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These Women-Founded Franchises Surpassed a Major Milestone — Against the Odds. Here's How They Did It. Discover the stories of female trailblazers who not only founded but propelled successful businesses beyond 100 franchises — a few of them several times over — reshaping industries and leaving an indelible mark.

By Clarissa Buch Zilberman

Key Takeaways

  • The success of these franchises transcends financial achievements and shows entrepreneurship as a powerful tool for change.
  • Their growth provides female entrepreneurs with inspiring models of leadership, innovation, and social responsibility.
  • These franchises are not just businesses, they are platforms for empowerment.
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Celebrate Women's History Month by exploring a collection of groundbreaking franchises shaped by the vision and determination of inspiring women. These exceptional brands underscore the business savvy and unwavering resilience demonstrated by their female founders.

In a landscape where women currently own about one-third of franchises, these success narratives become even more compelling. Here are five examples of franchises that were not only founded by women but have also surpassed the milestone of expanding beyond 100 franchises — with one skyrocketing to more than 600 — breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations of female entrepreneurs.

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

Challenge Island

Founded in 2003 by Sharon Duke Estroff M.A.T., a well-known author, educator and parenting expert, Challenge Island has seen substantial growth. Focused on a STEAM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), it's the brainchild of a teacher and mom who turned entrepreneur.

Since starting franchising in 2012, it now has 232 franchise units worldwide, helping students develop skills like creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and emotional intelligence. Plus, being a Challenge Island franchisee means more than education — it offers a proven business model, support and the chance to contribute to shaping future leaders. It's not just about education; it's an opportunity to be part of a community shaping young minds.

Related: From Coding to Creole Cooking — Here Are 5 Inspiring Success Stories of Black-Owned Businesses

Blo Blow Dry Bar

In 2007, in the greater Vancouver, Canada, area, two women pondered a question: How can we give everyday women great hair without breaking the bank? In a short time, three Blo Blow Dry Bar locations sprang up in Vancouver. Fast forward two years, an investor group led by Vanessa and Ari Yakobson acquired Blo Blow Dry Bar, turning it into a chain with more than 100 locations.

Blo Blow Dry Bar, conceived and expanded by women, persists in training women to become entrepreneurs with practical support, design tips and assistance in staff recruitment.

Related: Busting Franchising Myths and Choosing the Right Opportunity

Pure Barre

Although not run by the founder anymore, Pure Barre is a powerhouse in the group fitness industry. Carrie Dorr opened her first fitness studio (which would become the first Pure Barre) in 2001 — and it has grown into an international phenomenon with 650 units worldwide. Dorr stepped away from the company in 2015 to focus on a non-profit to help women and children in need, but she did come back in 2017 as the "Chief Barre Officer."

Beyond its fitness prowess, Pure Barre offers an enticing opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs. Opening a Pure Barre franchise means partnering with a globally recognized brand, tapping into a proven business model and gaining access to a network of support. The benefits extend beyond financial success, providing franchisees with the chance to make a positive impact on their communities by promoting healthy lifestyles. Becoming a part of the Pure Barre family not only allows you to contribute to Dorr's vision of spreading good life habits but also positions you as a leader in fostering a supportive atmosphere for both men and women.

Related: See Where Pure Barre Ranked on Entrepreneur's 2024 Franchise 500 List

BrightStar Care

In 2002, Shelly Sun was already a franchisee for two hotel chains, but her entrepreneurial spirit drove her to aspire for more. The establishment and expansion of BrightStar Care have since positioned her as a role model for both women and men venturing into entrepreneurship. BrightStar Care stands out as a leader in offering in-home services in the United States, and since venturing into franchising in 2005, it has grown to 373 locations nationwide.

Opening a BrightStar Care franchise goes beyond business — it presents a chance to contribute to a crucial and growing need for in-home services. The brand actively seeks compassionate and passionate professionals to join its network, enhancing communities and providing care to those in need.

As a franchisee, you not only align yourself with a successful and reputable brand but also become part of a broader mission to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals requiring specialized care. BrightStar Care offers an opportunity for entrepreneurs to make a meaningful difference while building a thriving business.

Related: See Where BrightStar Care Ranked on Entrepreneur's 2024 Franchise 500 List

Women's History Month

As we move further into Women's History Month, these franchises exemplify more than business acumen; they reflect the untapped potential of female entrepreneurs. Their journeys from concept to growing franchises are not just success stories but powerful narratives that challenge the status quo — demonstrating that with the right vision, support, and determination, barriers are meant to be broken.

Clarissa Buch Zilberman

Entrepreneur Staff

Freelance Writer, Editor & Content Marketing Consultant

Clarissa Buch Zilberman is a writer and editor based in Miami. Specializing in lifestyle, business, and travel, her work has appeared in Food & Wine,, Travel + Leisure, and Bon Appétit, among other print and digital titles. Through her content marketing consultancy, By Clarissa, she leverages her extensive editorial background and unique industry insights to support enterprise organizations and global creative agencies with their B2B, B2C, and B2E content initiatives. 

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