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The new beta version of OpenFran’s site is currently accessible by “private invite” only. However, the online franchise library will be opened to the general public after September 15, 2008.
Dan Maizner, founder of the free online franchise library has a background in franchising. Maizner feels passionate about giving investors free disclosure documents from his own experiences in buying and managing franchises. He owned an Alphagraphics quick-print franchise. He later spear-headed global account efforts at its corporate office. And until recently, Mr. Maizner was a franchise owner with Velocity Sports Performance.
“I'm speaking from personal experience,” says Mr. Maizner. “If you came across a franchise and wanted to know what they were about, it would have cost a lot of money to do some basic due diligence. The only way in the past to find information was to either contact the franchisor and go through their sales process or pay a lot of money for a disclosure document. In OpenFran, you can gather information in a short period of time at no charge.”
Boolean search now can be used by adding "+" or "-" to fine-tune results in searching for franchise disclosure and registration documents content that was originally available only as an image or photo file on California's Department of Corporation's public database.
Michael Webster, a franchise attorney from Ontario, Canada who frequently searches financial and legal documents of franchise systems and who is an online publisher himself, observes of the new website, "The OpenFran project promises to revolutionize the pre-purchase investigation of franchise opportunities. It is essentially a very smart interface to the Caleasi library of documents. Researchers and attorneys now have a very affordable access to not just the scanned documents, but documents which are searchable. Theoretically, you could instantly determine which franchise systems made earnings claims, for example. This is a fantastic project which will benefit the franchise community, researchers and regulators."
Maizner's idea for the project occurred to him while participating in a franchise social network and news site, BlueMauMau.org. "Months ago in Blue MauMau, I saw the need in that there were posts and folks that said that existing databases such as CalEasi, a site that has a deposit of franchise information and required filings, was limited," states Maizner. "There were comments that it was limited as far as its ease of searchability. There was a lot of manual labor in digging through hundreds of documents to sometimes know the name of the franchisor, sometimes different than their doing-business-as name to find what the searcher was looking for."
The free service is part of The Open Franchise Foundation, a not-for-profit organization. And the foundation is asking for donations. “The archive is funded by the support of members of the franchise community who are friends of franchise openness and support free access to information," declares Maizner. "We are currently looking for founding benefactors in the community who are friends to franchise openness to help contribute to and sponsor the site.”
Blue MauMau is a contributor to the site and the Franchise Openness Project.
Those who are interested in using the beta version of openFran this week can go to www.openfran.org/contact to request an invitation.