Women wake up to franchising

To gain an insight into what benefits the franchise sector and being self-employed offers females, Tiffany Brooking spoke to some women who reveal how they achieved their ideal work/life balance

The franchise sector is no longer a man’s world as increasing numbers of women are becoming part of the industry – and liking it.

The NatWest/bfa Franchise Survey 2012 confirms that women have been steadily rising in the ranks of franchise operators over the past few years – increasing from 16 per cent in 2006 to 38 per cent.

Cathryn Hayes, Head of Franchising at HSBC, agrees that while most women have the required skills to become successful franchise owners, many are still anxious about taking the plunge into self-employment.

“One of the problems many women face when going into business is a lack of confidence,” says Cathryn.

“A good franchise will address this with training, a tried and tested format and support both when, starting the business and on an ongoing basis, as your business develops. Many franchise models will offer the flexibility that will assist your work/life balance, including working from home if appropriate.

“Women who have been running a home and raising a family have many of the attributes needed to run a business successfully,” continues Cathryn “they are decisive, energetic, organised, disciplined, familiar with working long hours and used to doing at least three things at once!”

If you’re thinking about starting your own franchises business but need that extra encouraging push, read some of our inspirational stories about women who have changed their lives through franchising.

Ann Hitch, Signs Express, Peterborough

As a mother of two and active member of her local business network, Signs Express franchise owner, Ann Hitch (pictured top), needs to be highly organised and motivated to juggle her busy workload and family commitments.

“Being a full-time working mother, there are times when I’ve got to be in too many places at once, “ says Ann. “Being self-employed, if I have to take one of my children to the hospital, for example, I can do it. Things might not always happen when I’d like them to, but they do get done.

“Many working women also run a household, do the shopping, cooking, cleaning and so on. Most of us intuitively juggle and multi-task and that’s often played down. I think that women have to be confident in their abilities.

“Sometimes this can come across as a bit hard but you have to be brave and have a go. I’ve had it all said to me in the past: ‘how are you going to do that?’. If you believe negative comments you will lack confidence and won’t achieve anything.”

Since launching her Signs Express franchise, Ann has gone on to become an award-winning franchise owner with accolades including finalist for the British Franchise Association Franchisee of the Year Award 2009 and finalist for Women Franchisee of the Year in the Encouraging Women into Franchising Awards 2012.

“I feel a bit of a pioneer, being the only woman operating as a sole franchise owner within the Signs Express network. Hopefully I will inspire other women to seek out similar business opportunities.”

Sheree Parker, Ovenclean, Surrey

Sheree Parker (pictured right, top) is one of Ovenclean’s longest established and most successful franchise owners, yet is one of just a handful of woman within the network.

Sheree joined Ovenclean in 2001 and, by 2004, was so busy she had to take on an employee to help her manage the demand for her services. Now, 11 years later, Sheree has expanded her initial owner operator business into a very successful management franchise.

“For me being a woman has certainly not presented any challenges,” reveals Sheree. “I think it’s irrelevant really – instead you should ask yourself is self-employment for you? If it is, then franchising offers the opportunity to grow a successful business, without many of the risks associated with going it alone.”

Many of the benefits of owning an Ovenclean franchise such as flexible working hours and being able to run a business from home could make it an attractive prospect for women, particularly for those trying to balance the demands of career and family.

Sheree reflects: “I’d done the 14 hour days in my old job as someone else’s employee, and one of the things I value most about being self-employed is that I don’t have to spend my whole time working.

“If I had to offer one piece of advice to any women thinking about franchising it would be to do your research and if you feel that it could work for you – then go for it. The feeling of freedom you get with being your own boss is amazing – I have never looked back!”

Michelle Clarke, Chipsaway, Cambridge

Michelle Clarke (pictured right, bottom) has successfully operated her Cambridge-based ChipsAway franchise, with partner Anatol since 2004. Initially it was Michelle who spotted the opportunity, attracted by ChipsAway’s professional approach.

Since then, the business has gone from strength-to-strength, expanding from an initial ‘man and a van’ operation into a substantial management franchise encompassing five territories, two fully equipped mobile workshops, a ChipsAway CarCare Centre and a team of employees.

Michelle has found that being a woman in the automotive industry has had some unsurprising advantages. “It really opens doors,” Michelle explains. “Female customers often feel more comfortable dealing with a woman and as for the men, there’s no ego contest going on – sometimes there’s a novelty factor, but once people realise that I know what I’m doing, then it’s just accepted that I’m like any other professional. It’s a question of building relationships and trust – something women are particularly good at!”

Michelle’s advice for any other woman thinking of investing in a ChipsAway franchise would be: “Go for it! Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s a male dominated sector, to everyone, men and women alike, I’d say if you know the industry and operate ethically with integrity – it’s a great market to be in, with terrific potential to build a successful, sustainable business.”