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Home>Latest News>A brief history of franchising
It recently struck me that although I work as part of a franchise business, I know very little about the history of franchising and how it started, so I decided to do some research. What I found was fascinating so I thought I would share!

The word itself goes all the way back to Anglo-French and means freedom or liberty, and earlier from the Old French word franc, meaning free.

The idea of franchising can be traced back as far as the middle ages when local titled land owners would grant rights to peasants, most likely to hunt, hold markets or fairs, or conduct business on his land. With these rights came rules and these rules became part of European Common Law, and so the earliest foundations of franchising were laid.

Moving forward in time, Isaac M. Singer (1811-1875) is generally credited with the birth of modern franchising in the United States. If the name sounds familiar, it is because he was the creator of the Singer sewing machine, a brand still successful today.

In the 1850s Singer was looking for a way to distribute his sewing machines to a wider area but lacked the funds to increase production, he was also struggling with selling them as people were hesitant to buy the product without training on how to use it, something which retailers were unable to do. Singer came up with the solution to charge a licensing fee to people who would own the rights to sell his machines in different geographical areas, hence providing the funds for increased manufacturing. Part of the licensee's responsibility was to teach people how to use the machines. This created the opportunity to bring the first commercially successful sewing machine to the public. Clearly this idea was a great success!

Next came a milk shake mixer salesman named Ray Kroc (1902-1984) who in 1954 stumbled across a small hamburger stand in California run by the McDonald brothers. The brothers were buying numerous mixers from Krok as they had developed a high-volume production system which enabled them to provide fast service with consistent results at a low cost. Spotting an opportunity, Kroc went into business with the McDonald brothers, and began opening additional franchised branches of the restaurant across the country and by 1959, 102 locations were up and running. Today there are over 30,000 McDonald's restaurants in the world, operating in over 100 countries and territories.

To bring us right up to 2014, at Signs Express, we are celebrating 25 years in business this year and have grown to a strong network of over 70 franchises across the UK and Ireland, not quite as many as McDonald's but they've got a few years on us!

Franchising has grown into a widely trusted and successful business model across the world, helping people accomplish their dreams and goals and we are so proud to be a part of it. If you'd like to find out more, just give us a call.
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