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Young Ones To Watch: John Evans, President and CEO of EverLine Coatings

John Evans always dreamed of starting a business. Now he’s launching successful franchises across the country and landing big investments on TV.

John Evans was born and raised on franchising. As the son of multi-unit franchisees in Ontario, Canada, entrepreneurship was in his blood. As a kid Evans dreamed of running a hot dog cart. What he ended up with is an empire of parking lot line painting franchises.

At just 20 years old, Evans took on the challenge of opening up a house painting franchise while in school. The young entrepreneur was quickly met with reality and lost “a ton of money” in his first year.

But ultimately, you can’t be born an entrepreneur, you have to become one. So Evans did just that by doubling down, reworking his business and retiring on top of the franchise. From there, a bit of serendipity at a franchising trade show saw him license an innovative new painting product. And the rest is history. 

Evans appeared on Canada Broadcasting Company’s “Dragon’s Den” investment show and won a $250,000 investment from venture capitalist Manjit Minhas. Since then he’s risen to a national profile as his business continues to grow. Read more about him in the interview below.

1851 Franchise: How did you get into franchising?

John Evans: It starts as early as me being a little kid. My parents were franchisees for a skincare brand in Ontario. It was big in the ‘80s. They had franchises throughout Ontario, so I grew up with multi-unit franchisee parents. 

I had my first business idea at 18, I wanted to start a hot dog cart and that eventually turned into a connection to a company called College Pro Painters. It’s a program where it’s student painters. They train 20 year-olds to paint houses and run a business. I started as a franchisee for them when I was about 20. I ran it for three years and lost a ton of money in the first year. 

I thought I was hot shit back then. I had to dust myself off and signed up again the next year, and I earned it all back and became a top earner in the franchise. I retired as one of the top earners in North America. 

Then I finished school and outgrew student painting. I went to a franchise show in Calgary just to get the juices flowing and ran into a company that was licensing a new type of durable product for parking lines.

Coming from a painting background and seeing this, I thought it was an interesting way to position myself as a parking lot line painter. They gave me just half a day of training and then I started a brand new brand in Calgary in my spare bedroom. I parked the truck and trailer outside my back yard and would go see the crews off and it just grew and gained a reputation. Around when I hit the million-dollar mark in revenue, I thought: How do I expand? Franchising the business was a really exciting idea at the time because of my experience as a franchisee. 

I applied for an International Painting Association contest that showcases the best new millennial brands, and we won. That got me connected to all of the heads of the franchising industry. 

1851: What do you love about the industry?

Evans: I think I love the business model. Running a business is so rewarding down to your bones. It’s such a rewarding experience for anyone who gets a chance to do it. When I was thinking of starting a hot dog cart, it was such a leap of faith. That’s my neck on the line, that’s money from my account, and I don't have much. 

I feel franchising provides the perfect watered-down risk for those entrepreneurs who still work those corporate jobs. With franchising you’re still in business for yourself, just not by yourself. 

1851: What makes someone a good fit for the franchise industry? 

Evans: I would say there are three types who excel in franchising. 

The first type is someone with that entrepreneurial itch you can never scratch by working for someone else. When you’re putting in the hours and going above and beyond but it doesn’t matter to your corporate boss, someone who really struggles with that idea, they’re perfect to go into franchising. They’ve probably developed skill sets throughout their career but they just need someone to help them follow systems.

Next you got people who can subscribe to the system there. There’s a reason why it’s a franchise. The franchise has gone through all the trial and error for you and just left you with the process to succeed. The franchise fee is a fraction of what the trial and error would cost you for yourself.

Finally there are the hunters, or people who don’t mind getting out there and are eager to build their own empire. You can do that with many different brands.

1851: Are there traits that are shared by the most successful franchise professionals you know?

Evans: I would say, from the franchisor side, they’re all eager to support and collaborate. In franchising there are no lone wolves, you’re a pack. 

1851: How do you feel about the industry's response to the coronavirus crisis so far?

Evans: I would say there’s a lot of horrible things happening with COVID-19, but what these earth-shaking economic events do is cut the inefficient fat from the economy. But, as a franchise system, by design it’s efficient. It has to be. To make a great living and pay their royalty shares to the franchisor and continue to grow the company, it’s got to be efficient. The sheer size and buying power of a franchise can strategically position the franchises on a cost basis and on a tech basis to give a competitive advantage in any local market. Local individuals who can't be as savvy won't keep up. They tend to go down and franchising tends to go up. 

1851: Are there challenges or opportunities that the industry still needs to address?

Evans: The main challenge would be awareness of the franchise model. A lot of people still think all franchising is Mcdonald’s and Subway. There are 4,000 new brands that pop up every year for franchises. They all come in different shapes and sizes. Even if you think you don’t have that much money, there are programs to help you start a business. Go get ‘em! Franchising is more attainable than most people think.

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

Evans: For an up-and-coming person prospecting, there are so many options, so take your time. Find that culture fit above all. Find the franchise that really suits you that financially makes sense to you that you fit in culturally with. 

Essentially you’re getting married to these people, and that’s ok. There are some great marriages that come from franchising, but once you’ve signed and you're trained and operating, they’re with you big time, so make sure you’re gonna get that support.