Jani King Franchise

Jani King Franchise
Jean-Nicholas Mwenda and Nathalie Kleinschmit

“It’s about trust,” Jean Nicholas said, speaking about his Jani-King franchise business and the customers he began working with in 2011. Nathalie is listening to him speak in French and feverishly writing his comments in English, bridging our language gap.

Jean Nicholas moved to Winnipeg four years ago after spending three years in Quebec. There, he started a hair salon business. After meeting his future wife, Therese, he decided to take a chance and move to Winnipeg to learn English.

After working a few minimum wage jobs, he was frustrated and felt he was spinning his wheels and not able to contribute to his growing family in a satisfying way. He decided to enrol at the Université de St. Boniface, where he earned his Bachelor Degree in Sociology with a minor in Business Administration. To further prepare him for his dream of owning a business in Canada, he connected with SEED Winnipeg and completed the Build a Business Program.

Armed with his business plan, some contacts and plenty of enthusiasm, he ran into a financing roadblock. He had no credit and no way to build it. For many new Canadians, the degree to which credit governs lives and opportunities in Canada is a shock. Jean Nicholas had no debt, but also did not have any assets to leverage. “It is so easy to neglect a small bill, but these are important. You must be clean of all debt,” Jean commented as he explained the difficulties he experienced in establishing himself and finding a business idea that was within his reach. “When I came I had nothing.”

He investigated several self-employment opportunities, including starting a cleaning company, but again ran into the problem of no assets and no equity to capitalize the business. Each day he would spend time searching the internet, asking friends and visiting newcomer organizations as he looked for a solution to his financing dilemma. Then one day he received a phone call from John Schwandt from the Jubilee Fund, who was responding to one of the many email inquiries Jean had sent to organizations looking for a way to bridge his financing gap. Jean was surprised when John said, “Let’s meet right away.”

Over coffee the next day John listened to his idea of starting a cleaning company, provided some information about the janitorial industry in Winnipeg and suggested that he investigate purchasing a franchise operation where customers are found for franchisee. There were opportunities in the sector, but trust, John cautioned, was a big factor. “People are giving their cleaner the keys to offices. A franchise can help bridge the trust gap.” John also told Jean that the Jubilee Fund is a non-traditional lender that works with credit unions to bridge equity gaps.

Jani King Franchise
Therese, Naomi and Jean-Nicholas

Now, with this new understanding of how business is done in Winnipeg, Jean Nicholas was on his way. He investigated several cleaning franchise companies and decided that Jani-King had the best start-up plan. Jean was referred to Nigel Mohammed at Assiniboine Credit Union Community Financial Centre who confirmed that Jean had found an opportunity that would fit his situation and suggested that, if the Jubilee Fund would guarantee a loan to provide the required equity contribution, he felt it was a good opportunity that ACU would support. “If immigrants are to succeed, we need people to help us with contacts,” Jean said of his experience. “Helping one immigrant is not just helping one person; it is helping your own community, too. I found the Jubilee Fund and they helped me. I built my company, I pay taxes, and now I contribute to my family and community.”

Jean Nicholas is still looking for new customers, but feels he now has a toehold in Winnipeg and life is beginning to feel balanced. He spends his mornings with his four year old daughter Naomi while his wife works at as an early childhood educator and his afternoons and evenings looking for new customers and servicing his existing contracts. He intends to grow his business and in the future hopes to have enough clients to hire employees of his own. “I am not going to be a wild capitalist,” he says as he reveals his intention to find a way to use what he has learned in Canada to help those he had to leave behind. “The strength of Africa is women, we have to support women. They raise families, they solve all the problems. I promised I would help.”