Franchising provides flexibility and a predictable path to business success for women who are interested in owning their own business says the CEO of Assisted Living Locators.
Angela Olea started her franchise company which helps find senior living options for the elderly and family members needing assisted living, back in 2006. Over her 14 years in franchising, Angela has seen tremendous growth in the industry for women, and notes that the International Franchise Association is now woman-led, along with many franchise brokerages that support the industry.
“Franchising provides such an amazing opportunity for women and you’re not locked into choosing traditional femalespecific roles,” Olea said during a recent interview from her second home in Savannah, GA. “Women are buying franchises in everything from plumbing to home repair to something more service oriented such as Assisted Living Locators. It’s a wide-open sector.”
It’s been Olea’s experience that when women are getting into business ownership, they tend to put a priority on flexibility and balance.
According to Assisted Living Locators of San Gabriel Valley, CA franchisee LeeAnn Allman, her franchise provides a much needed work-life balance, giving her the flexibility to still work, but also meet her children’s needs. “During the pandemic, I have been able to homeschool my children and fulfill my dream of entrepreneurship,” she explained. “Owning your own franchise, being your own boss while having an incredible corporate office that always has your back is the best of all worlds!”
“Franchising is ideal for women who want to modify their work schedules around their lives,” Olea noted. “As a franchisee, you’re also never alone. It’s not a lone wolf venture — it’s a true team mentality.” She added that franchising also typically provides a faster ramp-up for business ownership and a more reliable path to success. “There’s no ceiling to where they can go,” said Olea.
One way Olea tries to help women get into franchising is by being an inspiration to them by sharing her story. She’s heard from other women that it’s a really strong draw to hear the story of how she went from being an employee to a business owner. “Seeing the path I followed has inspired other women, so I try to share the story of where I came from, where I’m going and what the franchising path has created for me,” she says.
Even if women don’t choose to buy an Assisted Living Locators franchise, Olea wants her story to inspire women to explore business ownership through franchising. “We may not be the right fit for everybody, but I try to educate them on what options are available,” she explained. To share her story, Olea does public speaking and interviews on podcasts and tries to be a mentor to women thinking about getting into business.
Olea noted that sometimes women can have barriers imposed on them because they tend to be the ones in the household taking care of other family members, whether that is an elderly family member with failing health or children who are now having to be homeschooled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “It can slow down the trajectory of where they’re going if they let it,” she said. Anecdotally speaking, Olea said when she was calling her franchisees to see how they were doing, typically the women franchisees told her they were finding it challenging having to deal with their children’s homeschooling whereas the male franchisees didn’t seem to mention that as much.
This is where the flexibility of franchising can be helpful, she noted, because she found that when she called her franchisees in a household where both parents were self-employed and working from home, they had an easier time than households where one of the parents was working remotely for a company.
About 55 percent of Assisted Living Locators’ franchisees are female and 45 percent are male, Olea said, which has held pretty steady throughout her 14 years as a franchisor. Currently, the franchise has about 140 franchisees spread throughout 36 states and the District of Columbia. Olea said although it is frightening to embark on a new venture, what can be gained from women stretching beyond their comfort zone is amazing.
“The opportunities are endless out there, so take that chance and embark on a new endeavor,” she advised.
Assisted Living Locators, which is based in Scottsdale, AZ, has successful female franchisees from all walks of life. They range from women in their late 20s looking for a career to women who have retired from corporate America and now want to do something where they have more control over their own destiny. Female franchisees in the Assisted Living Locators’ system run the gamut from Wall Street to being homemakers their whole lives and everything in between, Olea noted.
Columbus, OH franchise owner Jasilika Davidson, who was looking for a career after leaving the South Carolina National Guard, said joining Assisted Living Locators has been fantastic. “This is the best decision I’ve ever made for my career as a veteran,” she said.
Slight pandemic impact
Because Assisted Living Locators is considered an essential service, it wasn’t impacted by COVID-19 as badly as some other franchise options, Olea said. The most significant impact is that the franchise had to shift all of its training to online and also had to embrace virtual tours of the facilities they recommend to families. It also shifted family timeframes by about a quarter- COVID delayed placements, but the aging process and family needs didn’t fundamentally change with the pandemic, it just deferred them slightly. Pre-COVID, all the training was in person in Scottsdale and they routinely took families for in-person tours of facilities. The franchise has always had virtual tours, but they’ve picked up drastically now.
“It went from playing a 20 percent role to playing a 100 percent role,” Olea noted. Even though things are opening back up to in-person interactions, facilities have upgraded their virtual tours so much out of necessity that they’ve become a valuable tool for Assisted Living Locators.
“We’ve benefited and the families have benefited from the facilities really having to step up their virtual tours so families could get a good experience,” Olea said. Olea gave the example of Houston, TX franchise Alane Roberts who has thrived throughout the pandemic. “During COVID-19, Alane went the extra mile to help seniors and families virtually connect with her provider network, resulting in her revenue increasing,” said Olea. “We are also proud of her leadership in mentoring her other fellow franchisees to adapt to the use of technology to succeed during these challenging times.”
Another big difference for Assisted Living Locators has been holding their annual conference virtually instead of in-person, but it was important to still have a conference so the franchise system could hand out its annual awards, the CEO explained.
For any women who are looking to get into business ownership, Olea and Assisted Living Locators offer an inspiring story and a solid business opportunity to go with it. As Olea says, there are no ceilings to where women can go in franchising.