By Shelly Sun -
As the 2016 election nears, women across the United States are sharing our unique visions for the nation’s future. Our political leanings and policy preferences are as diverse as American women themselves. But one thing unites us—women want greater opportunity.
The U.S. economy is currently struggling to create jobs for young people and entry-level workers, for women returning to work after starting a family, men who lost out in the Great Recession, and for disadvantaged communities both urban and rural. One sector, however, is achieving remarkable success—and that’s franchising.
The franchise business model is the source of 9 million jobs nationwide, with over 400,000 of them here in Illinois. And franchises are growing at twice the rate of the rest of the private sector, while opening their doors to anyone willing to put in the work necessary to succeed.
Franchised businesses serve as America’s largest vocational training industry, giving millions of workers their starts. Even our own President Barack Obama began his career in a franchise – Baskin-Robbins. Immigrants are transforming themselves into store owners, and people born into poverty are building their own prosperity—all within the franchise business model.
Women are prime examples of franchise opportunity. Franchising was among the first sectors to welcome women as company heads. Today, women independently own one in five franchised businesses, and another 25% are co-owned by a woman. That’s about 350,000 female business leaders in franchising right now.
The flexibility and variety of franchising has beckoned many of our nation’s brightest and most motivated women. They have sought out franchises to develop careers in fields of their choosing, whether in-home companion care, automotive repair, after-school tutoring, hotels, or a multitude of other franchise specialties.
Franchising has empowered women in the face of real-world challenges. Start-up capital made available to women unfortunately still trails that accessed by men. With franchises, reasonable and predictable startup costs, as well as financing assistance, can make owning a franchise businesses a viable outlet for women’s entrepreneurial dreams. A proven operating model and the customer draw of a recognized brand also make franchises an attractive investment.
On the other side of the franchise equation, female franchisors – or the brand company – license out their concept because they can grow more rapidly with limited resources. For example, I founded BrightStar Care in 2002 to provide high-quality home care, child care, and medical staffing services. Now more than 300 independent locations are serving their own communities across the state of Illinois and across the country —more than I could have opened without each of those owners’ energy, investment, and commitment.
Franchised businesses are making important economic contributions, yet policymakers and the public often misunderstand who and what we are. Some see franchises only as fast food. Others make an unfair distinction between franchises and other small, local businesses.
We want to change these perceptions. Leaders within the franchise industry are now on the road across the U.S. for a national “@OurFranchise” tour to introduce communities to their local franchises. I’m taking part in the events here in Chicago with clear goals in mind. I want policymakers and the public to recognize that franchises are owned by their neighbors. That the jobs they create buoy our local economy. And that the women they empower strengthen our communities.
If we can get these messages across, America will be one step closer to protecting franchising as a strong force in the economy – one capable of breaking any glass ceiling.