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Young Ones to Watch: Brent Dowling, Co-Founder and CEO of Raintree

From being a pro-snowboarder to Australia’s youngest United Nations diplomat, Brent Dowling wouldn’t have guessed he would have landed in the world of franchising.

Brent Dowling’s career path has seen some twists and turns, to say the least. Dowling, 35, is the co-founder and CEO of successful and innovative franchise development firm, Raintree*, but before founding the company, he was a competitive snowboarder in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and served as Australia’s youngest diplomat in the General Assembly of the United Nations.

During his time as a snowboarder, Dowling was also pursuing an online MBA, which piqued his interest in franchising. Dowling realized that the industry was overlooked, despite its endless opportunities. He decided to pursue a career in franchising with Doc Popcorn, where, along with his future business partner, Mike Edwards, he helped grow the franchise from 10 units to more than 400 within three years. That’s when the two discovered their passion for helping franchise brands grow, which is how Raintree came about.

Dowling is committed to making Raintree’s brands the fastest growing in the industry by providing a fresh approach to franchise development. In an interview with 1851 Franchise, Dowling discusses what drew him to franchising, shares his advice for young aspiring franchisees to develop a well-rounded knowledge base, and reflects on how his family members drive him to succeed in his career.

1851: What initially drew you to franchising?  

Dowling: I thought my dream-job would be in diplomacy representing Australia at the United Nations. It wasn’t quite what I hoped it would be, so I figured I would return to Colorado to be with my then-girlfriend and now-wife, and try my hand at business. Before that, while I was snowboarding for a living, I was also completing an online MBA and in my coursework we touched on franchising. I remember thinking it was fascinating how I hadn’t heard about franchising before, but it was actually a giant industry. That really piqued my interest. When I got back to Colorado and was deciding what I wanted to do next, I remembered that thought and Googled “franchise jobs.” A $12 an hour entry-level lead generation/marketing job for a small popcorn franchise appeared, and so I figured, why not? Eight years later—and it’s weird to say—I am a franchisor, franchisee and I get the privilege of running what I think is one of the best franchise development companies in the industry. 

1851: Where do you see the most opportunity in franchising and why are you excited about the future of the industry? 

Dowling: A couple of things have me excited right now. First, folks seem to really be supporting small businesses over large multinational corporations. Franchising is primarily made up of connected small business owners. We have a great opportunity to promote that and capitalize on that sentiment right now to help increase consumer demand for franchise brands. 

I also think the “Amazon effect,” while hurting retail franchise concepts, provides a great opportunity for experiential service and food concepts to stand out. While people will seemingly spend less time in malls and retail locations to buy goods with the strong appeal to use Amazon instead, there are a number of concepts that really benefit from this. That’s partly why I got involved in a children’s art studio franchise called Kidcreate Studio—where parents can drop their kids off for a wholesome, non-digital educational experience that can’t be replicated online. 

1851: What advice do you have for other young up-and-comers in the space? 

Dowling: Try it all. I think it’s easy to pigeonhole yourself in this industry as an “ops person,” “marketing guy” or a “franchise sales gal,” for example. I really think that when time is on your side, you should try to understand as many facets of the franchising model as possible. It will benefit whatever sector within franchising you choose to concentrate on later down the line.

1851: What advice would you give your younger self?

Dowling: Nothing good happens after 1 a.m.

1851: Who is someone you look to for inspiration?

Dowling: I actually look to three people very regularly: First, my wife, who was our first hire for Raintree. The company took off at a pace we did not anticipate in 2014, and, out of necessity, I begged her to come work with me to sell some franchises. She helps keep me grounded almost every single day. My brother, Linton, and my business partner, Mike, also get a mention. I consider both to be my brothers. Contrary to the warnings I got about working with family and friends, doing so is actually my driving force. Every single day I count my blessings that I get to build and win with those who I care about the most.

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.