Women are growing in the franchising business.
Over the last decade, there’s been a 38% increase in women-owned franchises, according to Franchise Business Review’s 2021 Women in Franchising report. And, of all new franchises opened in the past 24 months, 32% are women-owned businesses. 88% of women franchise owners say they enjoy owning and running their businesses.
To get a better understanding of why franchising in the restaurant industry is a great career choice for women, we spoke with Elizabeth Raymond, Franchisee at The Salad Station, a salads and wraps restaurant chain located in the Southeast. Raymond opened up about her advice for women in the industry, the challenges she faced, and her leadership style.
How did you transition from working at Salad Station to opening your own franchise?
I started working at Salad Station when I got hired at a college job fair when I was 19. I started out to make some extra cash. I was there for about two years. Then I left for a while to pursue an internship for my degree working as a teacher. I did that for six months and I decided being a teacher wasn’t for me. I reflected on what did make me happy, and I realized I loved customer service, I loved the restaurant industry, and I loved working at Salad Station. So I went back as a manager at one of our other locations.
At the time, we were really small, so the CEO would pop in a lot. One time when he came into our location, I heard him telling someone that we’d be franchising out soon. I told him if they were franchising out I’d be very interested in opening up a Slidell location. He mentioned how long I’d been with the company and said he knew I’d be great at it. So, they waited three years until I was financially able to buy into it. That’s how I launched my first location.
Do you have any advice for women who want to work in this industry?
You’re going to have to work hard, harder than men, while still standing by your beliefs. If you want a family—which is fine but not for everyone—then people will treat you a little differently and you just have to prove them wrong. You have to put yourself out there and you have to fight for it.
Have you encountered any challenges in the industry because of your gender? If so, can you speak to some of those and how you addressed them?
For sure, I can think of several examples but one that sticks out the most to me is being a mom. Many see it as a crutch. It’s frustrating because men are never seen as a dad in this industry. They are seen as individuals. At the same time, being a mom is a part of my identity and I have zero regrets, but it is most definitely not my whole identity. I am Elizabeth and being a mom is not a crutch.
Another challenge has been people’s expectations of who the manager is. Nothing really makes my blood boil more than when someone calls me the owner’s wife or the manager’s wife. Why can’t I just be the owner? Why does it have to be associated with my husband? He’s actually a firefighter—this is my career. I have his support, but this was my career choice. Whenever customers ask for the manager, I say “That’s me. What can I help you with?” The surprise that it’s me and not a man is entertaining.
There has been conversation recently around the term “badass” and how its connotations suggest that women need to act masculine to succeed? What are your thoughts on the subject?
I’ve internally battled with that a lot. I have three children, a daughter and two sons. How I’m raising them is that words don’t have masculinity and femininity. Just like colors—pink can be a color for anybody, it doesn’t have to be a girl color. I’m trying to raise them that way. But it’s really hard when society is centered around that. I understand that people categorize words as feminine or masculine but I choose not to. I cannot put myself in a box. I am choosing to be assertive and successful and if some people choose to see that as cold or b*tchy then they are only holding themselves back.
Do you think that franchising is a good career fit for women/mothers?
For sure. I can’t speak on other franchises since this is the only one I have financially invested in. It took a little bit of time but I am at a point where I have the flexibility that I craved within my own schedule. Being a mom is really important to me, so I am now at a point where I can come and go at my restaurant as needed, which allows me to focus on my young children and I am very grateful for that. I have worked really hard to get to this point.
What’s your leadership style?
I lead by example. I would never have a team member do something that I would not do. There are many times when you may come into my restaurant and not know I am the franchisee. I am doing dishes, making online orders or mopping floors. I believe in doing whatever needs to be done.