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Big Rock Brands Expands Portfolio of Franchise-Focused Marketing Services With Latest Buy | Franchise Mergers and Acquisitions

Fish Consulting is a “fantastic strategic fit” for Big Rock Brands, said Michael Kessler of the newest addition to the private equity-owned holding company he launched in 2020. Acquired in August, Fish Consulting, the Fort Lauderdale-based communications firm specializing in franchise public relations, is the fifth buy for Big Rock.

Kessler, chairman of Big Rock, is also the founder and managing partner of its backer, Westport, Connecticut-based Greens Farms Capital, which he formed in partnership with Landon Capital three years ago. The investment strategy, Kessler said, is generally focused on technology-enabled businesses with about $5 million in EBITDA.

Big Rock’s first acquisition, of content marketing agency 919 Marketing, came shortly after its formation and was followed by the purchase of content intelligence platform Ceralytics, internet marketing firm NetSearch Digital Marketing, and ClickCulture, a web development, graphic design and digital marketing company. Those companies operate under 919, which is led by CEO David Chapman.

“There’s a lot of different layers of spend in franchising, so it makes it attractive for marketing services,” said Kessler as he noted Big Rock’s portfolio companies provide services at the franchisor and franchisee level and include consumer marketing and franchise development.

With Fish Consulting, said Kessler, the group was able to “greatly strengthen” its PR capabilities. “We saw a hand-in-glove fit with the other companies comprising Big Rock,” he continued. “The franchising sector is historically recession resistant and continues to grow the number of franchises. It’s a target-rich environment for marketing services.”

Lorne Fisher, who founded Fish Consulting in 2004 after working for nearly a decade at Ketchum and in client-side roles at Visa U.S.A. and The Absolut Spirits Company, will continue to lead Fish and join Big Rock’s board of directors. Fish will operate as an independent brand. He said he’s been approached several times over the years with offers to buy the company, “but none of them really felt right.”

Michael Kessler is chairman of Big Rock Brands and is the founder of its private equity owner, Greens Farms Capital.

Joining 919 under Big Rock, he continued, will give Fish access to services it previously didn’t provide its clients, such as digital marketing and web development. “We’re also able to deepen the paid and owned side of marketing, versus the earned media that Fish focuses on now,” said Fisher.

“I never would have thought there would be an opportunity to sell to another company that understood franchising,” he noted.

Before founding Greens Farms Capital, Kessler spent seven years at private equity firm The Riverside Company, where his focus was also tech-enabled business services companies. Riverside owns several franchise platforms such as Neighborly (parent company of dozens of home services brands), Threshold Brands and Best Life Brands. While his funds didn’t include franchising, Kessler said he was exposed to the model. He also has a much closer franchise connection.

A musician—he plays guitar—Kessler participated in adult programming at his local School of Rock in Connecticut and said he became interested in the model itself, which beyond music education provides a sense of community and helps instill self-confidence in kids. He was approached by a drummer friend who wanted to invest in the brand and open locations. They now own four School of Rocks and have two more in development.