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Young and Fresh, NextGen Finalists Make Their Pitches


Stella Sigana is founder of social franchise Alternative Waste Technologies in Kenya, and a NextGen finalist.

All were young, fresh and impressive, but otherwise the 20 finalists competing in the NextGen competitition (said to be culled from 900 applicants from around the world) at the International Franchise Association annual convention Sunday were individually brash, confident, soft-spoken, intellectual, nervous, well-dressed, sloppily dressed or perfectly prepared.

NextGen’s goal is to create a talent pipeline of future franchisors, franchisees and suppliers by “engaging and educating the next generation,” as the IFA puts it. Here are three presentations that stood out, with more to cover at a later date.

Devan Kline, co-founder with his wife, Morgan, of Burn Boot Camp, seethed with intensity born from a rough background. “Morgan and I grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan. My father was in and out of prison…my mother left when I was 13. We found each other when we were 12 years old,” he said about Morgan, and have been “in love” ever since.

“I also found the baseball field. I have a strong work ethic and that’s because of the lack of talent that I had. I worked hard and escaped my home life on the field.” Burn Boot Camp’s first location opened in 2013 and in 2017 the system generated $35 million in sales.

It’s unclear exactly how the concept will differentiate itself from others, as NextGen judge Dave Mortensen (also the co-founder of Anytime Fitness) questioned, other than by harnessing the founder’s intense personality, but there’s no doubt he’s on a mission.

Stella Sigana helms a social franchise in Kenya called Alternative Waste Technologies, converting agricultural waste into money by producing fuel briquettes. But “the meta issue I’m tackling is energy poverty,” explained Sigana, a sharp dresser whose poise as a speaker stood out. The use of wood fires to cook in Kenya causes severe health problems among women, especially, who prepare the food and children who surround their mothers indoors.

She calls her business model “a pathway to ownership,” in which people are brought in as trainees on the simple production process, and “we grow them to be managers, and then they buy us out and become franchise owners,” she said. “This reduces the chances of business failure.” She is looking for funding of $338,000 in order to expand the business and gain 5 to 8 percent market share in Kenya, up from about 2 to 3 percent now.

Robert Bruski of Canada brashly predicted the end of bowling alleys, escape rooms, video arcades and the like at the beginning of his talk, describing Ctrl V, a virtual reality arcade where customers can choose from hundreds of games and become immersed in the digital environment. “Once you put the headset on you’re in a whole new world,” as one videotaped customer says.

Only 18 months from launching a franchise program, they have 20 locations and Bruski boasted that exclusive agreements with suppliers keep costs so low that gross profits for franchisees are 80 percent. Probing from the judges, however, raised questions about that claim that Bruski didn’t answer completely, but this is still a concept to watch.

The three top NextGen winners will present their business plans Tuesday, February 13, to IFA Convention attendees and a panel of judges led by Daymond John of Shark Tank, with the final winner selected by audience participation.The IFA 2018 Convention runs through tomorrow at the Phoenix Convention Center.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is managing editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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