Franchise Buying Guide

Women of Substance

Who says it's a man's world? These women entrepreneurs have found exactly what they want in franchising.
Presented by Guidant Financial
Guidant Financial specializes in helping entrepreneurs purchase new franchises using their retirement funds.

On her 1967 B-side, "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," Aretha Franklin sang, "They say that it's a man's world/But you can't prove that by me." Apparently, you can't prove that by franchising, either. Women are turning to franchising to achieve a variety of goals, from supplementing family income to heading a large chain of stores.

"Franchising has become so broad-based, almost every conceivable business can be franchised. That gives women all kinds of opportunities to pick the sort of business they want to be in, whether it's a job that requires a great deal of time and lots of hours per week or it's on a more low-key, part-time basis," says Nancy Smith, chair of the Women's Franchise Committee, an International Franchise Association group dedicated to encouraging women to participate in franchising.

"There's a growing acceptance of women in business, and franchise systems are encouraging women to join," says Smith. Many women joining franchises are finding more possibilities and fewer challenges than they would in the corporate world. "Women in franchising have a lot of opportunities right now," Smith says. "Women have gained larger and more impressive roles in the franchise community. The future is bright."

Here are the stories of three women who are taking advantage of all that franchising has to offer.

Bright Lights, Big Business
Donna Curry had a hunch. While working as a camera girl 20 years ago at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, Curry and her then-husband first learned about a little franchise called Subway. "An acquaintance in Newark, Ohio, the little town we moved from, had three stores. We decided if someone could be successful in the little town we were from, Las Vegas would be a really good market," Curry says. "I took [out] a home equity loan to buy the first store."

In August 1983, the couple opened their first Subway franchise; Curry, now 51, served as manager. Within nine months, the couple opened a second store; soon after, they built their empire to four stores, all of which Curry managed. By the time the couple opened their fifth Subway, Curry moved out of the stores and into an office where she could run the operation.

Throughout her early days with Subway, Curry didn't see any additional difficulties associated with being a female franchisee. "I believe a person becomes successful by getting in there, leading by example and working hard," she says. "People look at you more as a person and how driven you are and [how] hard you've worked to get where you are."

Proving her theory that diligence pays off, a year after joining the Subway system, Curry became a development agent, serving as an independent contractor for Subway and selling franchises. "I knew I wanted to be a multi-unit owner, so why not go ahead and be a development agent?" Curry says.

Curry and her husband divorced four years ago and divided up the stores they personally owned as well as their territories. Today, Curry's territory includes 78 stores, 19 of which she owns personally. An additional 19 are under construction this year (four are Curry's), and Curry expects 25 new Subways to open in Las Vegas in 2004.

Though hard work is the quality she values most in franchisees, both male and female, Curry does believe most women have other qualities important for franchising success. "Franchisees are the ones dealing with the public and employees, and women have a little advantage over men in that [respect]," she says. "Women are good at multitasking and problem solving...they make great franchisees."

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This article was originally published in the November 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Women of Substance.

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