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Part-Time Franchising for Entrepreneurial Moms: Sales Pitch or Modern-Day Reality?

by Patricia Schaefer

The franchise ad might start: Great Franchise Opportunity For Moms. Are you looking for an enjoyable, part-time business?

Sounds great: Franchising is bigger and better than ever in our country, and still growing in leaps and bounds. It has entered virtually every industry there is. It enjoys greater success generally than independent starts-ups, and, depending on the individual franchise system, can allow for the much-sought-after flexibility in work schedules today's moms often seek.

But is that sales pitch for part-time franchising an honest offering or the hype of a franchisor's slick marketing department?

Some facts about women, franchising, and part-time opportunities

Dr. Ying Lowrey, Senior Economist with the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Office of Advocacy, specializes in the area of Entrepreneurs, Women and Minorities. According to Lowrey, The SBA's most recent survey data on women and franchising was reported in 1999 and analyzed data from 1987 to 1995. "In 1987, there were less than 19,000 women in franchising, and in 1995 there were 72,000 women in franchising. My gut feeling is that it has increased even more since then."

Although there are no present-day statistics on the actual number of women-owned franchises, the U.S. Census Bureau released data in January 2006 that women-owned businesses overall grew at twice the national average for all businesses -- 20 percent - between 1997 and 2002. Census Bureau survey statistician Valerie Strang says the Bureau will issue statistics in September 2006 on the actual number of women-owned franchises in the U.S. in 2002.

Jackie Adams, Immediate Past Chair of the Women's Franchise Committee of the International Franchise Association (IFA), says that the recent growth of women-owned businesses has been "explosive." Adams herself is a franchise owner as well as a consultant for FranChoice, a franchising consulting firm. In her three and a half years as a franchise consultant, 50 percent of her placements have been with women, either as sole or joint owners (typically co-owned with a spouse).

Eric Stites, Founder and President of Franchise Business Review, recently ran a report exclusively for Franchise Trade on women franchisees from their 2006 Franchisee Satisfaction Survey database. Nearly 2000 women franchisees had participated. The report showed a total of 31 percent of female franchisees working 40 hours or less per week, with 14 percent of the total surveyed working less than 30 hours per week. When questioned about flexibility in their work schedule, 89 percent claimed some degree of flexibility, from somewhat flexible to very flexible.

One of the questions in the survey was, "If you could do it all over again, knowing what you know today, would you still invest in this franchise?" 78 percent answered in the affirmative (53% yes, 22% probably), 13 percent maybe, and 13 percent in the negative (7% probably not, 6% no). Another question asked, "Is there anything that you now know that you didn't know then? A common answer among women: "how much time it was going to take."

In the same database, three Franchise systems stood out in terms of part-time and franchising opportunities for women: Jumpbunch with 85 percent female franchisees and 81 percent working less than 40 hours; 45 percent working less than 30 hours. Computer Tots/Computer Explorers with 80 percent female franchisees and 55 percent working less than 40 hours. And Discovery Map with 65 percent female franchisees and 67 percent working less than 40 hours.

A sampling of some of today's female franchisees

Franchisees interviewed all stated that the training, ongoing support and infrastructures of the franchise system helped make business ownership possible for them, and saved them valuable work-time. If they had to start a business on their own while raising a family, these franchisees doubted they would have done so. Here's what else they had to say:

Rebecca McIntosh: Ainsworth, Nebraska
Heaven's Best (Carpet Cleaning Franchise)

MacIntosh is the working mother of three children; ages 17, 15, and 14, and loves going to her 17-year-old daughter's track meets. Before purchasing her Heaven's Best franchise in 2000, her full-time practical nursing job would not allow her to attend many of her children's events. In talking about her business, MacIntosh enthused, "I absolutely love it. I've been to every meet this year for my daughter. I love what franchising did for me in terms of flexibility."

Although MacIntosh works part-time hours with her carpet-cleaning franchise, she has had to augment this with an average of about 12 hours a week working as a nurse in order to meet her family's financial needs. As a result, her total weekly work hours add up to the equivalent of full-time employment hours. MacIntosh recommends franchising for today's mom, but emphasizes that it should not be undertaken unless one is ready to "work very hard, and have ambition and drive."

Joy Kelley: Buffalo, New York
Stroller Strides (Fitness Franchise that offers prenatal and postnatal exercise and workout programs)

Kelley has been a Stroller Strides franchise owner/instructor since August 2005 and works an average of 15 to 20 hours a week. Still in her first year of ownership, Kelly says her profits are not yet quite as good as she had hoped for "but they're definitely on the upswing." This business-owner mom has a two-year-old daughter and is expecting another baby in August.

In addition to believing that franchising is a good fit for moms, Kelley recommends the Stroller Strides franchise because "they're very supportive of motherhood. Family comes first, and they promote this." She doesn't recommend franchising for every mom: "This is not for someone who doesn't want to be a leader."

Krista Rapp: Wichita, Kansas
Curves (Women-Only Fitness Franchise)

This Curves owner works "less than eight hours inside the doors" and the balance of her work hours at home, totaling 40 hours or more per week. Unlike the majority of women franchisees, Rapp owns more than one franchise. She purchased her first Curves in 2001, and the second followed in 2002.

Rapp loves the "tremendous amount of flexibility" she has had with the franchise that allows her to have a balance and to schedule her work time around her two-and-a-half-year old daughter: "It's a great fit at this time in my life." She chose Curves because she wanted a franchise business where she could feel she was truly helping others. Her long-term goal is to perhaps work 30 hours a week, and believes this may be possible by hiring a manager and others so she can devote more time to her family.

The income earned by Rapp as a franchise owner has given her peace of mind: "During my maternity leave, I did work at home. I didn't have to worry about money -- it was incredible."

What women can realistically expect in terms of part-time franchise offerings

The franchise ad at the beginning of this piece? It actually was a legitimate claim for a franchise opportunity and system where an individual could purchase a franchise and realistically work part-time hours. But, buyer beware. Other part-time franchise offerings can be somewhat to significantly disingenuous. It is critical to research any prospective franchise thoroughly, including calling existing franchisees to determine what "part-time" really means. Go to the franchise website, click on locations and independently contact a number of franchisees. Do this rather than going through "corporate headquarters." You'll get a clearer picture of the hours you can expect to work.

Here's just a sampling of some franchises that offer both full-time and part-time franchise opportunities: Candy Bouquet, Lawn Doctor, Stroller Strides, Made in the Shade Blinds, Business Card Experts, Décor & You, Café Gourmet to Go, College Assistance Plus, Kickin' Flips, and The Glove Lady (Source: www.womensfranchises.com). Generally speaking, it is the home-based franchise systems that provide the majority of part-time franchise opportunities.

With 15 years of experience in the franchise industry, Stites of Franchise Business Review says, "For women, there has been more and more opportunity [for franchise ownership] in the last five years. Franchising has become a better fit for women owners, but it requires a lot of time to be successful. There are very few franchise opportunities where someone can work part-time and be successful. Franchising does, though, allow flexibility. There are a number of systems where the hours aren't necessarily nine to five; for example, where the husband can take care of the kids while the wife works."

Another way to work part-time when purchasing a franchise, according to FranChoice consultant Adams, is to hire a manager to run the business full-time. "Your job as the owner would be to manage the manager, and spend about 15 hours to 20 hours a week basically doing payroll and the books." Adams herself owns a tutoring franchise with her husband, and "works about 15 hours a week on that business." This option though can be a higher-cost investment, and as Adams says, "If you're going to hire someone, you're going to earn less money from the business because that money's going to pay the manager."

Susan Kezios, President of Women in Franchising, Inc. and the American Franchisee Association, cautions women about part-time franchising marketing "spin" but encourages "women to consider franchises as a first step to entrepreneurship."

Kezios adds, "There are very few franchises that women can begin part-time and generate a decent income. In fact, certain franchises' marketing spin is that women can indeed be worked part-time when, the reality is, they cannot. Talk with women who own these so-called 'part-time' franchises to get a realistic picture of the amount of income they can generate versus the amount of money, time and energy invested.

"Current women franchisees should also be asked about the number of franchise closures in the chain. Often, when a woman 'closes' her part-time franchise because she realizes the investment has definitely not been a good one, the corporation blames the woman's 'failure' on 1) her lack of commitment, 2) her part-time attitude, or 3) family issues as the reason for the franchises closure... or, a combination of all three! The corporation merely sells the same territory to another unsuspecting woman -- for another upfront franchise fee -- and the wheel turns again."

Copyright 2010, Attard Communications, Inc.

To contact Jackie Adams for additional information or a free consultation, email her at jadams@franchoice.com.

To learn more about Franchise Business Review, go to http://www.FranchiseBusinessReview.com/.

For information about women in franchising, go to http://www.womeninfranchising.com/.

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