Married to her job, and loving every minute

Date: APR 9th, 2007

Topic: Franchise News

Special to The Globe and Mail

In the front room of Sheila Dieterich's home in southeast Calgary is a photo of the preschool class she attended in her native Vancouver. Ms. Dieterich is the last child on the left in the top row, but she's hard to miss -- she's the only one wearing a wedding dress.

"I wouldn't let it go," says Ms. Dieterich, 36. "I always liked wearing a bride's dress."

Ms. Dieterich has made that early fascination pay off handsomely. From her home, she operates Sweet Beginnings, a franchised wedding consultation and décor business. She was recently named one of 75 franchisees of the year by the International Franchise Association, one of two Canadian winners. The other winners, Chris and Nicola Feist of ServiceMaster Clean -- a cleaning and restoration business -- are also located in Calgary.

The IFA gives out the award but it is the companies who select their top individual performers. Ms. Dieterich, who started with Sweet Beginnings in October, 2004, is the company's first operator to be chosen for the award.
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"Sheila jumped in with both feet when she first came on board, and we've seen her plant those feet solidly in the Calgary market," said Rob Lancit, the chief executive officer of Sweet Beginnings. "She's grown the business so quickly we now have to look at selling parts of her territory because she can't keep up with the demand."

Neither Mr. Lancit nor Ms. Dieterich would reveal sales figures, but Mr. Lancit said Ms. Dieterich's earnings increased 45 per cent from her first to her second year. The average increase in that time is usually 25 to 30 per cent, Mr. Lancit said. Ms. Dieterich said she has organized "hundreds" of events since she started.

In addition to weddings, Sweet Beginnings plans and organizes family and corporate celebrations, although weddings are the bulk of the business. Ms. Dieterich advises on decorations, serves as a liaison with caterers and florists, and even gets involved in setting up and taking down decorations.

She operates her business from the front room in her home, what she calls "the velvet-rope room." In it are elegant centre pieces and chair covers that are offered as part of the Sweet Beginnings package. On a table removed from the displays, bridal magazines and Sweet Beginnings binders and catalogues are piled around a vase of Gerber daisies. In the binders and catalogues are possible colour and fabric combinations for prospective clients and photos showing events Ms. Dieterich has previously organized.