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Women in franchising


An introduction

Women are still the minority when it comes to being a franchisee, but they have narrowed the gap considerably in recent years and the general success of female franchisees is inspiring others to take the plunge.

It's a challenge to go out on your own as a franchisee, but there are several attractions for women ready to take that chance.

This article outlines what you and franchising can offer each other, the most popular industries for female franchisees, and which associations and financial institutions you can go to for help.

Finding the right franchise for you is key, but there are endless avenues to explore and research, with an abundance of advice and information at your fingertips.


What is franchising?

Franchising is a business structure based on partnership between a franchisor and a franchisee. The franchisor is the owner of a business who grants the franchisee the rights to operate that business in return for ongoing fees.

The franchisee must agree to run the business in the style of an established framework, and the agreement is clearly documented and covered by a contract that runs for a defined amount of time and may be renewed in the future.

Most franchisors will offer benefits such as operational guidelines, expert training and ongoing support, as well as the right to use a business model that has been proven to be successful.

They will give the franchisee the right to use the name and appeal of an established brand. In return, they will receive the capital investment of the franchisee, as well as their dedication to ensuring that their franchise succeeds.


How many women do it?

The number of female franchisees has steadily increased over the last 25 years, but according to the bfa/Natwest Franchise Survey 2014, the number of recent female franchisee entries has dipped. In 2011 38% of all new franchisee recruits were women, whereas in 2013 that had dropped to 18%. Conversely In 2011 28% of single franchisees were women; in 2013 that figure had crept up to 30%, so it's possible the dip in new recruits was a blip rather than an indication of a trend.


There are several flexible, low-cost franchises that can be run from home on a part-time basis, but there will always be the scope to run these full time, and build the business up 


Successful female franchisees

Tina Young, of dog boarding business Barking Mad, was crowned winner of the bfa HSBC Franchisee of the Year Awards in 2014. Tina also walked away with the Microbusiness Franchisee of the Year award that year, and remakred on how Barking Mad had allowed her to "balance having children and running a successful business. My staff have contributed hugely to this success".

Barking Mad specialises in arranging specialist canine ‘holidays’ as the alternative to kennels. They can either care for your pet in a home where there are no resident dogs, or provide dog holidays with a playmate.

In 2013, Janis Anderson, from Caremark, took the Female Franchisee of the Year award and the Franchisee of the Year honour outright. Caremark franchisees recruit, train and manage highly qualified carers to provide excellent home care and support to individuals within their own home.  

Janis acknowledged that she became a Caremark franchisee at a "challenging time, when cuts were being introduced", but her drive and determination made her a success.


Famous female entrepreneurs

Deborah Meaden is most famous for her appearance on Dragons’ Den, but what may not be known is that one of her first businesses positions was as a franchisee for Stefanel, an Italian clothing company. This helped her to gain experience in the business world and she has since had major success in the family holiday parks industry, growing and then selling the three Weststar sites to Phoenix Equity Partners in 2005, and selling her 23% stake in the business when it was sold on to Parkdean Holidays for £83 million in 2007.

Karren Brady is particularly inspiring as she has succeeded in a business world dominated by men. After becoming the Managing Director of Birmingham Football Club in 1993 when it was in administration, she sold it in 2009 for over £82 million. She is now Vice Chairman of West Ham United and is also an award-winning journalist, TV broadcaster, novelist and Small Business Ambassador to the UK Government. 

Women and franchising make a winning combination! Each has valuable factors from which the other can benefit.


What can a franchise offer you? 

There are certain elements of franchising that can make it very appealing to female entrepreneurs.

• There are a wide range of franchise categories to cater for all skills and interests. Franchise Direct offers everything from health & beauty to retail to automotive to child-related franchises.

• Women who temporarily take time out of employment to have children may feel that they are no longer up-to-date with new changes in the industry, particularly with advancements in technology. Franchisors offer training, support and experience, ensuring that you have peace of mind and the skills required to set up and run the business successfully.

• Sometimes if women return to the workforce after a long absence, they may discover that their original type of job is no longer there, or they may be placed back in a lower position. Franchising gives you the chance to be your own boss.

• Being your own boss means that franchises can offer you the chance to have more flexibility in your schedule, thus ensuring a better work-life balance for women who have families.


What can you offer a franchise?

• Women often have excellent people and networking skills. This is ideal for the franchise business model, which relies heavily on communicating and building relationships with franchisors, fellow franchisees and clients. Daily dealings with the public are very common.

• Women are often able to work well with a team, understanding how their actions affect their employees and getting everyone to work together. They often favour a pleasant working environment over building an empire.

• Some franchise categories are naturally better suited to women, such as cosmetics, beauty care and bridal franchises.

• Women are often organised and able to multi-task; the ability to set priorities and plan are essential in any franchise.


The following industries are the most popular categories for female franchisees and are all available through Franchise Direct (see the ‘Industry’ menu to the left). While child-related franchises and retail franchises are the most popular for stay-at-home mums, or just those hoping to improve their work-life balance, there are many categories that you may wish to consider:

• Health & Beauty Franchises – predominantly targeting female customers, this is a multi-million pound franchise industry. It offers a chance to keep up with new technology and treatments and includes everything from weight loss classes to eyelash extending to tailoring.

• Children Franchises – this is one of the most rewarding industries, and a chance to combine your love for children with a profitable business. It includes a wide variety of sections, such as teaching, entertaining, nurseries and gyms.

• Business Consulting Franchises – This industry is ideal for women who have high professional ambitions and find the business world stimulating. Another large appeal is that much of it can be done from home.

• Cleaning Franchises – this is one booming industry that is recession-proof. Commercial properties will always need to be cleaned, while the domestic market is growing thanks to the typical contemporary household’s lack of spare time.

• Care/Health Care Franchises – the fact that the UK population is ageing, but still has financial independence, means that this is a growing industry.

• Property & Estate Agency Franchises – stick to the more traditional letting franchises and franchise estate agents for international holiday properties, or try something different like legal services franchises.



Because of the current economic climate, the majority of homes with two parents see both of them working in order to maintain their desired lifestyle. This means that often they lack the time and energy required to enjoy spending time with their family.

According to a 2014 survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics, 4.2 million people now work work from home in Britain - 13.9% of those in work.   

Almost two-thirds of home workers were self-employed in 2014.

Home-based franchise is appealing to women and mothers for many reasons:

• Time flexibility – the ability for stay-at-home mothers to manage a healthy work/life balance between staying at home and spending time with their children, and still being in the workforce.

• No need to commute to work.

• A chance to re-enter the workforce after a temporary break from employment, particularly due to maternity leave or because of being a stay-at-home-mother for a long period of time.

• Lower stress and greater well-being.

Women starting a business tend to take fewer risks and begin with lower levels of venture capital, and this can be to their advantage when applying for loans from financial institutions.

There is more than one option when it comes to raising money:

• Personal resources – many women choose to use savings, or aid from family and/or friends to initiate raising money to start their franchise business. Families/friends may offer funding by investing in the franchise as a partner, or by offering a loan, which is later paid back.

• Financial institutions – one advantage of franchising is that banks look upon it favourably, as it is a much lower-risk option than setting up your own small business, with a lower failure rate. Furthermore, women are more likely than men to be offered business loans and some banks have special programmes for women.

• The franchisor – in some cases, the franchisor can help generate the finances needed to set up a franchise.

• Organisations – there are organisations and associations dedicated to helping women finance their own business by locating or offering funding opportunities.


Financial institutions to consider ThinkstockPhotos-159290484.jpg


With a team of 200 women-in-business specialists across the RBS group, NatWest are committed to helping you to run the business you already control, or plan and start up a new one from scratch. They do this by providing you with personalised advice from business specialists and by putting you in touch with local partners and organisations who understand the market in your area and who can offer your training and mentoring.

They hold strong partnerships with, and sponsor, organisations that support female entrepreneurs, such as Encouraging Women into Financing.



HSBC understand that women starting up their own business have different needs and motivations to men in the same position. HSBC claim to be keen to work with women in every stage of entrepreneurship, and they work with SHE Means Business and other associations to organise events where female entrepreneurs – including franchisees – can share experiences and advice.


Ulster Bank 

In October 2012, Ulster Bank launched the Business Women Can organisation for female entrepreneurs across northern and southern Ireland in conjunction with the website Small Business Can. Business Women Can aims to provide information on challenges specific to female entrepreneurs, as well as run a networking forum where guidance can be shared.

There are an increasing number of companies, organisations and government agencies available in the UK to improve and increase female franchisees and franchisors by helping them financially, with training and with networking.

Thanks to the combination of the safe and easy process of franchising, and the numerous support services and organisations available, women entrepreneurs are one of the fastest growing business segments in the UK.


Encouraging Women into Franchising 

Encouraging Women into Franchising (EWIF) is a relatively new organisation made up of franchisors and franchisees, banks, franchise service providers and other agencies. It offers a number of free services to women who are looking to become franchisees and female business owners who want to franchise their own business. It also helps franchisors when women are underrepresented in their network.

Services offered and actions undertaken include:

• Free mentoring and telephone support and advice.

• Raising public awareness on women in franchising and the issues that they have to face.

• Regional network meetings all over the UK.

• A newsletter including information relevant to anyone interested in franchising.

• Awards that are held in high esteem.


The British Association of Women Entrepreneurs 

The British Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAWE) is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 1954 to encourage the development of women entrepreneurs based in the UK and to promote British entrepreneurship worldwide.

It is the British representative body for the world association Les Femmes Chefs d'Entreprises Mondiales (FCEM). FCEM, translated into English as the ‘World Association of the Women Entrepreneurs’, is an international association uniting women business owners. Founded in France in 1945, the FCEM network includes over 60 different countries from five continents.

BAWE represents the international association at the United Nations in New York. It also has representatives in the European Union in Brussels, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and the OECD in Paris.

What the BAWE does for women in business:

• It creates a supportive environment for women entrepreneurs through informal and formal networking measures.

• It holds regional, national and international conferences and meetings, as well as award ceremonies, to bring members together to lobby and support each other.

• It encourages business expansion by mentoring and training, providing access to capital, and offering marketing opportunities on its website.

The BAWE is an opportunity for women to join an international community of experience, information, assistance, and support. Full membership for experienced business women currently stands at £160 per annum, while if you have been in business for three years or less, you can claim associated membership for £80 per annum.


Enterprising Women

With over 8,000 members, this ‘community’ is open to women at all stages of the entrepreneur journey…from pre-starters to those who are owners of successful high growth businesses. The full membership (£60) comes with many benefits, including:

• Promotion – the chance to create a business profile and promote your products and services to other members, as well as speak at networking events and conferences.

• Business support – including mentoring, training and loan funds sponsored by Lloyds TSB, and the ability to search for a business partner near you.

• Information – this includes the latest news online, an e-newsletter, and an events calendar keeping you up-to-date on all the training and workshops nearby.


Promoting Women’s Enterprise Support

Prowess (Promoting Women's Enterprise Support) is an association of individuals and organisations who aim to support women in business in the UK. Prowess is a non-profit organisation, established in 2002.

Its website allows members to make contact and connect with other business women and supporting businesses. It provides access to local specialist support and consultancy services to help women start and grow their businesses. These business support providers work in a high quality, woman-friendly way. Information on local events, research, news and business can be found on their website.


Women into the Network

Women into the Network (WIN) has been in operation since 1999 and is a community of woman in business with over 2,000 members. Membership is open to women starting their own business, expanding existing businesses, and to women who want to lead change in the workplace. It offers support and advice to women interested in the franchising industry, and helps lead them in the right direction.

WIN’s website is an excellent resource for contact information, news, events, statistics, and research about women in business in the UK. 

Women with Special Needs

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was introduced in 1995 with the aim of ending discrimination against people with disabilities. It prohibits the exclusion of individuals with disabilities from employment opportunities.

The Disability Discrimination Act gives qualified individuals with disabilities the right to protection against discrimination from private employers, employment agencies, labour unions, and the government. The DDA guarantees equal opportunities for disabled individuals in the terms of employment, applications, interviews, training, promotion, transfers, benefits, and dismissal.


Other organisations and associations relevant to female entrepreneurs include:

Everywoman – a membership organisation established in 1999 by Karen Gill MBE and Maxine Benson MBE, everywoman helps to advance women in business by providing personal training and resources, connections and advice. They aim to raise the profiles of, and increase the number of, female business owners in the UK.


Women in Banking and Finance – a non-profit network assisting women working in this industry.


• Forward Ladies – a networking organisation for women in the business world, now with over 13,000 members and hosting 400 events and programmes across the UK every year.

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