Women in Franchising

Women looking to have it all - the career, the money and family - can faced with a difficult juggling act. One way they can find the right balance is to become their own boss by investing in a franchise.

By becoming self-employed, women are presented with the opportunity to take control of their futures, finances and work/life balance. Erika Watson, Executive Director of Prowess 'the UK Voice for Women's Enterprise,' whose members advise over 100,000 women thinking of starting or growing a business every year, describes the benefits of women becoming their own boss: 'Self employment may enable more women to pursue a career they are passionate about at a level which matches their skills and experience. One particular advantage is that it can provide the ability to work flexible hours that suit you, which can obviously be a big help when it comes to childcare. While being responsible for the overall direction of your company and your working life it can also provide an immense sense of personal satisfaction and self-confidence.'

Although having control over these factors can help to make life easier for women juggling a career and family, at present only 27.3 per cent of the UK's self employed workforce is female.

Erika feels this is because: 'Women are more likely to have problems with confidence, self-esteem and access to finance than men, which can deter them from any notion of becoming self-employed. Those who do decide to start a business often have a more careful and gradual approach to starting and growing a business and are more likely to use and value business training, mentoring and networking. This means that supportive relationships are essential, whether that is through business counselling, mentoring or peer support circles.'

This is why franchising is a suitable route for women considering self-employment- because it provides prospective franchise owners with the opportunity to be their own boss while benefiting from a tried and tested business model and ongoing support and training package. The franchisor guides the franchise owner through the different elements of running the business and offers support from a range of avenues such as head office visits, telephone calls, web forums, emails, annual conferences and the franchise owner network, which acts as a peer support circle ensuring the franchise owner never feels alone.

The franchise industry has a variety of investment opportunities, which can be run on either a full or part-time basis from home or a commercial premise at hours to suit the individual's needs. This means that the franchise owner is able to fit work around family commitments such as the children's school sports day or the morning school run, which would make it suitable working conditions for a mother looking to go back to work or set up a business.

Three female franchise owners describe their experiences as franchise owners:

Anna Rossi
The Creation Station, Nottingham

When Anna became a single mum, she found bringing up her two young children while working as a part-time lecturer at a Further Education college, teaching adults with learning difficulties, an increasingly difficult juggling act.

Anna reflects: "I loved the teaching but all of the paperwork, preparation and planning became difficult to fit in. I decided to take a redundancy package so that I could figure out what I wanted to do. I knew I needed flexible working hours so that I could spend more time with my children and had always liked the idea of being my own boss so working for myself appealed.'

Anna came across an advert for The Creation Station franchise in a local magazine and was instantly drawn to it. "I loved the idea of organising and supervising art and craft sessions and parties for children,' she enthuses, 'so I decided to give the franchisor a call to discuss the package and investment requirements. Franchising appealed because I did not have the confidence or knowledge to become a stand alone business owner so investing in a tried and tested business model was the best way forward for me.

"After my comprehensive training, which included practical training, business matters and marketing I became a franchise owner in April 2008 and by that September I was running art and craft sessions by myself. I love working with the children and watching them learn, have fun and grow in confidence. The support so far has been exceptional - if I have any problems I can contact Sarah Cresswell from The Creation Station for advice and guidance.

"I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever about becoming a franchise owner. Now it is much easier to juggle things, I can drop the children off at school and organise my sessions to fit in the school hours so that I am able to pick up my children at the end of the day. At the moment I do not earn as much as I did as a part-time lecturer. However, this is because I am still establishing the brand in my territory and building my customer base - I anticipate my earnings to increase and surpass my old salary in the near future!"

Sandra Todd
Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness Club

Sandra joined the Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness Club network two years ago and is thrilled with her decision to invest in a franchise. She explains: "Running my own business is fantastic, although it can be challenging at times. The backup and support from head office is second to none so I never feel completely on my own. In my first year I managed to build the business up to a turnover of £75,000.

"The training is ongoing and two or three times a year head office arranges a franchise owner get-together where everyone in the network can meet up and share advice. The training course enables you to gain a qualification in OCR Exercise to Music, Nutrition and First Aid. With the nutrition modules I have the opportunity to take more modules and study part-time for a degree. "Prior to becoming a franchise owner I was an Assistant Manager for a high street retail store. When my son was born they were unable to keep me on in the same position on a part-time contract. I was offered a part-time Sales Associate position but this would have meant a large pay cut, which I was not keen on taking.

"My husband encouraged me to investigate franchising because I would be working for myself while having the safety net of ongoing training, support and a tried and tested business model to work with. Rosemary Conley appealed because I had been a member in the past and lost three stone through the programme. This persuaded me to look into running my own Rosemary Conley franchise and becoming a fitness instructor.

"Franchising is a great route for women who require a position that will fit around family commitments. This is because the administration side fits in when you have time, and I teach classes at times that suit my members and my lifestyle. I often teach classes at night, when my husband is home so he can take care of our son. Knowing your earning potential is down to you and the harder you work the bigger your rewards is an attractive incentive!

"The earning potential is definitely there once my loan is paid off - although already I am earning a lot more than I was working as an Assistant Manager. By investing in a franchise I have been able to fulfil my dream of buying a new house because of my wage increase. We have also been able to buy a new car. Although I have not been on holiday in the last two years because I wanted to focus on establishing the business in my territory, I intend to take a break later this year and have a cover instructor teach my classes."

Lisa Tobias
Domino's Pizza

Lisa decided to invest in Domino's franchise opportunity in 2004. Favouring the pizza business over university, Lisa decided to turn her part-time job into a full time career and left university half way through her PE teacher training. She worked as a Domino's employee for six years, working her way up to management level, before deciding to invest in the Domino's franchise opportunity. Four years on, Lisa has four stores operating within her territory generating a combined turnover of £2 million and has a fifth outlet in the pipeline for 2009, which once launched will make her the joint-largest female franchise owner in Domino's Pizza's worldwide network.

She says: "My decision to invest in the Domino's franchise was easy because I had worked for Domino's for a number of years and loved it. I believed that Domino's offered a great business model and I knew that providing I followed their guidelines I could make a huge success of my own business, while still having the added safety net of a brand like Domino's behind me. I was 23 when I decided to invest in the franchise, so approaching the bank was daunting. However, the fact I was able to demonstrate my experience and wanted to invest in such a well-known, successful brand gave the bank the confidence to back me financially.

"I would definitely recommend franchising to other women as I have had a really positive experience and am earning a lot more money as my own boss. Despite my management training, I was put on the franchise owner-training course to ensure I was confident in dealing with all aspects of running my own business. This included everything from pizza making to bookkeeping, staff recruitment and training. In terms of support Domino's marketing and IT departments help with any queries I have and my Regional Coach is on the other end of the phone to talk through any problems.

"In retrospect if I had become a PE teacher I would be earning a good salary but would not have anything to show for all my hard work. However, by owning a franchise I have a saleable asset, which can be sold at a later date to set me up for life. Also, one of the benefits of investing in a franchise is flexible working hours. This means in a few years' time when I have built up the business and there is a structure in place, my husband and I can begin to reap the rewards of the sacrifices we are making now by placing a manager in every outlet in control of the day-to-day activities, which will give us more time to concentrate on growing the business."