Franchises, once a boys' club dominated by men, have begun to catch on with women, many of whom are finding that franchise ownership can offer freedom and opportunities to grow.
Franchises of all types are actively courting women and many are finding that women possess just the right set up skills for running a franchise operation.
"Obviously, women can get excel at any franchise, and success depends on the woman and what she makes of the opportunity," said Catherine Monson, CEO of FASTSIGNS International, a Carrollton, Texas-based franchisor of sign and graphic centers. She said the company has more than 500 franchisees, many of them women.
Monson said that franchises, in general, appeal to women who enjoy a mix of collaboration and working on their own.
"They can tap into the group intellect that is inherent in a franchise and learn and share information from other franchisees and the franchisor," she said. "I think that women like being able to tap into the power of the brand and proven business model to make their own success of their business and control their own destiny."
Monson said that women often bring unique people skills to their roles as franchisees. "Women have a great ability to understand how their words and actions affect employees and clients, so I feel that helps them as business owners," she said.
Finding a franchise that suits your personality and meshes with your inherent skills is a good way to get started, female franchisees advise.
"I think that anyone can succeed in the right business, and the senior home care business is no exception, but it is not for everyone," said Lisa Saputo, owner/operator of a Seniors Helping Seniors franchise in Orange County, Calif. The Reading, Pa.-based franchisor provides in-home nonmedical services by matching senior workers with seniors who need companionship, transportation, meal preparation, light housekeeping, personal care, yard work, overnight stays, pet care and handyman services.
She said the franchise's business model is built on developing relationships, which she feels puts her, as a woman, at an advantage.
"I was speaking to a male competitor in the field, who was telling me about the peaks and valleys he was experiencing in his business. My approach to business is based on developing longer-term relationships, so I am experiencing fewer ups and downs."
Women may also find it easier to obtaining financing for their franchises, experts said.
"There are tons of female entrepreneur based loans and grants out there which are helpful since at times it is more common for men to receive traditional grants or loans than it is for women," said Heidi Ganahl, CEO and founder of Camp Bow Wow, a Boulder, Colo.-based franchisor. Women own more than 40 percent of Camp Bow Wow's 200-plus franchises, which offer day care and overnight care for dogs.
Ganahl said owning a franchise also allows women to have more flexibility in their schedule, which may make franchises a good business-owning option for women who have families.
"On the one hand, being a franchise owner gives you more flexibility to be able to manage being a mom and a boss as well," she said. "On the other hand, being an entrepreneur and your own boss usually comes with a pretty heavy and time-consuming workload that unfortunately can spill over into the evenings or weekends."
Ganahl said franchising is more about finding the right fit than fitting a specific gender role.
"If you're a woman who is passionate about working on cars, you could have a very successful auto body shop franchise," she said. "Don't let traditional gender roles determine whether or not you pursue your passion and turn it into a business. It also comes down to having enough cash and credit to fund the initial stages of a franchise, before you see any profit whatsoever. You also want to think about how running the franchise will fit into your personal life and family structure. Starting a franchise requires a lot of hard work, but letting it consume you entirely will just make you resent the endeavor."