Maureen (Anders) and Adria (Ruff) are the designers behind the 2010 design company, Anders Ruff®, a popular graphic design, DIY blog and online shop for party printables. Their popular DIY blog column, “The Ruff Draft” was a source of unique DIY and inspiration to followers around the world. With the success of the blog, the duo took a leap of faith and came out from behind the screen to expand to their first brick and mortar DIY workshop. AR Workshop opened in June 2016 as an inspiring and charming DIY boutique workshop that offers hands on classes and beautiful retail items! Their DIY loving audience quickly embraced the AR Workshop® concept and begged for ARW to come to their towns. With scale in mind, the company offered franchises and 3 years later, AR Workshop expanded to more than 140 franchise locations in 31 states across the country!
Key Takeaways From Our Conversation
- Determine who your target audience will be
- Reach out to your network
- Leverage online tools
- Take the time to build long-term connections
“Because we had six years to build a following, we had immediate attention and audience that could relate to it. They all wanted to bring it to their hometown.” – Maureen Anders
“When we first started we actually started by licensing. When we started getting inquiries, we put together a licensing agreement with an attorney and licensed about twenty stores. Then quickly after started looking at Virginia and some of these other states where registration is involved with franchising. We learned that you can’t really licence legally in some of these states and you have to provide the proper disclosures. Licensing is very different from franchising.
Make sure you have a good attorney, that knows all the rules and specializes in exactly what you’re doing.” – Maureen Anders
By creating a product or service that is shareable online your brand becomes more widely accessible to new audiences.
Consumers are more likely to enjoy experiences they can easily share with their own network.
Leveraging social media is a powerful tool for making new business connections and expanding your following.
“It really speaks to people when they attend the classes and they naturally want to share the pictures on Facebook, on Instagram and so all their friends see it. With social media you can reach people everywhere. So naturally people would see their friends post and they may be on a completely different side of the country, but all of a sudden they see we have multiple locations and naturally people decide to inquire and open their own business.” – Maureen Anders
“I think the biggest thing is hiring slow and firing fast. When you feel like something’s off and it’s not a good fit, do them a service. You don’t want to do them a disservice and keep them on the team if it’s not a good fit. You have to keep your ears open all the time, talk to people. Some of our franchisees become employees, so hire within for different roles.” – Maureen Anders
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Resources · Transcript · Tell YOUR Story
Start your own founders journey today by becoming a franchisee with Anders and Ruff. Connect on Instagram or Facebook to learn how to attend your first workshop today!
Nicole Holland 0:00
Hey there, welcome back to season one, Episode 11 of fascinating founders. I'm your host, Nicole Holland and I'm thrilled to be your guide as we dive in and uncover the stories that came before the success of some of the world's most fascinating founders. hailing from a multitude of industries and socio economic starts, you're going to learn what's made these fascinating men and women realise their dreams from an inspired idea to millions in revenue disrupting, innovating and impacting humanity for the better. You never know what's going to come up in our casual conversations. So get your notebooks ready cosy up with a great Cup of Joe and join us as I dive in to learn how these inspiring individuals have figured out how to thrive in a time where most people give up on their dreams. My guest today is Maureen Anders along with her friend Adrian rough they are the designers behind the 2010 design company Anders ROF. A popular graphic design DIY blog and online shop for party principles their popular DIY blog column the rough draft was a source of unique DIY and inspiration to followers around the world. With the success of the blog, the duo took a leap of faith and came out from behind the screen to expand to their first brick and mortar DIY workshop AR workshop opened in June of 2016. As an inspiring and charming DIY boutique workshop that offers hands on classes and beautiful retail items. Their DIY loving audience quickly embraced the AR workshop concept and begged for AR W to come to their towns. With scale in mind, the company offered franchises and in three years later AR workshop expanded to more than 140 franchise locations in 31 states across the country. Maureen Welcome to the show. Let's kick things off by giving our listeners a quick overview of what you and your company do and the market that you serve.
Maureen Anders 1:54
Perfect. Thanks for having me. I'm Maureen Anders, co founder CEO of AR workshop, and Air workshop is a boutique DIY studio that offers hands on classes where women men, kids of all ages can come and learn to make home decor accessories from raw materials. Very
Nicole Holland 2:11
cool. And so who typically comes in and makes I mean you like basically the whole family can. But why is somebody drawn into an AR workshop? And yeah, where are they?
Maureen Anders 2:30
Yeah, great question. So we have 150 locations around the US. And our target audience is definitely geared towards women. Although men really do like it when they come because they get to use power tools. They get to use all sorts of fun hardware and make something from scratch with their wives or with their teams and really just feel empowered. But really, it's really 99% lemon, let's be real. It's like walking into Pinterest, and you can create a Whatever beautiful image you want. Absolutely. I think the thing that I love about it is that people come in with no expectations. They leave feeling so empowered so you don't have to be crafty you can be non artistic at all. We use all stenzel based projects and you can find something on Pinterest and make it even better than that. That is no Pinterest fails. Pinterest fails. Yeah, that's awesome.
Nicole Holland 3:22
It sounds to me a little bit like a paint night like I went to a paint night once I had no idea what it was going to be. And historically I've always been crafty and I've always been artistic and I love colours and I love doing things with my hands. But I always struggled since I was a very young child always whenever I tried to paint something that actually looked like something right it abstract. But painting something that actually looks like something is has never been my strong suit and I went to this paint night thing. And literally they would just tell you Okay, make a circle about from this size to this size. And do this and do this. And at the end, it was like, Oh my gosh, I have a real picture that I'm proud of. And it sounds like that's the same thing where if somebody wants to make something for their home, they've seen something beautiful, or they have a concept that they want to have in their home that you guys like walk them through it, so they don't have to figure out how to do it. Is that sort of what's going on there?
Maureen Anders $:40
Absolutely. So when you walk into our workshop, you will find piles of raw wood tools, paint brushes, stencils, and you do not have to hand paint anything so you pick your design and our website when you register, you can make something completely different from your friends unlike the paint night so if you don't want to paint a pineapple you don't have to. It's personalised so we do all the graphic design for you We custom kind of stencil for you and these are for web based projects. And you go step by step with an assistant at each table so you really get a one on one experience. And you leave so proud and it's like being kindergarten again. You are proud hanging in your home and it's something that's classic and timeless.
Nicole Holland 5:03
Okay, so this is amazing. And we're recording this interview right now at the end of 2019. You just started this in 2016 with your partner, and you already have 150 locations. Correct. Can we back it up to? Because I know everybody's wondering like I am holy cannoli. So can we back that up to the concept when when did you figure out Hey, this is something I want to bring to life.
Maureen Anders 5:31
Yeah, so we actually there's a backstory. So in 2010, Adria Ruff and myself, Maureen Anders, we met at a preschool open house, we both became fast friends, and two weeks later decided with our love of Art and Design, let's start an Etsy shop together without any kind of idea where it would go well, very quickly it took off and what we were selling at that point were DIY, but it was more for parties. So we always have this love of DIY. Together, we would teach moms how to create these amazing themed parties, they loved it. We built an audience, we got to work with super cool companies. Fast forward six years. And you know, our blog had taken off, we kind of checked all the boxes, and we were ready for the next thing. And what we found was that on our blog, everybody loved the DIY section. They loved seeing how to make these projects. And it really was more than home decor that was taking off. So our audience and all of our girlfriends were like, you guys have got to open a place. So we thought, let's just try it. And sure enough, right away, we started getting franchise inquiries. Our first franchisee was actually my best friend, my roommate from college up in Michigan. And I think, because we had those six years to build a following, we had an immediate attention and audience that could really relate to it and they all want to bring it to their hometown. So that's kind of how it organically took off.
Nicole Holland 6:48
Yeah. Wow. And during that time, as you were, you know, you were going from this blog and this Etsy shop, to a brick and mortar and then from franchise. Were there any notable challenges along the way where you were like, Whoa, wish we would have been prepared for that? Yes,
Maureen Anders 7:10
absolutely. So, when we first started, we actually started by licencing. Because I am very, I like to make quick decisions and move fast. I don't overthink things, oftentimes. And so when we started getting inquiries, I thought I need to seize this moment. It's the right place the right time. How do we we've got to be able to do this. It can't be that hard. And so we put together a licencing agreement with an attorney. We licenced about 20 stores and then quickly after started looking into Virginia and some of these other states where registration is involved with franchising so quickly learned that you can't really licence legally in some of these states and you have to provide the proper disclosures. So work with an attorney and kind of converted all those licences and that was kind of a painful process. I'm not gonna lie. licencing is very different from franchising. So if I could do it all over again, probably would have Started out franchising, but we learned along the way, and it really helped us grow really quickly and get a lot of momentum in the market. I think that's the biggest thing was just making sure you have a good attorney that knows all the rules that specialises in exactly what you're doing.
Nicole Holland 8:15
Awesome. And you like you said you had an audience already people were asking for this. Once you made the franchise opportunity available to people. How did that go? And and how have you grown your franchises so quickly and so widely in this amount of time?
Maureen Anders 8:39
So I think what it is, is it really speaks to people when they attend the classes, and they naturally want to share the pictures on Facebook, on Instagram. And so all their friends see it and with social media, you can reach people everywhere. So naturally, people would see their friends posts and they may be in a completely different side of the country and all of a sudden they see we have multiple locations and so naturally people just decide let me inquire and open my own business. And I think we make it really accessible to we attract very creative people, which don't always have the business side. And so we give them all the tools, it's kind of this turnkey solution, make them feel comfortable will do all the hard work will do the website, the design, all the photographs, the video and really give them all the tools they need to run their business and they can just do the creative side.
Nicole Holland 9:28
So so they literally just find a shop, open it up and serve and like organise classes and things like that. And then
Maureen Anders 9:38
yeah, we do a full training I mean is it's evolved. So at the very beginning, we didn't have a training binder, we've kind of evolved over time. And actually one of our first franchise owners is now our VP of franchise development. So she has the experience of actually running a shop and now she can go tell people about the opportunity. And I love how it just empowers people, mostly women. Our audience for the classes as well as owning the business. And we have a full training programme, we walk them through step by step from day one when they sign all the way through opening and past a year. So we really kind of hold their hand throughout the process.
Nicole Holland 10:16
So cool. I am so excited to like go see one of your workshops in person.
Nicole Holland 10:23 So when you started your Etsy store and your blog, Had you ever been like I do been thinking I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to start a business or Was this something that just really organically happened from just being present with where you were at?
Maureen Anders 10:43
Yeah, Nicole, I was basically an entrepreneur straight. That was born. I feel like when I was four or five, I decided that instead of a lemonade stand, I wanted to have a homemade stationery stand. So I would sell stationery on the side of the road. Literally, no one would buy it. Because we lived on a little private called a sack, but my mom and her friends would and I actually also used to charge my friends to paint their nails. Like we would have these little businesses on the side. And I always just love the challenge. And for me, it was so much more rewarding. As I grew up, to find ways, if I could make $100 myself with my own business that was so much more rewarding than making $500 working for someone else. And so I think I've always loved that challenge, and I probably would be the worst employee ever, because I just, I work very well as a leader. I like to kind of dictate what we do and I move really fast and some people think that's a little crazy, but it works for me, but my parents both were entrepreneurs too. So I think I kind of grew up with that and it just innately trickled down to myself.
Nicole Holland So awesome. So did you have any other business ventures worth noting? I mean, other than like, you know, nail painting and stuff when you were a child prior to the AR workshops,
Maureen Anders in college, I would buy clothing at stores at discount stores, like TJMax and I would sell it on eBay for a higher price. It was fun for me, but no other giant businesses just the Etsy thing and I actually had like a freelance art programme as well that I started right after I had my son so about four years I did some freelance artwork and then launched inners rough
Nicole Holland 12:18
Very cool. Where do you see things going? Like what's in your, you know, cash only three years? That's insane. No, me. Not even three years probably. I don't know. Yeah. Like, where are you guys headed? Like, do you mind sharing what your goals are with the with company?
Maureen Anders Absolutely. We're getting inquiries around the world. So I feel like we just needed me actually Canada so I feel like expanding internationally is definitely on the horizon for us. We were we have the inquiries are just such great areas all the way down to Atlantis in the Bahamas and Japan and all these exciting places and so I am very excited to Explore that option. Also, we've been working really hard on private label products. So what I love about our boutique workshop is we have a retail section up front. And so we can really sell fun products to our customers that come in because we have them in the workshop, they may want to shop on the way out. We've done a private label with our stain company. So we use all non toxic stains. So when you're in the workshop, it's a really enjoyable experience. You don't have any headaches or fumes or anything like that. So we sell that we work with a manufacturer to do that, as well as our own line of yarn. We partnered with line brain yard, which is actually one of the oldest yarn companies in the country. And we have our own line of yarn now sold in our shops, so I could see us expanding our product line as well. That's amazing.
Nicole Holland 13:43
So cool. Okay, I feel like this time is like zipping by.
Nicole Holland 13:50
We're almost at the end. Yes, I'm kidding. If you could give somebody who wants to follow in your footsteps who just thinks Wow, this is so inspiring. And I'd love to do something like this. And what would be your best tip or takeaway that you can leave them with in terms of how they're thinking what their mindset is, to go about building this sort of empire?
Maureen Anders 14:18
I think that a lot of people have a lot of fear. And I think if your passion outweighs your fear, then you're headed in the right direction. And that's kind of for me, like I always had these ideas, and I never really jumped on them. And then if it feels natural, if your gut tells you to go, just go, if you're so passionate about something, timing is everything. I will say that so if you have an idea, jump on it. What's the worst that can happen? For me, if I wouldn't have done it then like, who knows what I'd be doing now, but I just think you have to seize opportunity that's so easy to say. Another thing is just surrounding yourself with people that are better at certain things in you so for me, I had to wear so many different hats. Starting out Whether it's marketing, social media design website, and I wanted to do it all, but then I found myself stretched so thin. And so I really found the best people to take those off my plate. And I can just trust and focus on my unique abilities and the best thing that I'm good at so that they can do the other things that I don't have to worry about.
Nicole Holland 15:18
Amazing. I have a follow up question to that because one of the things I find, or I have found, especially at the beginning of entrepreneurship, and really building a business, for real, not just a side hustle, not that there's anything wrong with that. But when somebody is diving all in and they're putting every last penny they have and they're putting all of their heart and soul and they're building this baby from nothing, and hoping it takes off as their you know, as they're not paying themselves and everybody thinks they're living the dream. I have found in my own journey and also in the journeys of many others. I've spoken with that invested In the right supports early on can be very challenging. And that's something for sure. I made a lot of investments in people. There's absolutely no loss. It's always learning. But how did you go about when you identified? I don't want to be wearing all these hats because it's it's spreading me thin and I'm not able to stay in my inspired space. How did you go about finding the right people and the right resources to help you achieve your goals?
Maureen Anders 16:31
I think it happened so naturally for us. Luckily, we had been running and was rough for six years. And so we had two other team members along with Adrian myself, and they were already built in, they knew us they knew our business model. They knew what we were doing. And they naturally just fit into the roles and of course, we've changed over time. I think the biggest thing is just hiring slow and firing fast. I mean, I've had some people join the team. And I mean, it's not like we fire people every day, but for real, like when you feel like something Often it's not a good fit, do them a service you don't want to do a disservice and keep them on the team if it's not a good fit, move on and you know you just have to keep your ears open all the time talk to people like I said our some of our franchisees become employees so hire within you know, for different roles and that's just been the biggest thing for us. Amazing.
Nicole Holland 17:21
So thank you for all of this has been great. Where and how can my listeners connect with you learn more maybe if they're interested in even finding out about becoming a franchisee or if they just want to bring their family and check out a workshop what's the best way?
Maureen Anders 17:37
Absolutely arworkshop.com you can find all of our locations there as well as there is the franchise tab at the top. And we're on Instagram and Facebook at Anders rough workshop.
Nicole Holland 17:47
Brilliant. Thank you so much. Thank you.
Nicole Holland 17:51
thanks to Maureen for being my guest on today's show and for sharing her founders journey with us. We've got links for you to connect directly with her and resources that we've discussed as well as the full transcript of today's episode and more at fascinating founders calm remember, successful people surround themselves with successful people. Thanks for listening and until next time, this is Nicole haulin signing off.
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