These brands have put women at the forefront and have exemplified everything that today’s entrepreneurs look for when it comes to inclusivity and equality
Join us in celebrating the brands that are not only purpose-built for female entrepreneurship but live and breathe it through their operations and track records
The idea of a ‘female-centric’ brand can appear quite abstract, but that’s because franchise businesses support women in such a variety of meaningful ways. Whether that’s promoting women to key leadership positions within the brand, or actively recruiting female franchisees, there are numerous reasons that a brand can be seen as one that supports women.
For the purposes of this list, the team behind Business Woman have spoken with a wide selection of franchise brands to bring together a list of 20 that we’ve identified as female-centric. For some, such as FASTSIGNS, this is because it has filled the majority of its director positions with women; including its CEO, Catherine Monson.
For others, such as Pink Spaghetti, this is because it has steadily built a network of more than 60 franchisees across the UK – all of whom are female. In fact, from the outset, Pink Spaghetti has been all about empowering women to set up their own businesses; exactly the kind of motivation that we’re looking for with this list.
This list is in no particular order, and instead celebrates all of these brands for their unfaltering support of women in business.
1. The Creation Station
“Empowering women in franchising and supporting their success is at the heart of The Creation Station franchise,” says Sarah Cressall, founder and managing director of the kids’ arts and crafts classes brand. “I developed and continue to lead The Creation Station franchise to support women, who like me, want to be there to support their family and also want to add value to others and run their own successful and rewarding business.”
This is done by offering a franchise business model that is flexible with the scope to scale at a rate and pace that works for each individual franchise partner. The Creation Station understands that different time commitments vary during different stages of life, therefore the business model reflects this and offers a structured support programme, with activities planned around the franchisee’s personal priorities.
Kayleigh Webb, who runs The Creation Station in Bracknell, said: “Joining The Creation Station team has been one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself and my family. The Creation Station allows me to spend time with my two young children and watch them grow while I inspire the young people I meet with inspirational, fun, creative and educational lessons.”
2. Get Ahead VA
At the time of writing, every single one of Get Ahead VA’s 10-franchisee strong network is female. The business is led by founder and director, Rebecca Newenham, who personally mentors all franchisees and attends exhibitions with them where possible to bring added support.
This exclusively female franchise was also inspired by a woman, Rebecca’s mother, who ran a successful tutorial agency while Rebecca was young. Rebecca grew up wanting to run her own business flexibly around her family, just like her mother did.
Rebecca’s strong passion for this ethos has gained the business its fair share of admirers and accolades, with Get Ahead VA winning a British Franchise Award for Franchise Balance in 2021, which recognises the franchise’s flexible nature. Rebecca has also won Southern Business Woman of the Year at the National Business Womens’ Awards.
“I looked at other opportunities, but this one stood out,” says Louise Young, a Get Ahead VA franchisee. “Rebecca clearly offers good support to franchisees and as the business has been going for 10 years, it already has credibility.” “I am passionate about the role of women in the workplace and the value of flexible working,” says Rebecca.
Angela Sterling first established Lingotot in 2010, just after the birth of her first daughter, who was quickly followed by a second. Prior to founding Lingotot, Angela had a long and successful career as a modern foreign languages teacher, which was something she didn’t want to give up. Creating Lingotot provided the perfect solution: Angela could continue teaching, but on a schedule that suited her lifestyle and family commitments.
The brand was franchised in 2011 and has been offering life-changing opportunities for other women in the same position ever since. All of the Lingotot franchisees work on a part-time basis – they choose how many hours a week they wish to work and whether they will hire tutors or not.
Once a franchisee joins the network – which is primarily women, with Lingotot welcoming its first male franchisee this year – they undergo a three-day training weekend, which digs into the fundamentals of how they are going to launch and run their business in their area. Children, partners and pets are welcome at the training, as the founder recognises how difficult finding childcare can be.
“The basis of my franchise emerged when I was confronted with the same dilemma many women face when they have children: what to do with my career,” says Angela. “Franchising empowers women to continue to follow their dream careers around their own schedule and family lives.”
4. Guardian Angel Carers
With a female founder, 80 per cent female senior leadership team, and almost 50 per cent women franchisees, Guardian Angel Carers is a strong example of a business that is empowering women and allowing them to use their talents to drive success.
Founder and CEO Christina Handasyde Dick is a double Olympic and world champion sailor turned entrepreneur who is passionate about driving improvement and change in the care sector. “We believe in supporting and developing colleagues and franchisees regardless of gender,” she explains. “It just so happens that this approach has helped us attract a wealth of female talent across the business and is an approach that is very appealing to all our franchisees.”
Guardian Angel Carers prides itself on a working environment that is supportive and flexible for all. Recognising the difficulties pet owners face when working full time, dogs are often keeping the team company in the office. Children and family members are invited to join in on many company events such as Christmas parties. Flexible working is standard, allowing everyone – especially parents of young children or those with other care responsibilities – to work around their commitments.
“Having been the only woman at board level in many of my previous roles, it’s refreshing to work for a business that recognises, nurtures and encourages talent, regardless of gender,” says Sarah Harris, head of marketing.
Busylizzy was founded back in 2011 when school friends Julie Clabby and Sarah Batterbury – who are both mums with backgrounds in the leisure and legal industries – spotted a gap in the market for a fresh way of booking and attending pregnancy and postnatal exercise classes.
Fast-forward to 2014, and the duo franchised the business with the mission to enable mums to find a new, flexible career that works around a young family. The 14-franchise-strong network is exclusively female – and all bar of one of the franchisees have been mums.
The business’s operational model is designed to encourage women into business and offers them the ability to run their own business around family commitments. Busylizzy has fully secure websites that work with databases to process new memberships and automate future payments, making the day-to-day business easier to manage.
“Giving women the opportunity to get involved in the franchise field is something we are extremely passionate about,” says Julie. “Busylizzy is a huge cheerleader for women in business. The whole concept of the Busylizzy brand is to encourage the physical and mental wellbeing of mums and mums to be – keeping them active and helping them to get out to classes, make friends and spend quality time with their bump or babies.”
For signage and communications brand FASTSIGNS, female empowerment comes from the top-down. 10 of its 17 director positions are filled by women, for example, and two of its executive board are female.
Catherine Monson, the CEO of FASTSIGNS International, Inc., is also a strong advocate for women in franchising and is, herself, a shining example of leading the charge on ethical franchising across the board. She is also chair of the International Franchise Association; a role in which she fought in the corner of franchising during the toughest period that the industry had ever seen.
“Every company and organisation has a diverse set of customers and prospects. Having diversity in leadership, including diversity gender, ethnicity and diversity of thought will more likely lead to greater success for the organization,” says Catherine Monson.
“And, soft skills and emotional intelligence come a bit more naturally to women; a study by the global consulting firm Hay Group found that women outperform men in 11 of 12 key emotional intelligence competencies. In addition, people who differ from one another in gender, ethnicity, or other identities bring a diversity of perspectives and views to an organization, which enhances creativity and evaluates challenges and situations more thoroughly. This leads to better decision-making and greater success for the organisation.”
7. Pink Spaghetti
Pink Spaghetti offers virtual assistant services to other businesses, and in doing so, has steadily grown to over 60 franchisees throughout the UK – all of whom are female. From the outset, the brand has been all about empowering women to set up their own business; one that enables flexible working to fit the Pink Spaghetti operation around life’s other commitments.
“As female entrepreneurs ourselves, our mission has always been to empower women in business by providing an alternative way to develop their career,” says Vicky Matthews, co-founder of Pink Spaghetti. “Flexible working forms the basis of this mission and we believe the world is slowly but surely changing to embrace this.”
In order to support its female franchisee network, Pink Spaghetti provides 80 hours of initial training to all new recruits, as well as a number of development programs. These cover everything a new owner would need to know; from networking skills, marketing, branding, and employing.
“The theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is a gender-equal world – a world where difference is celebrated in forging equality for women. This for us sums up exactly what we are trying to achieve at Pink Spaghetti and we hope in our own way, we are helping to drive this change,” says Matthews.
“As female entrepreneurs ourselves, our mission has always been to empower women in business”
8. Helen Doron Educational Group
Founded by the titular Helen Doron back in 1985, Helen Doron Educational Group has been having an instrumental impact in the children’s education space for almost 40 years.
The English-as-a-foreign-language concept has a variety of investment models and even brands to allow franchisees of all sizes to get involved. And while education isn’t strictly a feminine space, the brand has certainly attracted its fair share of female entrepreneurs: 75 per cent of its top management are female, 70 per cent of its master franchisees are women, and of the 1,200 learning centres open around the world, 90 per cent are owned by women.
“I’m very proud of being a part of so many women’s success stories. I think it’s a win-win situation and, while our male master franchisees are equally successful, women possess important traits that make their businesses flourish,” says Helen Doron.
“Firstly, women excel at multitasking, a vital tool for running any efficient business. Women also seem to be more intuitive than men or at least more willing to listen to their inner voices.
“Women also tend to be more patient and open to sharing their knowledge with work colleagues, thus expanding and reinforcing their networking system.”
9. MY SALON Suite
Founders Ken and Alanna McAllister first created MY SALON Suite when their youngest daughter entered high school. It was a way for Alanna to get back into the business world and was also a way for her to go about revolutionising the salon industry.
The couples’ vision soon grew, and today, MY SALON Suite has grown from two locations in Louisiana to over 200 sites across the US and Canada. And today, the brand allows more than 5,000 members – 89 per cent of whom are female – to have the freedom to become their own salon entrepreneurs.
“Our success is all because of the hard work put in by our franchisees and members at MY SALON Suite,” said Stacy Eley, the chief operations officer of Suite Management Franchising. “With a large majority of our members being women, empowering them to accomplish their goals as small business owners is what we focus on every day. Giving them the tools and support they need to grow their earnings and grow their lives.”
As well as a large proportion of female members within the MY SALON Suite locations, 46 per cent of the brand’s franchise agreements involve women; with many franchisees consisting of husband/wife teams.
“Our success is all because of the hard work put in by our franchisees and members”
10. House of Colour USA
With over 120 franchises – all owned and operated by women – and franchise opportunities in all 50 states, House of Colour USA gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to join an evolving brand that has been in business for over 35 years. Franchise owners offer personalised colour and style appointments in which they use advanced proprietary techniques from the scientific theory of colour to help clients discover their power colours and styles.
Franchisees meet a group of women at training that they bond with tightly and stay in touch with on a weekly basis going forward to share strategic ideas.
“Empowering women to own their own franchise at House of Colour is so fulfilling,” says Kimberly Mayhew, House of Colour’s US managing director. “To hear their success stories of growth and progress is inspirational. Knowing they are setting an example for others, that becoming a successful franchise owner is possible, brings a smile to my face.”
Coming from a wide range of careers, from corporate roles to home-based businesses, each House of Colour franchisee tells similar stories about loving the freedom to set their own hours and schedule. The flexibility of owning their own franchise allows them to prioritise their family and their lives while also allowing them to have a fulfilled career.
11. Razzamataz Theatre Schools
The flexibility of a Razzamataz franchise and the ability to have all school holidays off to spend with children, make this franchise an appealing option for parents and women in general. The network mainly features female franchisees and a predominately female head office, led by MD and founder Denise Hutton-Gosney.
Razzamataz appeals to women who are committed to the development and physical and mental health of children as it was created with a simple dream: to make performing arts available to all young people no matter their background or circumstances.
Denise is also a mum to two children, one of whom has additional medical needs with Type 1 diabetes. This means that the business must be able to work around her lifestyle and this has been extended to all franchisees. “I can help other working parents find that live-work balance,” says Denise. “Some of our franchisees have children that have complex additional needs, so the flexibility that we offer is vital for them to maintain a career without compromising their family time.”
Launched in 2018, Razzamataz Early Years was created to cater to the demand for people wanting to work in the children’s performing arts industry but did not have the relevant experience. This became an opportunity that was particularly popular with new mothers who wanted to get back into work but needed to focus on their young family too.
“We have an ethos that family comes first which gives women the confidence that we understand the importance of balancing lifestyle with business. Many women in our head office have been with us for many years and we have supported their career growth with training and opportunities. This not only gives them satisfaction and financial gain, but it is hugely beneficial to the growth of our network because we can recruit internally. Women starting out with us can see other women in senior roles and have something to aspire to,” says Denise.
easyProperty empowers women from all backgrounds and walks of life to grow, thrive, and succeed. From its internal team to franchisees, women have a strong presence within the brand.
easyProperty CEO, David Brierley, and co-director, Maryanne Brierley, are at the heart of the brand and feel strongly about enabling women to build a business where they call the shots.
A recent collaboration with business coach, Jo Bourne, also helped strengthen the brand’s voice to inspire women in business.
easyProperty franchisee, Shamaila Farooq, who began her entrepreneurial adventure back in February 2021, has seen her business take off. As a mum of four, Shamaila feels that building her own franchise has given her the flexibility to manage home life and work in a way that works for her.
13. BrightStar Care
BrightStar Care’s founder and CEO, Shelly Sun, first conceptualised the franchise opportunity when she couldn’t find suitable, in-home care for her own family. Now, 20 years on, the caring brand has grown to bring on a number of new franchisees for its North American portfolio – with 129 female owners making up a large chunk of its total network.
As well as having a female founder, BrightStar Care’s c-suite is backed by female creativity and innovation. The brand’s vice president of marketing, Teresa Celmer, and its chief legal and government relations officer, Cheryl Stanton, both work alongside Shelly to ensure that home care is included as part of the definition for overall health care. And in doing so, the brand employs more than 16,000 caregivers and 5,700 nurses – many of whom are women.
To thrive in the dog industry, “must love dogs” is usually one of the first requirements, and Dogtopia allows ‘dog moms’ to take their love of dogs to new heights by becoming a franchisee.
“The business was started by a dog mom, and we will continue to focus on the dog mom in all aspects of the business,” says Neil Gill, CEO and president of Dogtopia.
Dogtopia currently operates 183 locations across North America of which 46 per cent are owned by female franchisees and over the last few years it has seen significant female representation across leadership roles within its daycare centres:
• General manager – 77 per cent female
• Pet parent relationship manager – 87.5 per cent female
• Operations manager – 60 per cent female
There are also two women on Dogtopia’s leadership team and a female sits on its board of directors. The Dogtopia Foundation is also led by a woman, not to mention that its subject matter experts are a 100 per cent female team.
Dogtopia understands that the special bond between a mother and her four-legged child enriches both of their lives in countless ways. “I wouldn’t be a franchisee today if it weren’t for my dogs! First, I was a Dogtopia customer in Alexandria, Va. Then we moved to Seattle and realised they desperately needed a Dogtopia – and there wasn’t one in the area. I was accustomed to the Dogtopia way of doing things and couldn’t find a suitable substitute. So, we opened one!” says Allison Rau, owner-operator of Dogtopia of Redmond in Seattle, WA.
15. Puddle Ducks
The baby and child swim school was established by Jo Stone and Tracy Townsend in 2002 when the pair met at an antenatal class and bonded over their love for water and taking their daughters to swimming classes. They wanted to help children develop a passion for swimming and water safety, and Puddle Ducks was born as a result.
Puddle Ducks has grown strongly since it began franchising in 2005 and now reaches over 24,000 little swimmers every week, with 33 franchise offices covering 50 markets across the UK. The pair have welcomed many female franchisees and married couples into the system who greatly enjoy the flexibility that comes with the business, as well as the turnover and growth opportunities.
“We are proud to have a large number of female franchisees, alongside a number of couples across our franchise network. But it is the perfect opportunity for anyone who has a passion for the water and a desire to help children learn to swim,” says Stone, co-founder and managing director of Puddle Ducks.
“It is great, as a business launched by two women, to have so many other women and couples who have channelled their passion for swimming and childhood development into their Puddle Ducks businesses. We understand their journeys as we have been through it ourselves, and recognise the importance of strong franchise support, guiding them through the many aspects of running their own businesses.”
Puddle Ducks is in a strong position and more profitable than ever before.
16. Stagecoach Performing Arts
The fundamentals of franchising are based on community and skill-sharing, and this is highly encouraged at Stagecoach. It is especially evident in the way the brand communicates, even at the enquiry stage. “Because we value varied experience and offer comprehensive training, this ensures our model appeals to a wider demographic,” says Dijana Radišević, head of marketing for Stagecoach. And the brand’s high female representation is proof of this:
• Approximately 83 per cent of franchisees are female
• 50 per cent of the board is female
• Almost two-thirds of the support office is female.
“When it comes to females in franchising, our format is well-suited to those looking to run their own profitable business alongside other personal responsibilities – for instance, raising a family or continuing with a part-time career,” explains Dijana.
“As part of our commitment to empowering women, we put a wide range of strategies in place to ensure our model suits the lifestyle of busy, working parents.”
17. Fun Fest Holiday Club
Fun Fest is a unique franchise proposition that focuses on the childcare holiday market and offers women a great way to earn some extra income without impacting family life or a regular job.
But it’s not just holidays that franchisees can offer; there are multiple revenue streams available. With the low-cost base, franchisees can offer birthday parties, before and after school clubs as well as holidays. This makes Fun Fest a truly flexible franchise offering, that can be tailored around the life of the new franchisee.
Helen Wilson had made a career out of entertainment and travel but settled down as the manager of Fun Fest Hartford in 2018. She was convinced by the concept and business model and is now running Fun Fest Cheadle and Altrincham, with Northwich soon to follow. Wilson bought her first franchise while still working at her local sixth form college, and now employs a number of staff with her husband, Wes.
“I worked the summer as club manager at an established club and saw the potential to make it a continued success alongside my term-time role,” says Wilson.
The brand has drawn a number of women who want to fit additional work around their family lives.
“We have found that our franchise opportunities have particularly high appeal amongst women. I think this is due to the fact that they are fun, flexible and fit well around a family,” says Sarah Beattie, managing director of Fun Fest Holiday Club.
18. OSCAR Pet Foods
The pet industry is attracting qualified women due to its strong demand for quality communication and networking skills, something many businesswomen find second nature. The brand delivers specially formulated, high-quality pet food to its customers on a regular basis, and is trusted as a reputable brand that truly cares for its furry little end-consumers.
This is a truly satisfying franchise to invest in, as franchisees are in a position to improve the lives of their customers with its healthy and trusted dog food mix, and can work flexible, family-friendly hours without giving up on income.
“After three stressful years of working unsociable hours and travelling around the country for little reward, I made my decision to move on,” says Rachel Knight, franchisee for Northamptonshire.
“As one door closes another opens and my research introduced me to franchising – a halfway house to running your own business with the benefits of working alongside a large organisation. Complete with systems, products and support in place, the flexibility and freedom to run a business as you wish could not be better.
“I’m far less stressed and I have time for myself, my husband and my two dogs, Ted and Hannie while enjoying new friendships with my customers. OSCAR felt right for me and my recommendation to anyone looking at a new business is to take your time and tick all the boxes to ensure it’s right for you and your family.”
Petpals is a one-stop shop for all dog and cat owners who abhor kennels. The brand’s many employees regularly look after customers’ furry friends, and it has only gotten stronger since it began franchising in 2001.
“Approximately 60 per cent of our franchisees are female, and what excites me the most is how they are all collaborating to build profitable and robust territories for themselves and their families,” says Kevin Thackrah, director of Petpals. “Our management team also has a high level of female representation, with 57 per cent of our senior leadership being women.”
20. Home Instead UK
Home Instead UK enjoys a strong national network of more than 240 offices, and a head office with more than 80 employees on hand to support franchisees across the country. The brand doesn’t ask for trained and experienced franchisees; Home Instead can bring all new franchisees up to its standards with initially intensive and continual training.
Home Instead offers significant support and help for new owners, to allow them to get up to speed without neglecting family life, and consequently pushing more women to take the plunge into franchising.
“It’s great that there are many great women within our national office team supporting a number of ambitious, driven women across the network – whether this is as franchisees, caregivers, office staff or even the families we support through our care,” says Ruth Brown, director of business development for Home Instead UK.
“As a family, we know exactly how important good heartfelt care is. I was thrilled to find Home Instead and to be able to work alongside my daughter in the community that I have grown up in,” says Karen, a Wales-based franchisee.