I first saw the name Katherine Sampson on the cover of My Business magazine. The founder and Managing Director of Healthy Habits, a chain of nutritious sandwich bars was positively beaming on the cover, after being named the winner of the ActionCOACH Award for Outstanding Excellence in the magazine’s business awards in November 2007. Sampson and Healthy Habits also walked away with the Cisco Award for Best Young Business on the night. Ironic when you consider this entrepreneurial mum opened her first store way back in 1992.
After leaving school at 16 and marrying at 19, the mother of two discovered her entrepreneurial spirit at the ripe old age of 25. Sampson says her children inspired her to take a chance on establishing an accessories business. Two years later Sampson was ready to move on to bigger things. She borrowed money to purchase a sandwich bar, re-branded it and so began a passion for promoting healthy eating to the average suburban shopper.
Healthy Habits certainly was a big hit with suburban shoppers and over the next 7 years, Sampson opened another 3 sandwich bars in Melbourne. By 2004 Sampson had taken the concept nationally with a franchising model that has sprouted 28 stores in the eastern states and South Australia. 2008 will see Healthy Habits expand into Western Australia and possibly New Zealand. The company has also received expressions of interest from as far abroad as Dubai and the United States.
Katherine told me in a recent telephone interview that she is very proud of her franchisees, many of whom have won accolades of their own. One franchisee, Michael Jamieson of Fountain Gate, Victoria was named the Australian Retailers Association Franchisee of the Year for 2007.
When I asked Katherine what qualities and experience the company was looking for in a franchisee, she told me the company doesn’t require new franchisees to have any business experience or particular skill set. However, there are other criteria they look for when assessing potential franchisees.
“Basically they need to be passionate about the brand. They have to love Healthy Habits. They have to believe in the product they’re selling and they have to live a healthy lifestyle.”
But if you think Katherine Sampson is just paying lipservice to healthy lifestyles for the sake of maintaining the company’s image, you’d be wrong. She is passionately committed to a healthier Australia. Of particular concern to Sampson is the alarming rate of childhood obesity in this country. Sampson says she will spend the coming year doing more to educate kids about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise. The company will also be launching what Sampson calls the Healthy Habits Heroes program, an initiative that recognises people in the community for their contribution towards achieving a healthier Australia.
Katherine Sampson is also very involved in women’s groups and can be often seen speaking at women’s events around the country. She is also in demand as both a public speaker and consultant to the franchise business community.
Away from the office, Katherine devotes her time to a wide circle of family and friends. “I don’t have a lot of time off. But when I do have time off, I’m still a mum,” she said. “My time is spent washing clothes, unpacking the dishwasher, tidying up the bedrooms and running my kids around.”
And if you are thinking about starting a business in the coming year, Katherine Sampson has this advice:
“Make sure you’ve researched your market. Make sure you absolutely know your product or your service is in demand. Make sure you’ve checked out your competitors. Make sure you’ve got enough funding because the funding will run out very quickly. If you’re confident with all those things–take a chance. Live your dream and don’t have any regrets about what you could have done…Just do it!”
I would like to thank Katherine Sampson for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak with Australian Women Online.