In 2014, Valerie Highton joined Platinum Property Partners and started building her property portfolio in Addlestone and Egham. Here, the franchise's Newcomer of the Year winner tells us why she joined and what it's like to be a female in franchising.

What did you do prior to franchising?

I studied Business at Edinburgh University and on graduating, chose a career in retail management, progressing quickly to Manager of the flagship city centre Mothercare store. A move to the Caribbean in my mid-twenties for four years meant that on returning to the UK, it was time to start a family. At this time, being a mum was my major role alongside various part time jobs and developing our family homes to add space and value.

What/who inspired you to go into franchising? How did you come to invest in a franchise and why PPP in particular?

As my adult children were focused on university choices and career paths, it was their infectious enthusiasm that kick-started my focus away from the empty nest into creating a new role for myself. I was looking for a challenging and exciting proposition that would marry my skill set to a proven model with a support network. I had been out of the major job market for 20 years yet still had a valuable contribution to make, so looking into franchising was an obvious starting point.

At the Birmingham franchise show, a few weeks later, I was drawn to the Platinum Property Partners (PPP) stand. Here was a property franchise that took houses and developed them into safe, comfortable, inviting homes for young people. I recognised this demand for quality homes as my own children had similar needs on graduating, and saw this as an opportunity that was well matched to my talents. Meeting other franchise partners was pivotal in my decision making as was getting frank answers to all my questions. I followed up by making several site visits to properties in all stages of the process and drilling the team on the business model.

How does your previous experience assist you in the running of your franchise?

I was used to working and dealing with young people in my part time roles and would be doing so as a landlord. The property development side was the exciting part as my strengths lie in the details, organisation and presentation. Multi-tasking is a given, as a busy mum and homemaker, with no two days the same, so having energy, tolerance and flexibility are all attributes that are inherently put to the test regularly and cross over well to my new role.

How is it being a woman in a male-dominated industry? Has being a woman presented any difficulties?

There are lots of skills that women have that men don't and vice versa. The difference is that no matter what sex you are or what level of skill or knowledge you have, you get taught everything you need to know being part of PPP. There is always someone that will have the answer but the trick is to know where to look.

Head Office and the team are your first point of contact but the rest of the information is to be gleaned from the other franchise partners out there doing it day to day. The coaches are all seasoned and successful Partners and the environment created is of a sharing culture where the collective whole achieves far more than the individual. There are lots of women in this franchise and many doing this on their own, as I am. We are all encouraged and supported every step of the way. Doing it on my own was my biggest concern, not being a woman.

How has your life changed since investing in a PPP franchise?

I now have a greater sense of fulfilment and purpose with work as I am very proud of my homes. I have a business and a healthy income from properties I own myself. I am learning new skills which is both interesting and challenging. Initially it can be a very hands-on business, especially if you want to grow quickly, and I have had to work very hard to achieve this. It has been very rewarding to be so immersed in a new venture after being a stay at home mum for many years, however, the natural progression is to systemise the business as it is develops leaving me more time to concentrate on new areas of focus. I am collaborating with a local franchise partner on new possibilities and will be working with investors on forthcoming projects.

What advice would you give to women considering a franchise?

Go for it. As a female, I think you can take the skills you have learned in life, in your work, or even as a stay at home mum, as they are all transferable. If you're organised and diligent, then you'll be a step ahead, but most importantly, be willing to learn. If you pick the right franchise, then the help and support will be there. Being a woman should not be a barrier to anything at all. Dream big, set goals and take one day at a time. Encourage yourself to take a step out of your comfort zone, take calculated risks and reap the rewards. Have a positive outlook keeping things in perspective as challenges arise and lean on those around you to help you. Developing the links within the network means I can readily offer and receive help, in equal measure, and this has developed into friendships as well as business relationships. I'm a lot more capable than I thought I was, surpassing my initial goals with the appropriate vehicle to push myself even further. I should have done this years ago!

What is the training and support like?

The training and support is well considered and initially very hands-on. After that there are group meetings and ongoing training events throughout the year. The support from Head Office is great and always there if you need it, but most importantly, the network is invaluable. You are surrounded by a group of like-minded people that understand your goals and aspirations and the way you work. There is always somebody that I can relate to and rely on. I have had all my questions answered at all times, in all aspects of the business……and I ask a lot of questions!

Describe a typical day.

At the moment, I am doing emails on building control. I am then meeting up with a new franchise partner to show them my houses and have lunch. Then a quick site visit on property number four with my builder to check on the works schedule (all my houses are local and only two miles from home). I will pop into the estate agents later to keep uppermost in their thinking for new properties. The beauty of this business is that you can choose when and how to work it. My priority has always been to be there for my family, whenever I am needed, and with this business, nothing has changed.