Grafenia has opened the doors of its first Nettl cross-media design studio in Birmingham ahead of the official launch of the new franchise business at next month's National Franchise Exhibition.
The Birmingham studio is the first of four Grafenia-owned Printing.com studios to switch over to the Nettl format and will be followed by studios in London, Dublin and Manchester.
The four franchisor-owned studios will be used to host open evenings for existing Printing.com franchisees and prospective new partners.
Grafenia chief executive Tony Rafferty described Nettl as the "evolution" of the Printing.com franchise formula, adding that it was in response to the increased emphasis on online marketing.
"Today start-up businesses are going to the web designer first and that puts the printer in a subordinate position," he said. "If we don't do the website, then we may not have the client to sell the print to – that's the reason for Nettl."
Rafferty added that the Printing.com brand would still be incorporated into Nettl studios and that he expected print to continue to make up the majority of Nettl billings.
Of Grafenia's 300 franchisees (including 150 Printing.com branded studios), Rafferty said he was "cautiously optimistic that at least 50 will convert [to Nettl] in the next six months".
"We're not giving up on print or Printing.com but what we hear time and time again is that it's the web designers that are getting all the chunky graphic design and branding business and we want to be getting in their first," he added.
"We'd like to see at least 50 franchisees that share our vision move across [to Nettl] while still keeping Printing.com as a secondary brand. This is all about winning clients and if we can win them in two ways rather than just one and then cross-sell the other services that puts us in a stronger position."
The Nettl franchise offering will include Grafenia's W3P web-to-print and MIS system, which has been extended to incorporate cross-media elements.
"The goal was to make it really easy for a graphic designer to not only build websites, but to administrate billing and manage development," said Rafferty.
A central team will provide Nettl studios with development support, while the only skills the franchisee will need are the standard graphic designer skill set including InDesign and Photoshop.
Grafenia will officially launch Nettl at the National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham on 3-4 October. Priority will be given to existing Printing.com franchisees that wish to convert, meaning prospective new partners will not be able to buy a competing Nettl franchise unless the local Printing.com franchisee has declined the opportunity.
The cost of a new Nettl franchise will be £12,000 and the only equipment the franchisee will need is "a Mac, an iPad and a smartphone". Rafferty added that new franchisees would not be required to have an immediate retail presence.
"From a franchisee perspective the availability of bank finance that is needed to start on a high street is not what it was, so we're saying the first stage should preferably be a business address in a serviced office which they can rent on a monthly basis and pay for meeting rooms per use and that within two years they should find a location with some prominence - It's a pragmatic two-stage process."