Entrepreneurial Women of Today

Women-owned businesses are often thought of as small, conservative ventures keeping a tight rein on growth to stay manageable, but incidentally women-owned firms established in the last decade have been more growth-oriented. A large number of firms started by women in the last decade have experienced fast growth.

Franchising, as a business model, is becoming increasingly popular among women and amounts to twice the rate at which men are taking it up. The main reason for the interest generated in women towards franchising is the proven track record that enhances the likelihood of success, supported by the fact that franchisers have become more intent on targeting women as business owners.

The findings of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) show that about 73 million people are involved in starting new businesses across the 34 countries that participated in the study; of these, about 30 million are women.

Women, today, have increased financial power, better education and corporate experience, combined with the desire for more autonomy and to connect with others who share their values.

Women possess certain attributes like decisiveness, energy organizational and multitasking capabilities. A woman having all these qualities is well-suited for running her own business, but if she is unsure of what to do, then franchising could be the right choice.

The unique skill set of women is well customized to the franchise environment. Women tend to be good listeners and build lasting relationships more easily, which are fundamental requirements of franchising. Many women prefer fulfilling work in a pleasant background to building empires. Prioritizing and being detail-oriented are other characteristics of women that make them ideal for franchising.

Starting any business is a risk, but buying a franchise largely mitigates that risk. Franchising creates an opportunity for experienced and ambitious women, seeking greater job enrichment to continue operating at higher level, whilst also providing the flexibility to juggle their home life with work.

Amongst the women who have achieved a certain milestone in franchising is Margaret Johnson, the owner of Chicago based firm, The Johnson Grouping., specializing in strategic and financial planning, process re-energizing, acquisition integratation and system conversions. The company is growing at an annual rate of 79 percent since opening its doors five years ago.

Ann Rosenberg, widow of Bill Rosenberg who left his mark as founder of Dunkin Donuts and International Franchise Association, launched a new franchise called ‘Lets Make Wine’. This is a unique concept where customers can participate in wine making. The company is looking for people with prior business experience and enough capital to get them through a first six months to a year. Carla Wilke Jones left a teaching career to turn around her family’s meet processing business, The Ohio Packing Co. the firm now sells its trademark ‘Bahama Mama’ spiced, smoked sausages in premium groceries nationwide, and is licensed by Ohio State University to manufacture and sell ‘Buckeye Hot Dogs’.

Carol Venzin, president Fantastic sams franchise rights for western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. She bought the entire Pittsburgh region. As the president of Pittsburgh’s National Association of Women Business Owners, she was listed in Pennsylvania’s best 50 women in business and Women’s business network, Woman of the year 2001.

Gayle Martz, owner of Sherpa’s pet trading company in New York, is another example in the category. She capitalized on her experienced as an air line flight attendant to design and manufacture ‘The Sherpa Bag’, an officially approved in-cabin soft-sided pet carrier for ten major airlines, revolutionizing the way people travel with their pets. Today, Sherpa Bags and accessories are sold world wide.

Connie Manson has been an integral member of the Kwik Kopy Printing franchise community ever since her entry in the system as franchise owner with her husband in 1995. Her success in the business led to one of the highest sales for Kwik Kopy Centers when it was eventually sold in 1988. Connie then embarked on a career providing consultation of franchising. She uses her experience and understanding of franchise issues in combination with her sound business knowledge to lead the strong Kwik Kopy network as general manager of the brand. To add to the list is Mona, the founder of Monart Drawing School, a California based franchise company, started as a network of privately licensed art schools throughout US, Canada, Australia, and Europe.

One of the best examples of women franchisor in India is that of Shanaz Hussain Group, is the pioneer and leader in Ayurvedic skin, hair and body care with an integrated system of clinical treatments and product excellence. Based on the franchise system it is the largest organization of its kind in the world with over 400 franchise clinic world wide. Shanaz Hussain received The World’s Greatest Women Entrepreneur Award from success magazine, USA in July 2002, Shanaz Hussain received the Global India ‘Woman of the Millennium’ Award, presented by Global India Congress, based in California, USA.

Besides this, companies like Zee interactive Learning systems Limited (ZILS) are promoting women for franchising for its educational arm ‘Kidzee’. The company is largely helpful in imbibing a feeling of self-reliance and economic security in women and has been able to provide employment to a large number them.

Though business run by women face the same challenges as those faced by small and mid-sized companies, like access to capital, market position, and managing growth, hiring and retaining employees, the major impediment women-owned business face is ‘business as usual’. If no special effort is made to expand the universe of suppliers to include women and minority owned firms, progress will continue to limp along.

Internationally, women in franchising are growing larger, more successful, and more diversified. Financial institution’s consciousness will be raised in the terms of the imperative of investment in women-owned business. Women-owned business will considered an integral part of both their market and their suppliers in the years to come.

Access to capital will continue to be a challenge, but is expected to improve as more and more women are getting into running major companies. Dina Dwyer-Owens, holds that more women are getting involved in franchising at the franchisee at the franchisor level, mainly because more women than ever are involved in business today, which produces a ripple effect. According to Barbara Morgan Ploger, the future for woman in franchising is positive and exciting and it is expected that participation will continue to grow.

Franchisors are focusing more on generating women’s interest in becoming franchisees and some franchises are developing businesses geared specifically towards women’s interests. Also as working women, gain more managerial and executive positions, they will become more interested in owing their own business. Women franchisors, however are still few in number and are growing slowly, partly because in some the countries they are shying away to enter the business world and partly because men still dominate that arena. It is time for women to step up to the plate and become entrepreneurs.

Subroneel Saha

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