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Young Ones to Watch: Galen Welsch, Co-Founder and CEO of Jibu

Welsch spoke with 1851 Franchise to discuss how he entered the franchise industry, what advice he has for up-and-coming business owners and more.

Galen Welsch co-founded Jibu in 2012, and under his leadership Jibu has quickly become a global social franchise bringing affordable drinking water access to hundreds of thousands while creating more than one thousand jobs across East Africa.  

Welsch’s passion for eye-to-eye partnership and co-invested ownership models have driven his success: His achievements at Jibu have been recognized by BBC World, the Guardian, Fast Company, the Franchise Times, and by Forbes (30 under 30). Welsch has also been a speaker at Harvard’s Social Enterprise Conference and at the UN General Assembly’s Global Development Lab showcase. Previously, Welsch has worked as a field manager for Colorado’s Public Interest Research Group, for HEAL Africa in Goma, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo and for the Peace Corps as a health educator in Morocco. 

1851 Franchise spoke with Welsch as part of our Young Ones to Watch issue in order to learn more about his story. 

1851: How did you get into franchising? 

Welsch: After joining the Peace Corps for two years in Morocco, I wanted to find a way to equip entrepreneurs in emerging market communities with the tools to launch and grow successful businesses. Franchising was the model that stood out to me because of how it gives entrepreneurs true ownership, but also the tracks to run in. 

1851: What do you love about the industry?  

Welsch: What I love about franchising (besides decentralized ownership), is the openness of the community centered in the IFA. There is no other industry that is as transparent, accessible and collaborative! 

1851: What makes someone a good fit for the franchise industry? Are there traits that are shared by the most successful franchise professionals you know? 

Welsch: One of the most common traits in franchise-system lovers is being a people person. Franchisees and franchisors understand that at the center of all successful businesses are human relationships. Successful franchise professionals are also down-to-earth and authentic. These traits go hand in hand with the ability to appreciate the power of the franchise model. 

1851: How do you feel about the industry's response to the coronavirus crisis so far? Are there challenges or opportunities that the industry still needs to address? 

Welsch: The local-intimacy that franchisees have with their communities gives franchising an agility for localized response that centrally-owned business models don't have. I believe this agility should be leveraged more by supporting more franchisee-led innovation based on each specific community's needs.  

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

Welsch: My advice would be to exploit the incredible experience and wisdom of those who have been in the space for a long time. I operate a company providing a non-standard franchising product in a non-standard markert (drinking water in sub-Saharan Africa), and yet the similarities and learning that we have been able to gain from franchisors everywhere from Kansas to Canada is phenomenal. The relevance is eerie! Everyone in franchising is willing and excited to help. Up-and-coming franchise owners and franchisors will only succeed if they take advantage of the learning and wisdom present in the franchising space.