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Women in Franchising Event Makes a Real Splash

The British Franchise Association (bfa) has declared its Women in Franchising event an overriding success, with record numbers attending and superb post-event feedback.

The event, which took place on 17 November at Stratford Manor in Warwickshire, was organised to urge more women to consider the benefits of franchising.

The bfa/NatWest Franchise Survey 2013 revealed that women were the sole or main operators of 30% of franchise outlets in the UK. At this time, that is nearly double the proportion of all SMEs in the UK (15.5% according to government figures).

The Women in Franchising event had a line-up of top female speakers from franchising and the business world who provided inspiration through a series of workshops and real-time case studies.  Headlining the conference was television presenter turned entrepreneur Carol Smillie who has successfully created her specialist lingerie business Diary Doll which is now an internationally recognised brand.

“Our Women in Franchising event couldn’t really have gone any better, we had a record attendance, 40 per cent up on last year, and an awareness-raising campaign reached an audience of more than two million people. All the feedback we have received has been very positive,” explains Pip Wilkins, Head of Operations at the bfa.

“Many of our top franchisors and franchisees in the UK are female but we want to encourage even more women to consider franchising as a route to self-employment.  Franchising is the perfect way to go into business but with a support network there to help and assist you.”

A Swimming Success:

One lady who took the franchise plunge and has never felt so good, is ex-doctor Kate Evans. Kate was an A&E doctor with a special interest in paediatric emergencies when she fell pregnant with her first baby in 2006. When Polly was born, Kate was quick to sign them up for baby swimming lessons, having been a keen swimmer herself since childhood. The lessons were an instant hit with mother and baby. Kate loved her swimming lessons so much that, when she saw an ad recruiting for a Water Babies teacher she was sorely tempted to apply, but couldn’t fit it in alongside her job as a registrar in A&E.

Not long after, Kate fell pregnant again, which furthered her desire for a change of direction in her career. She explained: “I didn’t relish the idea of doing nights, or working Christmas Days. I knew I’d never have school holidays off, or flexibility to attend school plays and sports days. I also had to pass another massive exam before I could get my consultant job and didn’t know how I would fit in studying while looking after two young children. I remember saying to my husband, Paul, ‘the perfect thing would be if Water Babies would just sell me Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall’.”

As luck would have it, Kate discovered that the franchise she had wished for was up for sale and from that moment she decided to go for it! Abandoning a 10-year career in medicine was a huge decision, but Kate’s mind was made up. She purchased the Water Babies South West franchise as an established business in December 2009 with a client base of 247 and three instructors. Since then, turnover has increased by 138%, the workforce has trebled and the number of babies swimming each week has risen to 649.

Positive feedback:

The bfa has received great feedback from many of the 100+ women in attendance, many describing the even as ‘inspirational’ and ‘thought provoking.’

Jane Maish, director of Owen White Solicitors, one of the UK’s leading franchise specialists, commented: “The bfa skilfully organised an event that was business orientated, aimed at women but without being ‘pink’.”

Carol Otway, group director at gas-elec, added: “Fantastic day, very informative and loved the networking opportunities. Carol Smillie was a great addition to end such a great event.”

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