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Women and Franchising in Canada

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Women and Franchising in Canada

Women bring a fresh perspective to the industry, and their strengths in communication, collaboration, and relationship building make them valuable assets to any franchise system.
~ Angelee Brown, CEO, FranOvation

There has never been more participation by women in the Canadian labour market. In November 2022, the participation rate (85.1%) and the employment rate (81.6%) of women aged 25 to 54 both reached record highs.

When you drill down further, business ownership—particularly small business ownership—has been growing slowly but steadily among Canadian women over the past decade. And with that slow but steady growth, the gap between women’s and men’s contributions to the Canadian GDP has been declining.

Over the most recent study period on GDP impact (2008 to 2018), while men’s GDP held relatively steady for the total economy, moving from 48.7% to 49.2%, women’s GDP noticeably increased from 25.7% in 2008 to 28.5%.

Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) researchers estimate that 18% of businesses, including small, medium and large businesses, are majority owned by women in Canada (small and medium sized businesses account for 99.8% of the 18%). Earlier research indicated that 16.8% of small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in 2020 were majority women-owned, which was an increase from 15.6% in 2017.

However, the percentage of women in franchising is outpacing that of general businesses. According to a report by the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA), the number of female franchisees has grown by 35% in the past decade, and women now own 37% of all franchises in Canada.

Why are Canadian women increasingly finding success as franchisees? According to Iain Murphy, who wrote briefly about the subject in his book (The Franchising Handbook: The Complete Guide to Choosing a Franchise), women are in some ways better suited to franchising and make a more attractive group as potential franchisees. Here are a few ways he outlined:

  • Women are good organizers and coordinate activities and people efficiently.
  • Women are good at prioritizing, and deciding which activities are more important than others. This works well in the franchising industry, when dealing with planning, staffing, financing and people management.
  • Women are great at networking and effective communications between franchisee and franchisor.
  • Franchising can offer women the opportunity to go into business and to be successful and profitable on a personal and professional level.

How Franchising Helps Women Reach Their Professional Potential

Many women entrepreneurs are attracted to franchising because it allows them to be their own boss and have more control over their work-life balance. Additionally, several women franchisees have cited that having a proven business model to build off of along with a supportive network of fellow franchisees and franchisors were also major “pros” during their decision making process.

And the franchising industry itself has responded in kind by devoting resources specifically to the recruitment of female franchisees. Further, there are many franchisors that have adapted their franchise systems or forged different types of their franchises to better appeal to what women franchisees want.

Beyond these actions, women franchisees will find several groups and organizations dedicated to helping them succeed. Here are a couple examples.

The Canadian Franchise Association

The CFA is good place to start when looking for entities that support women within the Canadian franchising industry. Among the initiatives the CFA has in place to specifically support and encourage women’s participation in the franchise industry are educational programs, mentorship opportunities, and networking events specifically for women in franchising.

Franchise business growth graph on digital tablet with keyboard, pencils, and agreement. Four blocks present say: Investment, Partner, Trademark and Distribution.
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Women’s Franchise Network

Another franchise-focused group for women in franchising is the Women's Franchise Network. Initially launched in 2002 in Denver, Colorado, USA, the International Franchise Association’s WFN was launched in Canada in 2007.

WFN is a collection of chapters designed to give women in franchising an opportunity to meet and learn from other women in their own local area. WFN is dedicated to inspiring and encouraging women by creating a network of business professionals interested in strengthening the success of women in franchising.

In addition, woman-focused general business groups can also be a great resource for Canadian women franchisees as well.

Below are a couple more examples of organizations founded to protect and advocate for women business owners.

Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs

Since 1976, the Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs (CAWEE) has been connecting Canadian businesswomen. Based in Toronto, Ontario, CAWEE is considered one of Canada’s most respected networking organizations, representing professionals from a broad range of disciplines, markets, and perspectives.

CAWEE offers many opportunities to network and connect with other professional women. Whatever your schedule, CAWEE events enable you to develop and grow not only your business, but also yourself.

Canadian Small Business Women

Canadian Small Business Women provides resources such as training, and networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs. They have an online community and offer events and workshops throughout the year.

As stated on its website, Canadian Small Business Women was created for business owners like you “to give you up to date information, skills and access to all the information you need to take your businesses to the next level.”

Franchise Financing Assistance for Women

Financial concerns are often cited as one of the top hurdles for prospective women franchisees. Fortunately, there are a number of options available to women entering into the franchise industry, such as:

  • Personal Resources: Many women entering into the franchise industry generally use their personal resources (savings, family and friends) as a starting point for borrowing and raising money for their franchise opportunity.
  • Financial Institutions: Some female franchisees may turn to financial institutions for debt financing or equity financing, or both.
  • Franchisor: In some cases, the franchisor can help generate the start-up finance needed to set up a franchise.

Furthermore, there are other resources available to women entering into franchising. Some of these resources can supply substantial funds and grants to women entering the franchise industry. Here are a few examples of organizations that are dedicated to helping Canadian women finance their own business or helping to find others to help with funding.

Canada Small Business Financing Program (CSBFP)

The Canada Small Business Financing Program helps small businesses access financing. As the government covers a portion of eligible losses due to default, the CSBFP encourages lenders to offer loans they would not otherwise make. Most start-ups along with existing for-profit, not-for-profit and charitable small businesses in Canada with gross revenues of $10 million or less are eligible to apply for loans under this program.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada administers the program in partnership with a network of private sector lenders across all provinces and territories. Lenders are responsible for all credit decisions and for making the loans.

Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund

The Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund provides loans of up to $50,000 to women entrepreneurs, particularly for start-ups, underrepresented groups or sole proprietorships which may experience more difficulty in accessing financing.

The fund uses a select number of organizations to deliver funds. As of April 2023, they include:

And don’t forget more local avenues, such as the following example.

Paro Centre for Women's Enterprise

Based in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the PARO Centre leads peer lending circles throughout the Thunder Bay, Greenstone, Patricia, and Superior North regions. In these circles, like-minded women offer advice and support to one another. The groups are four to seven women.

According to Paro, the circles “help women connect and network with other women of companies. Today, PARO is one of the strongest lenders among peers, aimed at small businesses, in North America.”

Lending circle loans are microloans ranging from $500 to $5,000. Other lending circle members are involved in reviewing and approving loan applications from members and monitoring their payment.

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These are just a few examples of the programs available to prospective women entrepreneurs in Canada. It's important to research all of your options and find the programs and resources that best fit your individual needs and goals.

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Advice for Prospective Women Franchisees

Eva Crosland is a former Manager of Franchise Development with children’s franchise Gymboree Play and Music. Eva worked within Gymboree for over 20 years. Her experience and knowledge are invaluable to any individual who is interested in entering into a franchise opportunity.

Eva believes that the “majority of women (in franchising) have a special touch when in communication mode; with a twist of involvement, compassion and empathy that is not found very often otherwise.”

As for women who considering the jump into franchise ownership, here are five key points a potential female franchisee should consider when considering a franchise opportunity Eva gave us:

  1. Consider your current obligations and lifestyle. Know what to expect and acknowledge if it will, or won’t work, for your goals and personal needs and wants. Ensure you have full support from your spouse or significant other, family, and children.
  2. Review your skill set. What areas do you excel at? Is this an area you wish to learn and would like to manage in? Will support in its true meaning be enough?
  3. Are you a relationship builder? Do you network and keep the connections going? Is your network comprised of both local as well as outside community members?
  4. How is your financial standing, and how much can you invest? How much are you willing to risk? Know your limits and investigate the options you may have in obtaining funds and the amount you can estimate having for the investment.
  5. Do you have a passion for the type of franchise business you are looking at? Have you always wished to be in the travel industry or are you drawn to working with numbers? Do you like teaching or leading people? Find your passion and follow its lead. You can enjoy the day to day as well as the end result of your hard work.

As Eva told us, “Running your own business is a commitment of your time (lots of it) and hard work, which includes necessary business responsibilities that you don’t necessarily enjoy.” She emphasized that your time should be spent working within a franchise system that you enjoy personally and matches your personal desires and ambitions. “This is when you can wake up and be ready to get to work and do so with enthusiasm and end that same day with satisfaction from your efforts.”

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