When I became a mom 16 years ago, the choice to return to work full-time was incredibly difficult. I wanted more flexibility in my career, but we also needed my salary, so I felt my options were limited. Still, I wanted to try and change direction. At the same time, motherhood had rocked my world. I had so many questions about how to take care of my baby, how to take care of myself. I started Stroller Strides during my maternity leave so that I could take my son with me to workout, and so that I could meet and get support from other moms. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one looking for this connection because the class took off. Within months, we were getting requests from all over the country for classes. Many who wanted to take classes, but also many who wanted to lead them. This is how I started franchising.
We are proud to be one of the fastest growing franchises for moms. I started franchising because I wanted to give other moms the opportunity that I had in running a business. I felt so lucky to love my work, to be able to work from home and create my own hours. I was able to give back to my community and to meet other new moms.
I would have given anything to join a franchise like FIT4MOM. As the franchisor, I had to invent the wheel so to speak. I had wanted to be a mom first and foremost but got carried away in the enormous process of building a franchise brand. It was expensive, time-consuming and downright overwhelming. But it was worth it because I was able to create the franchise opportunity that I would have wanted as a mom.
What comes to mind when you think of a franchise? McDonalds? 7-11? Supercuts? Chances are, you think of a brick and mortar business and expect that it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And for those franchises, you would be right. But there are many other franchise models that are home-based, low cost and turn-key. And those things can make for a good business choice for moms.
According to the Bureau of Labor, 70.5 percent of women with kids 18 and under are working. How many of those women dream of having their own business? Creating their own hours? Working from home? But starting your own business can be risky. The Bureau also states that nearly 50 percent of new businesses fail by year two. That statistic changes if you are a franchise. Some studies have shown that franchises have a success rate of up to 90 percent. Why? Because it’s a proven business model. A franchisor has to create a system that can be replicated by all franchisees. Franchising offers a unique model to realize your dream of business ownership without doing it alone.
But why is a franchise good for moms? The right franchise is good for moms because it gives her an opportunity to be her own boss, to create her own hours and, possibly, to work from home. In other words, a career path that’s on her own terms. It’s also good business to partner with a brand that has recognition, increasing the probability of success since the franchise has established the business model, the operations manuals, the systems and more.
So, what should you ask yourself before starting a franchise?
1. Believe in the brand. You don’t want to buy yourself a job. Find a company that has a product or service that you love, one that you believe in, one that you can get excited about.
2. Do you see a need for this business? How will this franchise do in your community? What will your competition be? How can you differentiate yourself?
3. How will you learn the business? Do you need to travel to the franchisor? Do they have digital training?
4. Have you run the numbers? How much do you need to make? How much do you want to make? Will this business be able to fulfill your financial goals?
5. What will the business require of you? Some franchises have minimum thresholds for revenue. Are you comfortable with those expectations?
6. Speak to other franchisees. Why are they doing it? Do they feel the business is a good business model?
7. How much will you be expected to work? If you only want to work a few hours a day, then be honest about that. Many businesses will expect full time hours, even if not during a typical 9 - 5.
I love franchising because you’re in business for yourself but not by yourself. I find that you get as much support from your fellow franchisees as from your franchisor. Moms are a catalyst for change. Moms are leaders. Moms can have a big future in franchising.
Lisa Druxman is a mom, entrepreneur and founder of FIT4MOM and author of the upcoming, The Empowered Mama: How to Reclaim Your Time andYourself While Raising a Happy, Healthy Family (November 21, Fair Winds Press)
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.