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Jun, 01 2005

Entrepreneurial women of today

WOMEN-owned businesses were often thought of as small, conservative ventures keeping a tight rein on growth to stay manageable, but incidentally women-owned firms formed in the last decade are more growth-oriented.

WOMEN-owned businesses were often thought of as small, conservative ventures keeping a tight rein on growth to stay manageable, but incidentally women-owned firms formed in the last decade are more growth-oriented. A large number of firms started by women within the last decade have experienced fast growth. Franchising, as a business model, is becoming increasingly popular among women and amounts to up to twice the rate at which men are taking it up. The main reason for the interest generated in women towards franchising is the proven track record that enhances the likelihood of success, supported by the fact that franchisors have become more intent on targeting women as business owners.

Global Entrepreneurship monitor (GEM), suggests that about 73 million people are involved in starting a new business across the 34 countries that participated in the study, of these about 30 million are women.

Women today, have increased financial power, better education and corporate experience, combined with a desire for more autonomy and to connect with others who share their values. By nature women are relational, as a result, they generally enjoy opportunities to work with others towards a shared goal. All these characteristics make franchising a good choice for women.

Women as ideal entrepreneurs

GEM report for 2004, holds that in low and middle income countries, the peak years for women to get involved in entrepreneurial activities are between the age group of 25 to 34. In high income countries, on the other hand, the peak years for women to get involved in entrepreneurial activities is between the age group of 35 to 44.

International statistics show that 41 per cent of women who started businesses in the last decade, are actively seeking growth capital, compared to 25 per cent of those who started earlier. Despite this statistic, women-owned businesses still receive a tiny share of the overall venture capital. The prime factor that keeps women-owned businesses devoid of getting funded are their limited access to venture capital networks. Women possess certain attributes like decisiveness, energy, organisational capability and the capacity to multi-task. A woman having all these qualities is well-suited for running her own business, but if she is unsure of what to do, then franchising could be just the right choice.

The unique skill set of women is well customised to the franchise environment. Women tend to be good listeners and build lasting relationships more easily, which are fundamental requirements of franchising. Many women prefer fulfilling work in a pleasant culture to building empires. Prioritising and being detail-oriented are other characteristics of women that make them ideal for franchising.

Successful women entrepreneurs

Starting any business is a risk, but buying a franchise largely mitigates that risk. Franchising creates an opportunity for experienced and ambitious women, seeking greater job enrichment to continue operating at a higher level, whilst also providing the flexibility to juggle their home life with work.

Amongst women who have achieved certain milestones in franchising is, Margaret Johnson, the owner of Chicago-based firm, The Johnson Group, Inc., specialising in strategic and financial planning process re-energising, acquisition integration and systems conversions. The company is growing at an annual rate of 79 per cent since opening its doors five years ago.

Ann Rosenberg, widow of Bill Rosenberg who left his mark as a founder of Dunkin Donuts and International Franchise Association, launched a new franchise called ‘Let’s Make Wine’. This is a unique concept where customers can participate in wine making. The company is looking for people with prior business experience and enough capital to get them through the first 6 months to a year. Ann plans to have 10 ‘Let’s Make Wine’ franchisees in 2005 and hopes to expand it to 250 locations in the coming years.

Carla Wilke Jones left a teaching career to turn around her family's 91-year old meat processing business, the Ohio Packing Co. The firm now sells its trademarked ‘Bahama Mama’ spiced, smoked sausages in premium groceries nationwide, and is licensed by Ohio State University to manufacture and sell ‘Buckeye Hot Dogs’.

Carol Venzin, president, Fantastic Sams of Pennsylvania, purchased the Fantastic Sams franchise rights for western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. She bought the entire Pittsburgh region. As the president of Pittsburgh’s National Association of Women Business Owner, she was listed in Pennsylvania’s best 50 women in business and Women’s Business Network, Woman of the year 2001.

Gayle Martz, owner of Sherpa's Pet Trading Company in New York, is another example in the category. She capitalised on her experience as an airline flight attendant to design and manufacture ‘The Sherpa Bag’, an officially approved in-cabin soft-sided pet carrier for 10 major airlines, revolutionising the way people travel with their pets. Today, Sherpa Bags and accessories are sold worldwide.

Connie Manson has been an integral member of the Kwik Kopy Printing franchise community since her entry into the system as franchise owner of Kwik Kopy Printing Bankstown, with her husband in 1995. Her success in this business led to one of the highest sales for Kwik Kopy Centres, when it was eventually sold in 1998. Connie then embarked on a career providing consultation on franchising. She uses her experience and understanding of franchisee issues in combination with her sound business knowledge to lead the strong Kwik Kopy network as general manager of the brand.

To add to the list is Mona, the founder of Monart Drawing School, a California based franchise company, started as a network of privately-licensed art schools throughout US, Canada, Australia and Europe. Today, the school has emerged from a licensing program to a franchise program and broadens the focus from art education to include the business aspects of owning and operating a drawing school. The aspiring franchisees need not be artists but must have a master teacher on the staff.

In 1999, Erika Mangrum, president of Latria Day and Health Centre, launched the firm. After two years in business, the firm was voted as the Best Day Spa in the Triangle by both Citysearch and the Independent Spectator Magazine, and is recently, named as a top day spa in Metro Magazine's Metro Bravo Awards for the second consecutive year.

Mckee and her husband John, ventured into real estate while doing site work for the Hardee’s division of TW services. Denny’s, a division of TW services, was going through an acquisition and relocation. Mckee was recruited for an administrative position in franchising to coordinate moving the franchisee operation from California to south Carolina. Within two years of starting with Denny’s, Mckee was promoted to be the director of franchising in-charge of franchise sales, real estate, construction and administration.

Now the vice president of franchising for Earl of Sandwich, Mckee plans to build a franchisee organisation from the ground up.

The power to create has always been a woman’s prerogative and for Liz Elting, the president and CEO of TransPerfect Translations Inc., New York City, and the winner of OPEN, the Small Business Network from American Express and Entrepreneur magazine's Woman of the Year Contest, that means creating a life and a business that anyone would want to emulate. She is selected as the woman entrepreneur who best exemplifies competitiveness, compassion and clarity of vision.

One of the best example of women franchisor in India is that of Shahnaz Husain. The Shahnaz Husain Group, is the pioneer and leader in Ayurvedic skin, hair and body care with an integrated system of clinical treatments and product excellence. Based on the franchise system it is the largest organisation of its kind in the world with over 400 franchise clinics worldwide. Shahnaz Husain received The World's Greatest Woman Entrepreneur Award from Success magazine, USA. In July 2002, Shahnaz Husain received the Global India ‘Woman of the Millennium’ Award, presented by Global India Congress, based in California, USA.

Besides this, companies like Zee Interactive Learning Systems Limited (ZILS) are promoting women for franchising for its educational arm ‘Kidzee’. The company is largely helpful in imbibing a feeling of self-reliance and economic security in women and has been able to provide employment to a large number them.


Franchising has become so broad-based that almost every conceivable business can be franchised. That gives women all kinds of opportunities to pick the sort of business they want to be in. Dina Dwyer-Owens, president and CEO, The Dwyer Group franchisor of Mr Rooter and Mr Electric advices women to be clear about what they love to do, and then find a franchise that fits that image.

The GEM report shows that across all countries, a strong positive and significant correlation exists between opportunity recognition and a woman’s likelihood of starting a new business. On an average, business started by men used more capital than those started by women ($ 65,010 vs $33,201 respectively). Lorrie Rennick, executive vice-president, American Leak Detection says that women should not discount on the viability of a franchise by the nature of work.

Accordingly, Moran-Ploger, president Moran Industries, franchisor of brands including Mr Transmission and Atlas Transmission suggests women to keep their options open when looking at a franchise company, because what may appear to be obvious business for a women to go into may not be the most successful. Thus, women should find a franchise that suits her skills and the one that she herself feels excited about.

Financial assistance

According to the Centre for Women’s Business Research(CWBR), about 39 per cent of women, running fast-growing companies, are able to tap into bank financing, compared to 52 per cent of men leading comparable companies. Helping all small-business owners is the mission of US-based organisation, OPEN that has partnered with women's business organisations to offer women entrepreneurs special services. Women business owners are being taken seriously when it comes to getting bank loans and investments from venture capital firms. CWBR shows that 48 per cent of all privately held firms at least 50 per cent are owned by a woman or women, and that number is growing.

CWBR shows that the number of privately held businesses owned by women grew at a rate of 11 per cent, compared to an overall rate of 6 per cent in the last few years. Women-owned businesses saw their revenues grow by 32 per cent in the same period, compared to an overall rate of 24 per cent.

Challenges faced

Though businesses run by women face the same challenges as those faced by small and mid-sized companies, like access to capital, market position, and managing growth, hiring and retaining employees, the major impediment women-owned business face is ‘business as usual’. If no special effort is made to expand the universe of suppliers to include women and minority owned firms, progress will continue to limp along.

The future

Internationally, women in franchising will be growing larger, more successful, and more diversified. Financial institution's consciousness will be raised in terms of the imperative of investment in women-owned businesses. Women-owned businesses will be considered an integral part of both their market and their suppliers in the years to come.

Access to capital will continue to be a challenge, but should improve as more and more women are getting into running major companies. Dina Dwyer-Owens, holds that more women are getting involved in franchising at the franchisee and the franchisor level, mainly because more women than ever are involved in business today, which produces a ripple effect. According to Barbara Morgan-Ploger, the future for women in franchising is positive and exciting and it is expected that participation will continue to grow.

Franchisors are focussing more on generating women's interest in becoming franchisees and some franchises are developing businesses geared specifically toward women's interests. Also, as women in the workforce gain more management and executive positions, they will become more interested in owing their own business. Women franchisors, however, are still few in number and will grow slowly, partly because in some countries they are shying away to enter the business world and partly because men still dominate that arena. It is time that more women should step up to the plate and become entrepreneurs.

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