Women in Franchising – celebrating International Women’s Day
There’s no doubt that there are more opportunities for women in franchising today than there ever have been. That’s not to say all gender imbalances have been totally addressed, of course. And there are some sectors in which female franchisees are the exception rather than the rule. But, if you’re a woman and want to start a franchise in the UK, you’ll find fewer barriers to entry than your mothers or grandmothers would have faced.
When franchising began to gather pace in this country, most of those early brands traded in the food, retail and service sectors. These franchises required full-time commitment and significant investment which, in the male-dominated dark ages of the late 1970s, naturally attracted more men than it could women. The franchisees themselves were entrepreneurial-type owners or investors, with both cash and time to spare, which meant franchise opportunities for women back then were somewhat limited.
Fast forward 40 years, though, and there are now over 1,000 recognised franchised systems trading in the UK. You’ll still find those well-known food, retail and service franchise brands where, thanks to decades of progression, you’ll now find female franchisees as well. But you’ll also find many more lifestyle-orientated, affordable and home-based franchises that have opened up entry not only to women, but to more of society at large.
Claire Robinson, CEO of the Approved Franchise Association (AFA), certainly believes that the emergence of lifestyle-driven franchises has encouraged more women into franchising. “While domestic responsibilities are more equitable these days, it’s fair to say that lots of women are still governed by family commitments,” she says. “So female franchisee will be drawn to opportunities that allow them to fit their businesses around their home lives. Working from home, or running term-time operations like dance classes or children’s franchises, gives busy mothers the flexibility they need.”
A busy mother of three herself, Claire is also Managing Director of Extra Help, a national, home-help franchise she set up in 2010. Her franchisees provide assistance with domestic tasks, as well as offering companionship for elderly or isolated people. And, while Claire would recruit anyone who shares her company’s ethics, she admits that the franchise is ideally suited to women.
“For me, it’s about fully understanding the welfare and protection side of our business,” she says. “Lots of men could do it, of course, and we have some very successful male franchisees. But, in my experiences so far, it’s women who really get the care side.”
As we approach this year’s International Women’s Day, it’s encouraging to see a growing number of opportunities for women in franchising. Walk around one of the many UK franchise exhibitions, and you’ll see the audience is more evenly split than ever before. With high profile female franchisors and franchisees, as well as affiliate organisations like the AFA run by women, franchising isn’t the male-dominated industry it once was. In fact, with so many franchise opportunities for women now available, the challenge might be deciding which one is the right one for you.
Claire Robinson has some sage advice for budding female franchisees: “My number one tip would be choose something you’re passionate about, and something you’ll be happy running for the next 5-10 years,” she says. “Most Franchise Agreements run for at least 5 years and, although you can sell your franchise, it will take a while to build and establish it. Another top tip would be to speak with existing franchisees to get a real feel for the everyday running of the business. Talk to women in the same situation as yourself too, as it will help determine whether the business is a real fit for you and your circumstances.”