A "memorandum of understanding" was recently reached between the SBA and the International Franchise Association (IFA) to promote franchise ownership among minorities, women and veterans. Together, they're also urging lending institutions to help bring franchising into economically distressed areas by increasing loan volume to qualified members of these underrepresented groups.
"As people become more versed in the process and profitability of [franchising], they see it as a viable alternative to opening their own businesses," says Debbie A. Smith, IFA's vice president of public affairs and emerging markets. "At the same time, franchisors haven't necessarily gone after ethnic minorities or women [as a population]. They've probably just looked at whomever walked through the door."
To give prospective franchisees in targeted arenas the gumption to walk through those doors, the IFA (with SBA assistance) is educating both parties with its Franchise Trade Delegation program. Franchise opportunities have already been extended to seekers in Miami; Washington, DC; and Charlotte, North Carolina. The next delegation is scheduled for November in New York City.
Regional educational conferences are another facet of this partnership. Here, prospective and current franchisees can hear answers to more complex questions regarding UFOCs, expansion, venture capital and state programs. Baltimore will host October's upcoming conference.
Strategic alliances with The Urban League, NAACP and National Association of Black Accountants, among others, should strengthen the mission. Says Smith, "All these organizations talk about economic dependency for ethnic minorities and women. Franchising really can [provide] that."
International Franchise Association, (202) 628-8000, http://www.franchise.org