The Time Has Never Been Better for Women to Get Into Franchising Thought the industry has typically been dominated by men, that's starting to shift. Here's why.
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We've heard the future is female, and when it comes to franchising we're seeing that shift. According to Franchise Insights, women, especially Gen Z and millennials, outnumber men in seeking franchising information, and today a third of franchises are owned by women.
In the 50 years the U.S. Census Bureau has tracked women-owned businesses, they have grown by a staggering 3,150%, with women owning more than 13 million businesses today. When I first got involved in franchising 30 years ago, I can't remember a woman-owned franchise brand, and there were very few women franchisees. Today there are examples of both, and their success is helping drive more and more women to make franchising a career.
Why franchising appeals to women
Many of the reasons franchising appeals to women are the same as the reasons it attracts men. Franchising gives women the opportunity to be their own boss while having the support and systems offered by a franchisor.
For women, franchising is also a way to reduce the gender pay gap that still exists in corporate America. In 2022 working women earn 82 cents for every $1 working men make (the gap is wider for minority women). Women franchisees earn 90 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make.
Franchising often affords women a better work/life balance than traditional careers offer. Women can select a franchise that has hours that coincide with school hours, for example, or brands that have no weekend hours. With a general manager onsite, owners are also free to set hours that work for them. The franchising model gives women much more flexibility over their schedules than working as an employee for another company.
"So many women left the workforce during Covid and are looking for something that offers the flexibility of franchising," Pamela Fazio, a 20-year franchise veteran and current CEO of Duff's CakeMix, says. "I expect more women to turn to franchising. It lets them be successful while also having the time to focus on themselves and their families."
Successful women in franchising
Today examples of women franchisors and franchisees are everywhere in the industry, and their success is fueling a new generation of women to join the franchise ranks.
Back in 1997, friends Dena Tripp and Debbie Shwetz started operating Nothing Bundt Cakes out of their Las Vegas kitchens. Today the popular dessert franchise has more than 430 locations in the United States and Canada. Shwetz exited the company when a private equity firm invested in 2016, but Tripp stayed on until this year when the company sold.
Stacy Brown created a great chicken salad recipe then figured out how to make new versions of the classic recipe, and in 2008 the Chicken Salad Chick was born. Today the franchise has more than 285 locations. Brown is passionate about helping other women achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. She helps mentor and train employees, helps women develop business ideas and created the Chicken Salad Chick Incubator.
The success of these women and others like them is inspiring a new generation of franchisors. In 2022 Christine Cutlip, founder of Savannah Seafood Shack, started her franchise journey, and she now has one of the strongest unit economics in the restaurant industry. In 2019 Ghazal Quershi began franchising her Idea Lab Kids International, and today it has 93 locations. At just 29 years old Toastique founder Brianna Keefe has four corporate locations and 37 franchises of her health-conscious cafe either open or slated to open by 2023.
Although many women entrepreneurs are expanding their businesses through franchising, even more are attracted to becoming franchisees. According to a 2020 Women in Franchising report, from 2018 to 2020 women comprised 41% of new franchisees.
One of the most difficult hurdles for franchisees to cross is finding access to financing. There's a gender financing gap just like there's a gender pay gap. Entrepreneurs who are men are 20% more likely than women owners to get approved for a business loan.
To encourage more women in franchising, several programs like the SBA Loans for Disadvantaged Business Owners and the Office of Women's Business Ownership can help women obtain capital. There are also national grant and loan programs to help women obtain financing, and more people today are using crowdfunding platforms to help fund their franchises.
Lauren Fernandez, who was a Chicken Salad Chick franchisee and general counsel for FOCUS Brands, is now helping other women succeed in franchising with Full Course, a company that offers education, counsel and investment for women looking to grow a business.
Since 1996 The International Franchise Association has helped propel women into franchising with its Women's Franchising Committee, and in 2002 launched the Women's Franchise Network, which helps women learn from other women in the industry. With restaurants being a huge part of the franchise industry, the National Restaurant Association helps women through its Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance.
With the resources available to women today, coupled with a path paved by the first generation of successful women franchisors and franchisees, the future for women in franchising is bright.
Disclosure: I am the CEO of Fransmart, a franchising group partnered with Duff's CakeMix and Savannah Seafood Shack.