In February 2018, Cheryl Howlett made a visit to the Canadian Franchise Association’s (CFA) Franchise Canada Show in Toronto. You could say this Smoke’s Poutinerie franchisee has a soft spot for the show since attending her first one in 2011. After all, it’s where she initially met Smoke’s Poutinerie Founder Ryan Smolkin.

“We kept coming back to the Smoke’s Poutinerie booth,” Howlett reflects. “I was completely sold on Ryan and his business acumen and my husband was sold on the model and the brand. So, it was a little bit of a no-brainer. It’s where we naturally fit.”

In less than a year of their first meeting, the Howletts opened their first Smoke’s Poutinerie location in St. Catherines, Ontario.

This year, when Howlett returned to the Franchise Canada Show floors, she wasn’t attending as a prospective franchisee. Instead, the veteran franchisee came as an ambassador for the Smoke’s Poutinerie brand, speaking about the challenges, benefits, and expectations of opening a franchise with the beloved national Poutinerie.

“For me, speaking at the show about my own experiences was really important because I wanted people to know that investing in a franchise can be done,” Howlett says. “If you’re attending the show, you’re already considering it, but there are always doubts running through your mind. I wanted to let people know that opening a business is manageable, even if you have a new family.”

For Howlett and her husband, investing in a franchise was a solution to meet the needs of their young family. After her twin daughters were both born prematurely, Howlett spent months in and out of SickKids Hospital in Toronto. By the time her maternity leave was ending, she knew she wouldn’t be able to keep up the busy schedule with her current job.

“Not everyone was going to bend for our hours,” Howlett says. “That’s when we started looking into franchising and went to one of the shows.”

Investing in a franchise provided the Howletts the freedom to strike a balance between their professional career and the personal needs of their family. Seven years later, the power duo are enjoying every moment of being part of the Weird, Wild, and Wacky world of Smoke’s Poutinerie.

If Howlett has any advice to prospective franchisees, she says attending the Franchise Canada Show is a great option to explore opportunities in various sectors.

“Seven years ago, when I thought of franchising, I automatically thought Quick Service Restaurant,” Howlett says. “But that’s not all there is out there. The show really broadens your horizons and exposes you to franchise concepts you never would have imagined. There are so many different avenues you can discover!”