Cheryl Franklin stumbled into the appliance industry almost by accident. She’d been a retail manager, but a change in her personal life made her want work she could do from home. She started doing remote office support for a friend’s appliance repair company—and eventually realized she could run her own.
But first, she needed training, so she enrolled in Herzing College. That was back in 2015. As soon as she graduated, she launched Champion Appliance Repair and built up a client base. She now runs a busy shop and has a staff of six technicians.
We spoke with Cheryl to learn more about how her career journey has unfolded. Read on for the details.
Q. Could you share a bit about your background before Herzing?
Cheryl: I had been in pet care, dog training, nutrition, that kind of thing. I was a manager of a pet store. But then I became pregnant. A friend of mine was running an appliance repair company, and he said I could stay home and take the phone calls for him and do all of that. I could be home with the baby.
I did that for about two years. Along the way, I realized there were a lot of things I would do differently. For instance, if he didn’t want to go to a call, he just wouldn’t. But having to call people and disappoint them didn’t feel right. I wanted to make a difference and help people.
I decided to go to Second Career [now Better Jobs Ontario]. They covered the cost of my school, so I looked into appliance repair.
Q. What made you choose Herzing?
Cheryl: It was the closest appliance repair I could find. At the time, I lived in Woodstock, so the Cambridge campus was fairly close. The travel wasn’t too bad. And I wanted as much hands-on training in the appliance side as I could get because I could already kind of diagnose stuff, but I didn’t know how to get into it.
Q. When you finished the program, you jumped right into owning your own business. Tell us about that.
Cheryl: While I was in school, I started to reach out to my contacts and open my own company.
A colleague of mine was going to school with me at the time; he was actually in the gas program and was headed toward plumber. But I convinced him to come work with me.
We talked to Whirlpool and GE about becoming service providers for them, but we said we wanted to graduate first. I graduated in June and we signed our contracts with everybody in July. And we’ve been going strong for eight years now.
Q. Have you run into any obstacles being a woman in this trade?
Cheryl: There have been a few individuals who seem to think women are not capable, or that they know more and don’t want to take advice from a woman. But once they realize that I do indeed know what I’m talking about and can help them if they just listen, they seem to calm down.
And some of those individuals that were my biggest obstacle are now my long-time customers.
Q. How many people do you employ now?
Cheryl: I have six technicians on the road. There are two of us in the office. I have a full-time bookkeeper and a part-time accountant.
Q. What do you look for when you hire appliance techs? What are the most important skills?
Cheryl: Confidence is a big one. They need the confidence to walk into somebody’s home.
They also need to be able to read a schematic, use tools, and open up stuff. A gas licence is a great asset to have.
Everything else, I can teach them. When they come aboard, they do have a training period. They go out with another technician and follow them around for a couple weeks to get comfortable.
Q. What advice would you give someone who was thinking about getting into this trade?
Cheryl: We will always have appliances, so you will have a job until you retire. But it is a constantly changing industry and you must be continually learning.
The big thing is that you’re going into people’s homes. You will see a lot of different things and you can’t be judgmental. Obviously if there’s something serious, you make the necessary phone calls, and we have done that in the past. But if the house is dirty or whatever, that’s just how they live. You do your job and then you leave.
You have to be great with people. You have to be able to speak to any kind of person with respect because you are in their home.
You also need integrity because you’re dealing with people’s belongings. If you break something or scratch something, you take responsibility.
If you’re just going to plow on through and not care and just do it for the paycheque, don’t bother.
Q. You recently spoke at Herzing’s Women in Trades event. What was your message?
Cheryl: Anybody can do it. And in fact, sometimes it’s better for a woman to go out on a call. I have a lot of elderly clients and clients of different nationalities who prefer a woman, for instance. It gives them a sense of comfort.
I think the more women that come into the field, the more people will be accepting of it.
Trades are one of those things that will never die. We’re always looking for ways of getting out there to target this new generation because there’s a great future in the trades. Without tradespeople, everything’s going to fall apart.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE APPLIANCE REPAIR PROGRAM AT HERZING
Students in Herzing College’s Appliance Service Technician program get hands-on training in installing and repairing a variety of major appliances. The program is just 24 weeks long and is offered in both Toronto and Cambridge.
Click below to get more details on courses and chat with an admissions advisor who can answer any questions you have. We’re here to help!