People, News & Events

By Michelle Rowan, CFE, Franchise Business Review

What some of today’s most inspiring franchise executives revealed, what you might have missed at this year’s Annual Leadership Conference, Women in Franchising on Clubhouse and more!

For 25 years, the Women’s Franchise Committee (WFC) has been dedicated to the mission of promoting women’s participation in franchising. When I talk about the work we do as a committee, the first thing I always mention is how hard ALL 25 members work to get it all done. But this group of women is also an amazingly supportive community, and people I will be connected to long after my time as chair ends. We don’t strive to just get things done, we have thoughtful conversations on how to build awareness around the initiatives we undertake to promote franchising and create opportunities for everyone involved in franchising to expand their networks. The WFC is constantly developing new ways to support women in their careers, balance of work and family and continue delivering meaningful content and best practices to the entire franchise community.

Although 2020 (and the start of 2021) has challenged all of us to rethink how we do business and how we forecast or plan for changes still to come, the WFC has continued to find opportunities to innovate and support our mission and the franchise community. This year we hosted the 22nd Annual Leadership Conference during the IFA 2021 Virtual Annual Convention, and we were thrilled to have the largest audience ever attend. We introduced a new presentation style (Pecha Kucha) for our Leaders on the Spot segment, which allowed the speakers to share their leadership strategies around specific topics clearly and quickly, and incorporated more live Q&A so attendees could engage with these leadership experts on what mattered most. We also had a chance to take our beloved case study virtual, using break out rooms to facilitate discussion, and invited Charles Watson of Tropical Smoothie Cafe to enthusiastically share how he has guided his team and the brand from good to great since taking on the role of CEO. Feedback from attendees was exactly what we hoped for: people were able to make connections, have deeper conversations on how to help their brands and were exposed to new ideas to take back to their teams.

Last year we also launched our “Her Success” podcast series. These inspiring conversations enabled us to tell the stories of successful franchise executives in their own words about their journeys to leadership, including the challenges they faced along the way. One of my favorite questions was, “What advice would you give to your younger self?” Saunda Kitchen, Mr. Rooter franchisee of Sonoma County, California, said, “In your pursuit of success, be sure to check in with your happiness and satisfaction. Stop comparing yourself to others; you can’t control the opinion of others but you can define YOUR measurement of success. And give yourself grace.” Her advice resonates deeply with me. It’s easy to be so focused on the end goal that we lose sight of what we are learning or experiencing on the journey to get there. “Listen more, talk less,” is another one of my favorites. This one came from Tam Kennedy, Taco John’s franchisee and partner of Performax Franchisee Advisors. Simple advice to give, but not always easy to follow. There is so much to learn from others if we give them time to share it. As we rise in ranks we may feel it’s our job to talk the most, or the loudest, but great things come from open minds and collaboration.

The WFC is constantly developing new ways to support women in their careers, balance of work and family and continue delivering meaningful content and best practices to the entire franchise community.”

As we continue our career journeys, it’s normal to second guess our decisions. I love the advice Paul Pickett, chief development officer of Wild Birds Unlimited, offered up to his younger self: “Believe in your gut. Use your tribe to bounce ideas off of, but trust yourself and don’t be so hesitant. Get out of your, and everyone else’s, way.”

There are so many amazing stories and people to hear from, and I encourage you to watch them all on IFA’s site, or listen to the audio recordings on Social Geek Radio.

It has truly been my pleasure helping this committee navigate how we can best help the franchise community. As the WFC looks at what’s next, here is what we are working on to continue connecting and supporting women in franchising:

WFC vice chair, Robin Gagnon of We Sell Restaurants, is taking the conversation to Clubhouse. If you are on the app, join our “Women in Franchising” room. Our committee members will be jumping in weekly to mentor and connect with others. We will talk about challenges and successes we have found as women in franchising, answer questions and offer up advice based on our experiences. Not on Clubhouse yet? We still have you covered. Anne Huntington Sharma of Huntington Learning Centers is leading the charge to deliver the same experience with monthly web conference events to offer specific advice and keep people learning and growing their networks.

I would like to wrap up by sharing the advice I would offer to my younger self, and to all those involved in franchising now: Don’t wait to get involved and find ways to make a difference. Find people you can learn from, and also find those people you can help. Build authentic relationships and most importantly, use your voice and commit your time to making our industry inclusive, diverse and innovative. On behalf of our entire committee, we invite you to check out our content, join our regional Women’s Franchise Networks, jump on our upcoming Clubhouse and Zoom events, and reach out to any us directly if we can help you.


Michelle Rowan, CFE, is the president & COO of Franchise Business Review and chair of the IFA Women’s Franchise Committee. For more information about International Franchise Association (IFA) supplier member Franchise Business Review, visit franchise.org/suppliers/franchise-business-review.