How to Increase Franchise Opportunities for Women
Having a franchise network and corporate team comprised 100 percent of women has shaped MODE and contributed to its ongoing success, as well as the importance of extending opportunities to women in franchising.
By Ciara Stockeland
According to a study conducted by the National Women’s Business Council, the number of women-owned businesses in the United States increased by 26.8 percent from 2007 to 2012. Now more than ever before in the history of the United States, it’s apparent there is a growing movement changing the face of American business, with more women tapping into their entrepreneurial spirits and not just entering the workforce, but dominating it.
It’s true that we still have work to do before we can say the business landscape is completely equal for men and women, but at the very least it’s safe to say that if the glass ceiling isn’t shattered yet, it’s certainly taken some heavy blows. I’m proud to be one of many women in today’s business market who has overcome obstacles, broken down barriers and made strides to increase female representation across the board.
Franchising: A smart decision
While the franchising industry is chock-full of viable career opportunities for both genders, it can be a particularly smart decision for women entrepreneurs. The unfortunate truth of today’s business world is that despite the progress we’ve made, women trying to climb the traditional corporate ladder are all too likely to face gender discrimination and an infuriating wage gap. Even those who try to take matters into their own hands and start their own companies are facing an uphill battle, as it can be significantly more difficult for women founders to find investors than it is for their male counterparts.
However, pursuing a career in franchising can help women circumvent many of these challenges. The beauty of the franchise model is that it creates an opportunity for the freedom of owning your own business while operating within a system with a proven success rate accompanied by corporate support and training. Entering the franchising world means you’re never in it alone, and that’s an incredibly valuable tool for women looking to get their foot in the door.
Ten years ago, I was just another ambitious woman bitten by the entrepreneurial bug looking for my “in” to the American Dream. Because I understand from first-hand experience how it feels to be a female entrepreneur trying to break into the business world, I take my role as a franchisor very seriously and find incredible satisfaction from having the opportunity to extend a helping hand to other women who are just starting out.
Many women who decide to pursue a career in franchising have difficulty identifying a brand they feel is right for them, as the industry is dominated by food and service brands that may not immediately jump out to them as the perfect fit. When we began franchising MODE in 2011, it was apparent that we attracted female franchisees not only due to the strength of our business model and our proven track record for success, but also because they were able to connect with our brand’s persistent messaging of female empowerment.
At MODE, we do more than simply partner with our franchisees from a business perspective. We mentor each and every franchisee and go above and beyond to ensure they have the necessary skills to become leaders in their communities and the authors of their own success story.
Women-inclusive organizations achieve higher returns
Supporting women isn’t just good for society, it’s good (and smart) business. There have been countless studies in the past several years that have reported on the benefits of placing women in leadership positions. In fact, research conducted by Illuminate Ventures found that organizations that are the most inclusive of women in top management achieve 35 percent higher return on equity and 34 percent better total return to shareholders versus their peers, as well as that gender diversity is particularly valuable where innovation is key.
For me, the proof is in the pudding. My corporate support team and franchise network is comprised entirely of women, and I have no doubt that surrounding myself with like-minded, strong women has contributed significantly to the success of my company. While there is no tried-and-true formula for succeeding in the business world, embracing diversity in your company is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
I’m proud to be the founder and COO of a brand that empowers women in a multitude of ways, including through our company’s charitable programs and the non-profit organizations we support that are committed to helping women in need. Through the MODE It Forward program, which was a finalist for the 2015 Franchising Gives Back Innovation and Impact Award, we supply each of our franchisees with two free pairs of designer jeans to give to deserving women each month.
For example, recently one of our franchisees awarded a pair of jeans to a struggling mother in her community. We also give back on a global scale through our partnership with I Pour Life, an organization that takes a hand-up approach to empowering impoverished women and homeless youth by developing their talents and skills and teaching them how to use those skills for long-term self-sufficiency and sustainability. As part of this partnership, our stores sell “Hand Up to End Poverty” shirts, with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward helping women in Korah, Ethiopia have access to training and start-up capital, as well as “Teach with Your Life” bracelets, with sales benefitting the organization’s Lifestrengths USA program which supports at-risk and homeless youth. By giving back on a company-wide scale, we make it easy for our franchisees to impact other women and make a difference in their communities and throughout the world.
Succeeding on purpose
There is a quote I heard when I was just starting out that I constantly find myself repeating to myself and to my team, which is: “I’m bound and determined to succeed on purpose.” That philosophy has propelled me throughout my career and laid the framework for what MODE is today: a company run by women, shaped by women and committed to catering to the unique needs of women.
I believe that women are ingrained with the mentality that success doesn’t just happen and opportunities don’t just fall in your lap — we know that you have to work for it. The story of my success aligns with the experience many women in business face today, in that it proves that achieving your goals is possible. I encourage all women chasing their business-oriented dreams to take a risk, let your determination be your guide and see what opportunities await in the world of franchising.
Ciara Stockeland is founder and COO of MODE. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org.