Successful and dynamic female duo for Mail Boxes Etc.

Bridget Maendl and Sehrinaz (Naz) Celebioglu, are the first exclusively female franchise partnership in Mail Boxes Etc.’s fast growing and increasingly diverse national network of over 140 franchised stores across the UK and Ireland. Bridget and Naz opened their first store in Waterloo, London, in June 2011, followed by a second, at London Bridge, in January this year.

Hardworking and entrepreneurial, they have achieved outstanding success in a short time and have repeatedly beaten their growth and sales targets. They are enthusiastic about franchising with all its strengths and advantages, very focused about the future and have plans to drive the business forward. They have always seen their opportunity with MBE as being owners of more than one store, so from the beginning of their research they concentrated on talking to franchisees who owned and operated multiple stores, listening to their advice and experience.

Bridget explained: “We spent a year researching before making any commitment. This gave us time to find out everything we needed to know. It also confirmed our belief that franchising was the way forward for us and that we should set our sights beyond one store.

“We worked very hard to get the Waterloo store up and running, seeing it as the cornerstone for our future expansion. For a while everything in life revolved around the business but the initial sacrifices were worthwhile. Once it was established, we could have relaxed a bit, worked regular hours and maybe even had holidays. But we were too enthusiastic by then to slow down. We were very keen to find the next location as soon as possible.”

They decided to open a second store at London Bridge, which has the logistical advantage of being just two underground tube stops from the flagship store at Waterloo, providing the flexibility for Naz, Bridget and their employees to move between stores quickly, as needed to meet customer demand.

The new store is situated on a busy thoroughfare leading into London Bridge station, with a constant stream of people going past on their way to and from work – all of them potential customers. “We have fixed our opening times to take account of this and to ensure we are open when customers need us,” said Naz.

To go back to the beginning, neither of these two enterprising ladies was looking for a franchise when they first discovered MBE, although both wanted to work for themselves and also had some experience of having their own businesses. Bridget commented: "I always work hard and I thought it would be good to get some of the reward myself.”

She was working for an estate agency franchise when her husband was invited to consider an MBE franchise. He wasn’t interested and suggested that his associate should ask Bridget to look at it for him. She was impressed but felt a professional opinion could be helpful, especially from her friend Naz, who has an MA in international business.

Independently of each other, they arrived at the same conclusion: MBE offered a very exciting opportunity. They decided they could pool their different yet complementary talents, skills and resources to invest in a franchise but would still like to consider all the possible options open to them.

Whilst they recognised immediately the potential MBE offered, they were cautious about making the next move and took a year to research the franchising industry as they looked in depth at other franchise systems and talked extensively to franchisees in various parts of London, particularly those with multiple stores. Finally they decided to go ahead with MBE. Bridget would draw on her vast sales and marketing experience and assume responsibility for this area as well as the day to day running, while Naz would use her financial and administrative expertise to grow and manage the business. They agreed each other’s separate areas of responsibility before they opened the store at Waterloo, close to the station.

The store made an excellent start – “much better than expected” says Bridget – and received glowing testimonials from their growing and loyal customer base. However, they were not complacent and continued to market the business energetically to build sales.

Two and a half years later they attribute their success to hard work, efficient management, providing exemplary customer care and dividing the business into clearly defined separate areas of responsibility. There are limitless sales opportunities from new businesses springing up in the areas around their stores and, today, customers include a range of enterprises, from little companies to corporate HQs, hotels, architects, PR companies and creative agencies. Currently, shipping is their largest income earner, accounting for around 75 per cent of the business – and it is growing.

Bridget and Naz explained: “We run the business together but we work for each other as well, reporting in to each other. This ensures continuity and individual accountability. It also enables us to concentrate on the things we do best. There is neither interference nor duplication of effort. And our golden rule is to never make a decision without a discussion first.”

The London Bridge store is making excellent progress but Bridget and Naz are waiting to see how it performs a few months before thinking about the future. They want to take their business development one step at a time, but predict it’s “very possible” that they will take on another store when the right opportunity presents itself.

Both young women are big fans of franchising and particularly the MBE model which they believe works extremely well. They commented: “We like the variety and flexibility of our business and the range of services we provide. There are several distinct elements, so we can push the services which might be slow while enjoying fast growing sales on others. Every day is different and we are always busy. “We would recommend franchising to anyone. MBE’s training and support has been superb. Once a store is open, MBE’s help is always available if you need it. But you haven’t got that uncomfortable feeling of someone constantly hovering over you. It’s a really good balance.

“We enjoy meeting other franchisees and swapping ideas and experiences. It’s great to be working in such a pleasant and co-operative environment where everyone is willing to help each other and to share knowledge and experience. It’s really friendly.”

From the beginning of 2014, Bridget is representing London franchisees at MBE’s National Marketing Group meetings. This group is made up of franchisees chosen by their peers and contributes ideas to the franchisor about marketing plans and initiatives.

Mike Hawkins, MBE’s sales and marketing director, said: “It is always great to welcome bright and enthusiastic people into the network, like Bridget and Naz who are our first all-female partnership. They exemplify everything we would expect from new recruits joining an ever growing network. They work hard in providing the services their stores offer and ensure they are open to service their community’s needs. They are young and entrepreneurial and it’s a pleasure to work with them. We look forward to assisting them in their new store development and any future locations.”

Bridget Maendl and Sehrinaz Celebioglu, Waterloo