Glance through the business pages on any given day and there’s a fair-to-middling chance you’ll stumble across something about the importance of female business owners to our economic resilience. However, not every woman in the UK will necessarily want to build her own Unilever or clamber to the top of G4S. Fortunately, franchising can prove an excellent fit for women looking to run their own business whilst retaining a level of freedom that may be unavailable in a corporate career.
“Frequently women have taken time out of their careers to have children and returning to their old jobs may not be possible, may not be attractive to them or may not allow them to fit their family life around it adequately,” explains Louise Bruce, managing director of Big Red Box PR and co-chair of Encouraging Women into Franchising (EWIF), the organisation championing women’s involvement in franchising. “However, buying a franchise – where they can choose the area they work in, the hours they work and receive full training and support – is a very attractive proposition for women seeking to return to the workplace.”
One of the key aims of EWIF has been to encourage women who may be frustrated with traditional employment to consider franchising, especially considering its incredibly low failure rates compared to launching a start-up – Bruce references figures from the 2012 NatWest British Franchise Association (bfa) Franchise Survey that found 85% of franchised businesses were still trading and profitable after two years. She explains: “Franchising won’t be for everyone but, before they invest in a potentially risky start-up business, we’d ask them to come along to an EWIF meeting, meet some experienced franchising professionals and consider franchising as an option.”
Putting a woman at the helm of her own business is an admirable aim but it’s not just about individual benefit. “As their businesses grow, more jobs may be created and more service industries employed, meaning further economic prosperity for all,” comments Bruce. Of course, whether it’s a man or a woman that has their hand on the tiller isn’t the influencing factor; the important point is that the right business options are available for all, regardless of gender. “The overall impact of that is a workforce, male and female, that has a range of different options for earning an income, options for working flexibly and longer term.”
Given the bfa’s last report placed the annual turnover of the franchising industry at £13.4bn, it’s not surprising 2014 is already shaping up to be an important year for EWIF. Following a meeting the previous year with Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, the organisation has been invited to hold its London meetings at the Houses of Parliament from here-on. As Bruce explains: “This is an incredible opportunity for us to take our message to the heart of the government, to lobby for change in areas that affect our members and to generally tell even more women about the wonderful world of franchising.”
Adding this to its NatWest EWIF Awards 2014, to be held in May at RBS House, it certainly seems big things are round the corner. “With the rise of the ‘mumpreneur’, more and more women are looking to go into business for themselves and EWIF are perfectly positioned to guide them on their journey to becoming a successful franchise business owner,” concludes Bruce. “The future of franchising continues to look bright for women going into 2014.””