Celebrating Female Entrepreneurs on International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month 2023

International Woman’s Day and Franchising 2023

Women Have Made Significant Contributions to Franchising and Continue to be a Force in its Growth

March is a great time to celebrate female entrepreneurs. Not only do we commemorate the achievements of women in history all month long with Women’s History Month, but March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. 

Women have made significant contributions to franchising and continue to be a force in its growth. Women have held leadership roles in every area of franchising: as founders, CEOs, franchisees, franchise consultants, franchise funding experts and more.

A Long Road

In both franchised and start-up businesses, female entrepreneurs have not had an easy path, however. Before the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 women couldn’t acquire a loan without a male co-signer. That legislation created the National Women’s Business Council and empowered female entrepreneurs in three critical ways:

  • Eliminated individual state laws requiring women to have a male relative or husband to co-sign a business loan;
  • Established the Women’s Business Center (WBC) program to provide female entrepreneurs with business education and entrepreneurial support;
  • Required the U.S. Census Bureau to include woman-owned corporations in their data collection.

There was a time when women were discouraged from working outside the home, much less as business owners. Early on, franchising offered an avenue for business ownership with financial support, especially for widows and divorced women. As women still face discrimination in the workplace, franchising offers an equitable career path without bias or sexism.

Women in Franchising

Women from all walks of life can find opportunities in franchising. Franchising levels the playing field, for anyone who is willing to work hard and has the financial resources to invest in and run a business. Franchising is often viewed as a less risky business option due to several factors. A franchise concept is a proven model with established systems in place. There is comprehensive training and ongoing support. Some brands offer part-time and home-based options, offering more flexibility and a better work-life balance. And you are never alone in franchising. The franchise model provides the ability to collaborate with other franchise owners and be part of a larger franchise family. Another bonus: mature franchises offer built-in brand awareness. Additionally, many franchises are listed with the Small Business Administration (SBA) Franchise Directory, making them viable for affordable loans.

Franchising’s Female Trailblazers

Countless women have made a mark on franchising. Although there are too many to mention, we highlight five notable female trailblazers who have significantly impacted the industry in different capacities.

  • Martha Matilda Harper is believed to have created the first business format franchising system in the United States. She created a salon concept that enabled customers to see stylists at work. She franchised the business and grew it to over 500 salons in the U.S. and Europe.
  • In 1977, entrepreneur Debbi Fields opened her first Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery shop. By the mid-1980s, Mrs. Fields Cookies boasted 425 stores and began franchising in 1990. She sold her international success to a private equity firm for $100 million. 
  • The Dwyer Group was established in 1981. Dina Dwyer-Owens was CEO for fifteen years. She oversaw seven franchise brands in the home services industry. There were 1,600 global franchisees and more than $750 million in system-wide revenue. A private equity company purchased the Dwyer Group for over $1 billion in 2014. 
  • Since 2008, Karen Sommers has been a City Wide Franchisee in Boston. Her company has enjoyed revenues that exceed $20 million with over 500 customers. Sommers is part of a consortium of women who utilize their collective creativity to help push the needle forward. “Our vision is to give support, time, and space to female franchisees in our system and work with key female leaders in our markets and our franchisor system.”
  • Co-founder Tracy Flanagan helped countless veterans and their families find opportunities with JDog, a veteran-only franchise system specializing in junk removal and carpet cleaning. Franchising since 2014, JDog has built a highly-respected brand built on a foundation of integrity, respect and trust. Flanagan also serves as associate director for the JDog Foundation. Its mission is “to develop and implement programs and services that support veterans and veteran-related groups, and to provide funding and related assistance to individuals and organizations that provide benefits to veterans.”

Women-Owned Businesses: An Unstoppable Force

Women in business are an unstoppable force. Consider these statistics: According to Zippia, women-owned businesses account for $1.8 trillion in revenue. It is estimated that women started 1,821 businesses per day in 2022. The Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey (ABS) reports that women-owned employer firms had $1.8 trillion in sales, shipments, receipts or revenue and employed over 10.1 million workers with an annual payroll of $388.1 billion in 2018. Even though the pandemic has significantly impacted women’s role in business, female entrepreneurs are resilient and bounding back stronger than ever. 

“The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.” – Debbi Fields, CEO of Ms. Fields Cookies

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Lisa Linkowsky is the CEO of Milestone Franchising. She is a Certified Franchise Consultant and member of the The International Franchise Professionals Group (IFPG). She is also the host of Franchise Focus on RVN Television. Lisa has more than thirty years of extensive experience in consumer marketing, sales, project management, and strategic planning. After working at various Fortune 500 and mid-sized companies, Lisa followed her entrepreneurial spirit and became a franchise owner in 2014.
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