Franchising caters to all sorts of industries, from photography to gourmet food. But there’s one thing that franchise is lacking: significant numbers of female franchisees
Louise Harris (L) from Wilkins Chimney Sweep and Louise Bruce (R) from Big Red Box PR, new co-chairs of Encouraging Women Into Franchising (EWIF)
“There is no question that franchising is a male dominated industry,” comments Louise Bruce, co-chair at Encouraging Women Into Franchising (EWIF) alongside Louise Harris of Wilkins Chimney Sweep. She points to the Natwest BFA 2011 Survey, which revealed 72% of franchisees are male. This represents a massive gender imbalance in franchising and shows women are currently seriously underrepresented.
These figures are certainly not down to a lack of interest. “We frequently speak to women who visit us at our EWIF exhibition stand, who say they feel intimidated when they approach all-male stands,” says Bruce. Often these women will ask which franchises are most likely to be female-friendly and give them a good reception.
While there are franchisors who, by becoming EWIF members, have shown they take seriously the needs of potential women-franchisees, there is still more to be done. “All franchisors need to be listening to this and realising that women – with their inherent natural communication skills, ability to multitask and their ability to work within existing franchise models – make tremendous franchisees,” states Bruce.
Very few people would disagree that encouraging more women in owning and managing enterprises is a vital factor in encouraging a more balanced marketplace. But the importance of the role franchising can play is often overlooked. Bruce explains: “When a woman returns to the workplace after a period away, possibly from bringing up children, she can often lack self-confidence and feel she doesn’t have the up-to-date skills needed to return to her old job.” Franchising offers an excellent chance for women to learn or reacquaint themselves with the required skills without completely eschewing a support network and the protection of a tested business model. “[It’s] the perfect way for her to build a successful and rewarding business in the knowledge that she will be fully trained and supported from day one,” says Bruce.
Additionally, franchises can offer an increased flexibility that might be harder to come by when working for someone else or managing the demands of a start-up. “Many businesses can be run on a part-time basis, allowing greater flexibility,” says Bruce.
Which is where EWIF comes in. “EWIF is doing its very best to help redress [the] imbalance.”
EWIF has three main focuses. Offering advice and encouragement, it helps women taking their first steps in the world of franchising. It runs campaigns to encourage female-run enterprises to franchise their business models and create a wider amount of variety in the franchising landscape. Lastly, it works directly with existing franchisors to help them put in place initiatives to attract more female franchisees.
For many women wanting to get into franchising, EWIF acts as the first port of call. Its website provides all manner of information, including lists of members and their organisations as well as articles and advice on various aspects of franchising. Additionally, the EWIF label acts as a mark of assurance for any potential franchisee. As Bruce explains: “Any woman approaching a franchisor or service provider who is an EWIF member knows they can be assured of a positive reception and an understanding of the many challenges women face in the work place.”
Women with an existing business that they would like to franchise can also use the website to find information and find the details of specialists who can guide them through the process. “We can also put her in touch with a female franchisor, who has been through the process and who can offer her help and advice,” says Bruce.
Perhaps the most valuable role EWIF plays however is its activity at industry events. The organisation holds regular meetings between franchisors, franchisees and industry service providers. “[They] get together to look at issues affecting women in our industry and all parties find it invaluable for informal networking and discussing industry best practice,” comments Bruce. Additionally, they provide the option for members to get out there on their stalls and meet potential franchisees firsthand. “[It gives] members a chance to talk to women wanting to enter franchising and encourages them to join this growth industry.”
Franchise owner, Splat Cooking Cookery School, Silverstone
(L) Beverly Glock, founder of Splat Cooking Cookery School, (R) Juliet Hanson, Silverstone franchise owner
Working for myself – but not by myself – with a Splat Cooking Cookery School franchise has been the best decision I’ve ever made. In the last two years I’ve taught hundreds of people to cook, with clients ranging in age from two to 102. I teach a huge range of classes, from after-school clubs to hen and stag parties, from Italian cuisine to corporate team building days, and I love them all.
Running a Splat Cooking Cookery School franchise has allowed me to fit my business in around my family; I have a 13-year-old son who can be doing his homework at the kitchen table while I’m preparing for the next day’s class. It works really well. It’s also enabled me to become more involved in my local community and business-related events in my area.
There are so many male chefs with huge personalities on our TV screens at the moment that I think my clients feel less threatened being taught by me – a woman, a mum and a housewife. They know I’m going to teach them simple but delicious recipes, that all the ingredients can be bought from their local supermarket and that they can go home and cook it for their families again and again. That’s the kind of cooking I like and by the look of my diary, with bookings already running into 2013, it would seem my clients like it too.