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IFE '07 Sets the Bar High

By Joel Goldstein, Director of Marketing for MFV Expositions

There's more than one reason the International Franchise Expo has become the preeminent franchise trade show. In 2007, there were over 13,000 reasons. That's how many visitors flowed through the Washington Convention Center, making the 16th annual event one of the largest shows in IFE history. The show also provided an opportunity to mark a milestone for the International Franchise Association and its highly successful VetFran programme.

Over 300 franchisors were on hand to showcase their concepts and for many, like Concerto Networks, the quality of prospect was better than ever. "IFE was another successful event for us," said Raymond Hivoral, CEO of the international computer and Information technology franchise that provides technology solutions to small and medium businesses. Hivoral says his team is now working to close several franchise deals from the IFE. "It provided us with a perfect forum to interview qualified, prospective franchise owners to see if we are a fit," he said. "I'm sure we made some matches because of the IFE show and new Concerto Networks franchises will soon be awarded."

Mike D'Arezzo, Vice President of Franchising for Fatburger, was equally enthused. "The IFE provided great exposure to the right prospects, both domestically and internationally. The show provided a great opportunity to network with current franchisors and franchisees, meet with franchise suppliers but most importantly to build the brand awareness necessary for our expansion."

Making History
One of the highlights of this year's Expo was the announcement that the IFA's VetFran programme had produced its 700th veteran-turned-franchisee. During the Expo's opening ceremony former Marine Alan Martinez was recognized by US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson for his purchase of a Virginia Barbeque franchise.

The Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative, or VetFran program, is a voluntary effort made up of nearly 250 IFA member-companies that offer financial incentives to honorably-discharged military veterans looking to acquire a franchised-small business.

Virginia Barbeque was founded by Rick Ivey and is headquartered in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The franchise has seven restaurants in operation and three in development. As part of the VetFran program Ivey discounted US$5,000 from Martinez's initial franchise fee. "The IFA has done a wonderful job of promoting VetFran and we are honoured to be part of it," said Ivey. "Alan's franchise is up and running and business is already booming. We are excited to have him as part of the Virginia Barbeque family and proud to support the veteran community."

Finding The Right Fit
From an entrepreneur looking to buy her first franchise to franchisees looking to invest in multiple locations and concepts, this year's IFE delivered a range of highly qualified prospects. In fact, several exhibitors mentioned the growing success they are having in growing their concepts through the IFE and other shows.

"Trade shows are making a renaissance," said Jim Squire, Director of Franchise Development for The Honeybaked Ham. "The IFE brings us quite a few great prospects. The IFE is really important because it's the premiere show. It's a bellwether event for our concept and has proven very effective for us. The main reason we exhibit at the show is because it's endorsed by the IFA, which lends lots of credibility. Show Management does a fabulous job marketing and promoting the show."

Jennifer Woolfolk, Marketing Director at Quizno's, agreed that attending visitors were experienced and serious about investing. "Almost everyone at the show is familiar with our concept," said Woolfolk. "We assist prospective franchisees in researching a variety of lenders to help them secure the financing they need to get started, and a lot of the people we spoke with are extremely qualified."

International Relations
As usual, international attendees played a major role in this year's International Franchise Expo. International prospects were at an all-time high as businessmen and women from other countries arrived with aspirations to find successful concepts to develop in their homeland.

The Honeybaked Ham's Squire was impressed by the quality of this year's international crowd. "We've met some great people here at the IFE," said Squire. "Folks from the area and international visitors who want to bring our concept home. We've already met a number of people that would be great candidates for our concept, and we're looking forward to subsequent discussions."

Another exhibitor, Andrew Brooke, CEO of Bark Busters, sees the increase in international attendees as an opportunity to expand his brand's concept. "Tradeshows are brilliant for exposure," said Brooke. "It gives us a domestic springboard to build our business here in the US, and with international visitors to continue our international expansion. We decided to come to the IFE because it's the biggest, the best, and the most well known event. It delivers quality candidates, both domestically and internationally."

Building The Brand
Of course almost every exhibitor says one of the top reasons to attend the IFE is the opportunity to build brand awareness. Presence at the IFE gives their concepts immeasurable brand visibility.

Randy Sidwell of, a franchise group that delivers photographic and virtual tour services to real estate professionals, said the Expo delivered for the company this year. "It's important for us to exhibit at shows like IFE because it gives our concept exposure to a lot of people coming through," said Sidwell. "We will definitely be at future IFE events to continue to speak with the broad spectrum of qualified people interested in our concept."

With access to thousands of prospects, franchisors also had the chance to discuss what their brand has to offer in a one-on-one capacity. "It's important for us to exhibit at shows like IFE to plant the seed and create brand awareness for both the domestic and international prospects that visit the show," said Fatburger's D'Arezzo. "It allows us to speak with attendees about what separates our brand from others."

Until Next Year
Plans are already underway for the 2008 International Franchise Expo which will be held 11th-13th April. Based on the strong reactions from this year's Expo, many leading franchise companies are already booking their space for next year in order to lock in prime trade show real estate. "Based on the results we've seen, we're very interested in exhibiting at next year's show," said Bark Busters' CEO Andrew Burke. "The reasons we're here include exposure, networking, branding and the international connections we've made."

For more information about exhibiting at any of MFV Expositions upcoming tradeshows, visit or call 201-226-1130 x202.

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