prince.”
  • Eniola Aluko, a double-FA Women’s Cup winner and three-time Premier/Super League champion.
  • Pip Wilkins QFP from the BFA
  • Emily Price QFP also from the BFA
  • Anne-Marie Martin from diddi dance
  • Jane James from Little Voices
  • Lucy Campbell from Right at Home
  • Vicky MacQueen from diddi rugby
  • Rebecca Newenham QFP from Get Ahead
  • Amy Cridland from McDonalds
  • Suzie McCafferty QFP from Platinum Wave
  • Farrah Rose QFP from The Franchising Centre
  • Gillian McAteer from Citation

These extraordinary women and inspirational business leaders delivered an unforgettable experience throughout the day. They generously shared their personal journeys, experiences, and entrepreneurial wisdom. EWIB allowed us to delve into the importance of finding one’s passion, pursuing dreams with unwavering determination, and embrace the challenges that come with the journey to success.

As we absorbed the insights from these accomplished women, I discovered several key takeaways, which I will reflect on further:

“Inspire others to be the best versions of themselves.” – Empowering others is a path to personal and collective growth.

  • Pip Wilkins QFP, CEO of the BFA

“Plan your time to grow your business and create financial freedom for yourself.” – Effective time management is crucial for success and financial independence.

  • Harpreet Kaur, Oh So Yum Desserts

“Collaborate effectively, define your purpose, involve the right people, and encourage collaborative behavior.” – Building a strong support network and working together can lead to remarkable achievements.

  • Anne-Marie Martin, diddi dance

“Set realistic goals, practice self-compassion, and build a support network.” – Self-care and a strong support system are essential for navigating challenges.

  • Lucy Campbell, Right at Home

“Lift as you climb.” – As we rise, we should bring others along and share our knowledge and experience.

  • Amy Cridland, McDonalds

EWIB demonstrated that franchising is an inclusive and supportive industry, welcoming women from diverse backgrounds. It showed me how personal growth, self-empowerment, and the pursuit of dreams are not limited by our histories, but enriched by them.

EWIB also stressed the importance of adaptability, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and investing in our teams. Additionally, it highlighted the value of readily available coaching and mentoring programs, which are there to help us thrive in franchising.

In conclusion, my first EWIB conference was an unforgettable experience, reinforcing my belief in the power of women in business. Lyndsey and I discussed how we’re now more motivated than ever to embrace our journey in franchising, armed with the wisdom and inspiration we gained from these remarkable women. As we move forward, we’ll carry the lessons of empowerment, collaboration, and personal growth with us, making every moment count in our own entrepreneurial endeavors.

To find out more about our journey into the world of franchising, read Lyndsey’s blog and explore her personal experience of EWIB through our partner site, EWiF

Coconut planting trees for Christmas… and beyond

At Coconut, we’ve been thinking differently this year. As well as focusing on the wellbeing of our team, we’re focused on the wellbeing of the Planet!

They’re a conscientious bunch, over at Coconut! Which is why, rather than contributing to the world’s emissions, they’re doing what they can to offset the carbon footprint of the team – and of their clients!

Every year, thousands of cards with pretty sparkles and cutesy designs, are sent across the UK. However, the University of Exeter discovered, in 2021, how sending just one card, produces about 140 grams of carbon dioxide. This is addition to those designs which are not combustible, or can’t be recycled. And these are just the cards. Add to this the impact of sending gifts, too!

So, in a bid to be different, and positively impact the world, Coconut Marketing have planted 2,000 trees on behalf of their clients for Christmas, at projects in Kenya and Mozambique, through Ecologi. Although neither country need Coconut trees, by helping with the reforestation programme of Eden Reforestation Projects, they’re making a difference on your behalf.

This is in addition to the individual tree planting activities some of the Coconut team have supported this year, through TreeApp. Planting, another 250 trees around the world.

The impact of this mindful gift means the Coconuts have saved 2.63 tonnes of CO2e or 8m2 of sea ice. The equivalent of two long haul flights, or 6,525 miles in the car! Happy Christmas!

Coconut has also supported two ecosystem projects on behalf of staff, something the whole team is supportive of:

  • Peatland restoration and conservation in Indonesia
  • This will help to protect habitat thought to be home to up to 10% of the world’s remaining Bornean orangutan population, so future generations can enjoy their antics.
  • Generating electricity from landfill gas in Brazil

The objective of this project is to collect the landfill gas produced in the Uberlândia landfills and use it to generate electricity, preventing environmentally damaging methane from being released into the atmosphere. The project expects to produce 354,968 MWh of energy during its lifetime.

Adam Lovelock, one of Coconut’s Directors says, “At Coconut Marketing, we’re committed to being environmentally responsible and supporting sustainable practices. Which is why we decided to donate to Ecologi, and support regeneration projects around the world, rather than sending traditional Christmas presents to our clients. We hope our contribution will have a positive impact on combating climate change, and encourage others to join us in supporting this important cause.”

What a lovely bunch, the Coconuts are!

To see and/or track any of the projects Coconut are supporting, visit: ecologi.com/coconutmarketing
Or, to start your own low carbon business forest, visit: ecologi.com/coconutmarketing?r=6390aa29224db807b7d14e56

FranTech designed with franchising in mind

When it comes to franchise technology, very few systems are geared for our industry, or the unique franchisor/franchisee relationship. Adam Knight thinks franchisors – you – deserve better 

During our many (many) years of working with franchisors from every possible industry, the team here at Coconut has gained quite a unique viewpoint. Based on our knowledge, areas of expertise and useful insight, we’ve become a port of call for Franchisors, with all manner of technology issues, as well as being trusted partners for marketing.

Although our primary focus has always been marketing related, particularly with our Franchise Recruitment work and, in recent years, Digital Advertising on behalf of whole networks, we’ve developed a deep understanding of how the entire franchise network operates. Obviously the mechanics of marketing have become more technical over time, and strategies have come to rely on a considerable amount of technology, in recent years.

Almost every time we’d worked with someone on these types of projects, the solution seemed to feel as though we were just trying to find an answer with the smallest amount of compromises. Other times, we would have to rig multiple different systems together. Although this solved the problem, it required a substantial amount of maintenance and management, to keep everything running smoothly. Quite time consuming, and frustrating at times for our clients.

What is FranTech?

An excellent question! Since we started helping franchisors, we’ve seen every piece of technology innovated and implemented across a number of functionality-use cases, from CRM, class bookings, secure messaging, and social media management. All provide good solutions for business, but as soon as you add in the franchisor/franchisee relationship to the mix, they start to fall apart or require considerable of customisation. This invariably can end up being extremely costly. Sometimes this is in the literal cost, other times in the scope of what was actually required from the solution.

At one point, a franchisor told us they were so embarrassed by the franchise management solution they ‘d signed up to, and how it looked because they were asking me to design a user interface to sit over the top, and make it look and feel more professional.

So, from our point of view, FranTech is modern and flexible software built specifically with franchising in mind.

There are a number of tools being sold as ‘for franchising’. However, these are blatant repackaging of software made for other use cases, and shoe-horned into franchise networks with some inelegant and glaring issues. Big software companies don’t see franchising as worth the huge investment it would take to build modern and flexible solutions, because of its relative size compared to the global industry based markets. Despite the fact the UK franchise industry has a net worth of £17 billion!

So, franchisors are left with these poor (and often expensive) solutions, and put up with them, because there doesn’t seem to be an alternative.

We think Franchisors deserve better!

Which is why we redesigned the future

In 2018, Coconut began running Google Ads for a large network of franchisees. We’d been running ads for networks before, but not at this scale. We needed a system to administer this activity. Smoothly and easily. It would need to be able to take payments, provide invoices, deliver monthly updates, and report on the actual performance of the Google Ads activity. As you can imagine, doing this manually would have been a huge amount of work. So, we systemised, centralised and organised and as soon as we were done, it instantly became obvious we had the skeleton of a system which could solve a large amount of our clients’ problems.

We started talking to our clients, asking them what problems they had with running their networks, and made a list of everything we could solve through our system. Almost every issue our clients spoke to us about, revolved around administration, centralisation, access control, content management, knowledge management, and internal communication. This formed the basis of Franchise Cloud and our Franchise Relationship Management platform. So that is the history of how Coconut created Franchise Cloud. The thing we are really interested to talk about is the future.

Can Franchise Cloud really help?

The way we’ve approached this is quite unique. We have built solutions to all of the issues we have seen over the last 20 years in franchising. But, wherever a decision needed to be made about how a certain function would need to work for a particular customer, in their real world usage, rather than hard-coding our assumption of how we think it needs to work, we’ve left it open and customisable.

For example, three different franchise businesses working in children’s activities, share the same organisational structure but work in hugely different ways.

The way marketing is handled across different networks is also radically different. Where one may handle everything at HQ, another expects franchisees to handle their own marketing entirely. This is why we believe it’s important for your management software to not only understand these fundamental differences, but be able to handle them without skipping a beat.

Through Franchise Cloud, we believe we have achieved this. However, the only way for you to really know whether it can work for your brand and network, is to talk me through how you are currently working, and what you need/want. I can then demonstrate how Franchise Cloud can meet your requirements.

Content trends for attracting audience attention

In our Whiteboard Weekly #44, Adam highlighted the trends we’re seeing in Google for franchise recruitment. To help focus your content, Steph offers insight into how to aim it at what audiences want.

When thinking about what content to create it would be great – though a bit weird – if we could read audiences’ minds to know what they actually want! Sometimes, it can feel discouraging to create what you think is amazing content, to then check the post’s performance and realise literally no one has engaged with it. Am I right?!

However, by observing consumer trends, we gain valuable insight into what’s important enough to people for them to engage with. It’s important to be aware of these things, rather than sticking rigidly to a content plan you developed at the start of the year. If you can hit a “hot topic” whilst staying on brand – hit it hard, with passion, and gusto!

Reading your audience

In Coconut’s workshop at the bfa conference, I shared details about what consumers are currently attentive to. It determines the kind of content are search for and look at, because it’s forefront in their minds. It comes as no surprise to know we’ve seen a massive shift, likely a result of the pandemic. Right now, people are most attentive to content around:

  1. Health: Protective of their health (& family’s), choosing to be safe, and minimise risk
  2. Planet: Seeking to minimize their impact on environment
  3. Society: Working together for the greater good
  4. Experience:Living in the moment to make the most of life

What this means, as you think about content for your recruitment and core marketing, is how you can create content people will want to see. It’s not quite mind-reading, but it’s the next best thing.

So, because we know people are more protective over their health – physical and mental – focus content within this framework. Because we know people long to have a positive impact on the planet and their communities, use this angle to highlight how they can. And because we know, people want to enjoy life after lockdowns, by living more in the moment, show them how it’s possible.

Is your creative mind thinking, yet?

When I first saw this list, my brain started thinking about the what we could create for our clients. Maybe, yours is firing off left, right and centre in the same way?

If not, here are some ideas for the kind of content you could produce:

  1. For a number of years, franchising was unique because franchisees could enjoy work-life balance. This hasn’t changed, but it’s no longer unique. Use case studies, vlogs, photos etc. to show this isn’t just words; talk about the real life health and wellbeing benefits your franchisees and/or customers experience.
  2. Businesses are encouraged to aim for net zero. For some individuals, it’s also about being a responsible person, and doing “my bit for the environment”. Within your brand, you’re likely using systems, strategies, services etc for greener, cleaner living. Talk about them. Talk about the benefit to the environment. Talk about what running a business with you achieves.
  3. During the pandemic, stories emerged of the kindness of humanity. Delivery drivers checked on isolated customers, pausing to have a chat, companies and individuals made-up care packages for those in isolation, and people donated food parcels. But, these stories aren’t restricted to the pandemic. In January, one of our clients connected me with five of their franchisees, all giving back to others. These stories hit a chord with people, inspiring them to do the same. Share them.
  4. Living in the moment can be hindered by employment, sometimes! Talk about the kind of experiences you and your network have. Working from a campervan whilst touring the UK? Working from a beach in the middle of winter? Dreamt of racing a yacht around the Greek Islands? These are real stories I’d written for clients. Tell yours; inspire your audience.

Show, not just tell

I love words – I love writing them, I love reading them… but I’m conscious of the fact a picture is worth a thousand of them. Your content should include all mediums on your social media channels. Photos and videos “in the moment” shared to stories and reels, as well as pre-recorded, scripted videos, and photoshoot images.

They should be real, they should be vivid, and they should demonstrate the reality of you, your brand, and your network. Authenticity has become more than an online buzzword, it’s become the key to engaging your audience.

Curious about where to find your stories in your network? Speak to us about a Coconut strategy day.

Whiteboard Weekly #34 – Using Video Marketing During COVID-19

Without even noticing, we have all become video marketers in the past few weeks! This may have only been a Zoom call with colleagues, but it shows that during this time, video communication is the number one way to deliver your message.

I believe that the businesses who communicate via video through this crisis, and continue to be ‘visible’, will have a stronger audience to show for it! In this video, I talk over the new importance of video marketing ‘now’ and some ideas on the types of videos you could be creating.