Franchising: a positive space for an expecting-woman?

As I write this, I'm already over deadline (by a few weeks I'll add). This isn't something you would normally share in a professional context, but it's my reality and my aim is to be as open as possible.

Franchising: a positive space for an expecting-woman?

Whilst writing just these first few sentences, I’ve also checked my phone twice, replied to a LinkedIn message and updated a spreadsheet. 

So why is my mind a bit of a muddle and why am I not working to my usual professional standards? A few months ago I had my first baby and as a business owner, I don’t have the luxury of being off for a year on maternity leave while getting used to being a new-mum, so here I am, plate-spinning extraordinaire (if I do say-so myself!).

I do however have the luxury of working within the franchise industry. And to me, my experience of working within franchising throughout my pregnancy, and these first-few months as I navigate running my business and motherhood, I can proudly and confidently say working within franchising really has been a blessing. Having worked within franchising from all aspects, with franchisees, franchisors and even the British Franchise Association, it’s no secret that I am a huge advocate of the industry. Its inclusivity, flexibility it offers and opportunity to pursue your passion as your career is something rarely seen in the workplace and I am delighted to say I’ve witnessed it first-hand. 

As a workplace mental health consultant to the franchise industry and beyond, I am not embarrassed to say my anxiety sky-rocketed as I began to plan how to balance both my babies (my business one and my human one!). I was even nervous of telling my clients and industry peers that I was expecting; how would they react? Would they still take me seriously? Would all my hard-work in promoting my business and the importance of workplace mental health go to waste now I’d be having time off? It saddens me to think I had these thoughts at all, but with a corporate background, there is a true route to them. 

My actual experience within the franchise industry couldn’t have been more different, every person I’ve come into contact with has been incredibly accommodating, encouraging and even excited for me. I’ve had offers of holding my baby whilst I go on stage to deliver a keynote, offers to bring my baby to a workshop I was delivering, support on accessing an awards event so I could manage feeding my baby, tips and positive words of wisdom and even training booking requests with an offer to record the session in case my baby came early. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and inclusive and one I don’t think (or certainly hope!) isn’t unique to me within the industry. Over the last year I have attended franchisee conferences as a speaker, where franchisee’s babies have not only been accommodated so they can attend, but actively encouraged and welcomed – I’ve never known anything like it and it’s such a pleasure to see. 

From my view, the face of franchising truly is evolving. From the bfa’s new inclusive member banding, to awards categories and entire events that are designed to welcome, encourage and celebrate franchise brands of all activities and sizes. 

Personally, I’ve heard so many women of a similar age to myself say they are waiting to start a business until after they’ve had their children, to benefit from the maternity leave they can get through employment. Then the reality hits that for some it’s even harder to contemplate the potential financial loss and bigger to-do list once their baby is here (even if temporary) and they either never end up following that path, or miss out on incredible years of self-employment and following their professional passion. 

So my take-away? If you are looking to work for yourself and do something you love, but want to have a family, franchising really could be the perfect option for you:

  • Statistically speaking, your risks are lowered with a much higher success rate through franchising vs a standalone business
  • You’re following a proven business model
  • You have ‘real-life’ support every step of the way
  • Within many franchise brands you have the opportunity to work flexibility, working and earning around your lifestyle needs
  • As a franchisee, you’d be joining an incredibly forward-thinking, inclusive industry with so many women who have paved the way as shining role models of how you can manage both aspects of your life

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t remotely intended to be a ‘Women you can have it all!’ piece or to depict that franchising is an easy way to earn big and not work hard. The reality is that the juggle of being a working business owner when you have a baby or child of any age, is tough, really tough; postnatal mental health struggles are real, alongside the confidence and identity crisis you face, brand new, growing to-do lists and an overwhelming new sense of responsibility…but with all that said my experience of navigating this new journey and side of myself within the franchise industry has surprisingly been an incredibly positive experience. I can only hope that the franchise industry continues to pave the way for women in business, so that when my little girl is grown and working, this is her working reality, whatever professional path she chooses to follow. 

I’ll be sharing more experiences, honest, insightful accounts and much-needed practical advice and information that I couldn’t find during my pregnancy and ‘new-mum’ journey, in interviews with women all over franchising in my brand-new podcast ‘The BusinessMum’ out in September 2023. 

Jen Chapman-Boffin
Jen Chapman-Boffin