Women in Franchising

Pauline Cowie is a founder of Manchester-based law firm Millbank Edge LLP and a nationally-recognised expert in franchising. The Franchise Magazine asked her about the attractions becoming a franchise owner has for women.

The Franchise Magazine: What particular benefits does franchising have for women?
Pauline Cowie: Franchising can be particularly beneficial for women with children. Taking time out of the workplace to have a family can knock some women's confidence, so setting up a business from scratch can seem like a daunting prospect.

Often women will be eager to use their skills and experience to start their own business ventures, but are unsure of how to go about it. Franchising provides an ideal solution as support and training is provided by the franchisor. As a result, the whole process isn't quite as intimidating as setting up a business independently.

In addition, women with childcare responsibilities often need a degree of flexibility in their working hours, therefore forfeiting a rigid working pattern.

Franchising can offer the work/life balance that some women need - as well as creating a profitable business for the future. Being your own boss in charge of your own business means women can fit work around their other commitments.

TFM: What attributes make women ideally suited to operating a franchise business?
PC: Entrepreneurship involves a combination of skills, regardless of gender. However, there are some typically female traits that are suited to franchising. For example, women who have been juggling work and caring responsibilities can often work effectively under pressure and multitask - which are very valuable skills in franchising.

TFM: Does becoming a franchise owner present any specific challenges or opportunities to women?
PC: There are a number of part-time franchise opportunities which are either home-based or require a fixed commitment during term time - and these often sit well with women managing childcare responsibilities.

TFM: Does the current economic climate have any implications for women looking to get started in business?
PC: Difficult economic times always open up opportunities. People start looking at different ways of doing business and assess their skill base and qualities. Often this results in new franchise systems coming on to the market with much more frequency. The part-time, more flexible opportunities are also fairly low cost, which may mean only a small amount of money needs to be borrowed. Having said that, major banks are still supporting franchise ventures, and depending on the system it may actually be easier to arrange finance for a franchise rather than a start-up business.

TFM: Do you have any advice or tips to help women make a success of starting a franchise business?
PC: Do your research, speak to as many other franchises as possible, take professional advice and be wary of anyone who doesn't carry out a proper assessment of a prospective franchise owner. Investigating a franchise opportunity is a two-way process, and if at any stage it doesn't feel right, it will invariably end in tears. When you're up and running and signed up, remain motivated and seek support whenever you need it.

Millbank Edge LLP