Franchisor Poolwerx has two more firsts to check off its to-do list for growing in the American market.

The Brisbane, Australia-based retail/service firm has entered Texas with its first franchisee there. In addition, Poolwerx has signed its first agreement with an individual from outside the industry.

The father-daughter team of Ken and Ashley OBlock has taken a territory in the Houston suburb of Cypress. A former corporate executive, Ken OBlock opened Budget Pool Services approximately three years ago and developed a client list of more than 100. That operation now bears the Poolwerx moniker, and plans are underway for him to open a retail outlet in May.

The OBlocks also purchased a territory in nearby Katy, Texas, which is expected to open next summer.

Ken OBlock (left) and Ashley OBlock (right) pictured with Lee Moore, chief operating officer and general manager of Poolwerx Australia, after receiving training at the company's Brisbane headquarters.
COURTESY POOLWERX Ken OBlock (left) and Ashley OBlock (right) pictured with Lee Moore, chief operating officer and general manager of Poolwerx Australia, after receiving training at the company's Brisbane headquarters.

“Our plans were always to be strong in the Sunbelt, and Texas is a key part of that,” said Poolwerx CEO John O’Brien.

Late last year, O’Brien had named the Lone Star State as his next target. The company plans to expand there relatively quickly, as it courts prospective franchisees in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. O’Brien expects to have franchisees signed and opened before Christmas this year.

When Poolwerx announced its aggressive growth strategy upon entering the U.S. market in spring 2015, the company had planned to achieve its goals by converting independent pool companies into franchisees, and by signing with individuals from outside the industry. The firm has entered into an agreement with its first industry outsider, bringing another franchisee to the Phoenix area.

Moore with Steve Follmer.
COURTESY POOLWERX Moore with Steve Follmer.

Steve Follmer, for 30 years a Discount Tires store manager, has purchased Poolwerx territories in two Phoenix suburbs – one an existing store in Chandler, the other a yet-to-be-opened location in Mesa.

This brings the franchisor’s Arizona store count to 15, with approximately 20 service trucks supporting them.

To continue the momentum in bringing new people from outside the industry, Poolwerx will begin showing at franchise conventions, after having displayed solely at pool-related trade shows up to this point.

“This probably has come along a little bit earlier than we thought it would,” O’Brien said. “But I think it is pretty exciting for us and the pool industry to know that we can bring executives from Middle America, from good corporate roles … to see our industry as a great opportunity for them to flex their entrepreneurial muscle. So we’re bringing new blood, new talent into our industry.”

In working with American franchisees, Poolwerx has begun adopting a more phased-in method of conversion, whereby a company takes three to six months to completely change over to the Poolwerx brand. “With the bigger businesses, we’ve found that a staged program… can create less disruption,” O’Brien said.

The franchisor, which set a goal of opening 300 stores across the Sunbelt in five years, now has 18 stores across four states, including California and Florida.

“The target for 2016 … is to say we’ve got 50 stores and 100 trucks,” O’Brien said. “We’re well on target for that. I think we definitely will have a rush in the fall.”