What do you get when more women take the plunge and start their own business? No punchline here – as the answer is a cool £105 billion contribution to the UK economy. New research published by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), launched at Facebook Community Boost, reveals an estimated 40% increase in economic contribution and a 26% increase in employment generated by women owned businesses compared to previous figures.

The recent statistics send the strongest message yet that championing women’s enterprise is critically important for economic prosperity. Women are increasingly becoming job creators and growth drivers in the UK and although diversity remains a challenge across many sectors, we must harness the momentum already created and do all we can to support female start up and small business owners.

One specific area where women are flourishing is in the world of franchising. In the UK women now account for nearly 25% of franchisees and the International Franchise Association has reported a similar shift. So what is it about being a franchisee that holds such an appeal to a rocketing number of female business owners?

A major attraction is the reduced risk factor compared to getting a new-found business idea off the ground. Buying into a franchise of an already established brand appeals to even the most financially conscious business women and demands far less leg work than starting from scratch. For women returning to work after a career break, entering into a franchise provides a tried and tested business model that can be up and running quickly with a greater probability for success. In many ways, it’s a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario – the flexibility that comes with being your own boss with the marketing and management support of a strong brand. An opportunity that sounds, but fortunately isn’t, too good to be true.

The type of franchises on offer in the UK vary widely and would suit pretty much any home/personal circumstances. The choice is huge, with categories that include B2B and B2C franchises, franchises for couples, part-time franchises, work at home mum’s franchises, sole operator franchises, low cost franchises…the list goes on.

There may be fantastic opportunities out there, however some women looking to making the move into franchising can find it intimidating. Whether it is lack of confidence, perceived lack of knowledge or not knowing where to start, the good news is there are several UK organisations that provide valuable advice and guidance to women looking for a route into the franchise industry. Encouraging Women into Franchising (EWIF), Female Franchise, Global Franchise and What Franchise all offer inspiration to budding franchise owners as well as practical help and ongoing support.

Here at Hub Exhibitions, we have also been working hard to create an inspirational platform for women looking to explore the world of franchising. At our inaugural Women in Business Event, WIB Expo in Farnborough, there will be hundreds of exhibitors showcasing franchise opportunities for women, men or couples looking to go into business. For those interested in entering into franchise, we will have a dedicated Franchise Theatre, Village and even ‘matchmaking opportunities’ to narrow down the choices and find the perfect business fit for people.

As finance is such a critical element for start-ups and franchise owners, we are delighted that Natwest has also pledged its support for the event. The high street giant plays a leading role in funding female entrepreneurs and business owners. Last year the company announced a special £150m fund specifically for women-led SMEs throughout the UK and at the time its (female) CEO of commercial and private banking stated that “If women were to start businesses at the same rate as men, there would be 150,000 more start-ups in the UK every year.”

There is no doubting the unwavering level of support available to encourage more women in to business and franchising. But, we have to accept that only a quarter of franchises are owned by women so the gender imbalance still exists. Until that changes, we need to find ways to get behind the women who want to step forward into franchising and give them the tools, encouragement and inspiration that will help them succeed.

Christie Day
Event Director
Women in Business Expo

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