by Driving Miss Daisy
last updated 22/06/2022
Fresh As A Daisy
by Driving Miss Daisy
last updated 22/06/2022
An award-winning franchise that changes people’s lives – that’s Driving Miss Daisy
'In this business, you brighten up the lives of an awful lot of people and you get hugs of gratitude every day,’ say Melanie and Jack Harper. It’s an unusual way to introduce an opportunity, but Driving Miss Daisy is an unusual franchise.
The newly-crowned Home & Lifestyle Franchise System of the Year has 80 franchisees throughout New Zealand who provide driving services to help people retain their independence.
Melanie and Jack have been together for 40 years. Jack worked in financial planning and business investment, while Melanie was a medical laboratory scientist. ‘When our youngest child turned 18, I thought, I’ve got all this energy – I want to start a business of my own that could change people’s lives and have a positive impact within my community.’
A much-needed service
‘My Aunt Trish lived near us but her children didn’t so she came to rely on taxis to get about. They proved to be highly unreliable in that she never knew who was turning up, or at what time, and she needed physical assistance which she seldom received. Eventually, I took over ferrying her around, but although it was a privilege for me, she felt indebted.’
It was when Aunt Trish started paying her neighbour to take her out that Melanie had her “light bulb” moment. ‘Trish’s whole tone and demeanour changed: it was completely empowering for her to be able to say, “Jill, please take me to the hairdresser for 10am, then we’ll go shopping and we’ll be home by one…” I suddenly realised there must be many more like Trish in Havelock North, and that was the birth of Driving Miss Daisy.
‘The name of the business came to me in a flash. Someone in Canada was using it, too, but after sensible negotiation we ended up with the trademark here, in Australia and the UK too. Today, we have franchisees in all three countries, including 80 in New Zealand.’
‘Like many of the best ideas, the concept is very simple,’ says Jack. ‘Driving Miss Daisy franchisees are not just drivers but companions to their clients: they will come up the drive, help their client out of their home and into the car and check they have locked up. Clients are in charge of the journey, which might well involve a list of errands such as the driver popping into the Post Office or pharmacy en route. The key is that it enables people to have their independence back and allows them to do things easily – things they thought they might never do again.’
So successful has the brand become that companion driving services are now recognised by the NZTA and ACC, and Driving Miss Daisy holds the ACC contract for companion driving services throughout New Zealand. Total Mobility Scheme cards are accepted, offering up to 50 percent discounts in most regions, with NZTA and the local regional council paying the other half.
Rigorous systems mean no experience needed Of course, this is a strictly regulated area – you can’t just set up on your own. Driving Miss Daisy now has over 14 years’ experience of working with Government departments, local councils and District Health Boards. ‘Our franchisees operate dedicated vehicles, and are supported by a variety of online systems that bring together all our years of experience – everything from booking to accounts to marketing,’ says Melanie. ‘We have a rigorous process with a selection panel to ensure that you have the qualities you need to do well, then a very intensive training course covers all aspects of the business so you will be fully prepared.
‘There are weekly and monthly reporting systems to help you stay up to speed, and regular contact from the franchisor team. It means you can do well even if you’ve never owned your own business before.’
And she says previous background is unimportant. ‘We have former nurses, policemen, aircrew and retail staff among our franchisees. As long as you have empathy and are energetic, you can succeed.’
Driving Miss Daisy franchisees are not restricted to operating a single vehicle. ‘Once you have learned the business, you can employ drivers and put on more cars in your exclusive territory,’ Jack explains. ‘One franchisee built up a nine car business in a low socio-economic area before she retired, which shows what can be achieved.’
Opportunities all over
Driving Miss Daisy franchises start from $40,000 in rural areas, $45,000 in urban. ‘You’ll also need $30,000 for one of our custom-branded vehicles – a bit more, if you go for one with wheelchair access,’ Jack says. ‘Of course, finance is available. We are looking for educated people who would like to build a business in a sector which is on a rapid growth curve.
‘In Auckland, we have immediate demand in Papakura and Titirangi, with several other territories around the country becoming available soon. Give us a ring and join a franchise that’s making a huge difference to people’s lives – while creating very profitable businesses for our franchisees.’
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