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The UPS Store Prioritizes Diversity — Here's How it's Paying Off

The shipping franchise is expanding swiftly through its Diversity Ownership Program, and that's helped it stay a top 10 franchise for seven years.

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This story appears in the January 2023 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Started Franchising: 1980 | Total Units: 5,464 | Cost to Open: $122.2K-$508.5K

Courtesy of the UPS Store

To understand what's driving The UPS Store's growth, just look at Greenville, South Carolina. That's where, in 2021, Rami Michael, M.D., opened a new location. Michael, an Egyptian immigrant, left medicine to become a franchisee — and it was all made possible by a program The UPS Store started a few years ago. In August 2020, the company started what it calls its Diversity Ownership Program by offering an approximate 50% franchise fee discount to eligible first-time buyers who are minority applicants. Since then, the program has rapidly scaled. In 2021, 22% of new units came through the program. Last year, that number was over 40%.

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

"What has continued to drive consistent growth has really been about the power and passion of our franchisees and their leadership within their communities," says Sarah Casalan Bittle, president of The UPS Store. As a result, The UPS Store's continued growth has kept it consistently atop our list. This now marks the brand's seventh consecutive appearance in our Top 10, its 40th consecutive year in the Franchise 500, and its 33rd consecutive year as No. 1 in its category.

Casalan Bittle says her company has created a virtuous feedback loop: As it attracts a diverse range of franchisees, it gains access to a broader range of insights and voices. For example, after some franchisees provided feedback about the store design, the company is now actively exploring new ideas. It is testing new design ideas at its two corporate stores in Atlanta and San Diego, which includes utilizing new technologies that make it easier and faster to make returns and automatic claims.

Oftentimes, the brand's greatest innovations come from trying to fix problems. Leadership is asking: What are our customers' and franchisees' pain points? "We're not just bringing digital capabilities for the happy path when all things go right," says Casalan Bittle. "We really want to provide self-serve, automated solutions when things don't go right."

View the 2023 Franchise 500 Ranking Now

That desire to innovate even extends into the metaverse. In October, The UPS Store opened a store in the virtual reality platform Decentraland. With interactive experiences, visitors can partake in education programs and watch videos on emerging technology. Steve Chambers, the brand's vice president of retail and business development, described it as "a business school resource for our customers."

"We're out there testing and learning," he says.

Related: How A Well-Timed Redesign Helped Boost The UPS Store's Growth

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