While by no means ris k free,
franchising can offer a shortcut
to business success
B y Will Fifield
fter a decade-long career in the film
and video industry, a frustrated Geraldine
Smythe, a Costco member in Austin, Texas,
finally threw in the towel.
The final straw came in 2004, when, after
a year of exceeding quotas in a sales position,
she was “rewarded” with a cap on her commissions, significantly cutting her salary. “At
that point, I thought I’d better go to work for
myself before I blew a gasket,” Smythe says.
Determined to make her next career more
fulfilling, creatively and financially, Smythe
worked with a job coach, researching a long “When my job
list of business ideas for nearly a year while coach first suggested
she finished her last job in the film and video franchising, I laughed at
industry. After eliminating many ideas, her him. I didn’t know then
coach suggested franchising as a possible path. that franchising is respon-
Initially she equated franchising with a
certain bespectacled Southern gentleman sible for nearly one-third
known across the country for his fried chicken. of our nation’s GDP.
But her research revealed a staggering num- —Geraldine Smythe,
ber of franchise business opportunities in all Abrakadoodle
kinds of fields.
In 2005, after weighing her coach’s advice
and evaluating her career goals, Smythe
bought a franchise from Abrakadoodle, a MICHAEL O’BRIEN
chain of 70 home-based art education centers for children from 20 months to 12 years ing viable and attractive business than 760,000 U.S. businesses that generate
old. In this way she ended one career and paths in franchising. According to $1.5 trillion annually and supply one out
began another. the International Franchising Asso- of seven jobs, according to the IFA.
Today Smythe owns two Abrakadoodle ciation (IFA, www.franchising.org), which “There are more franchises now than ever
franchises, manages 17 instructors and receives represents more than 10,000 franchisees and before,” says Terry Hill, a communications and
high praise from her clients. More important, 1,200 franchise companies, 2007 saw the media-relations executive with the IFA. Some
she finds her work satisfying and is good at it. births of 900 new franchises in industries as people are drawn to franchising because their
Abrakadoodle named her its most outstand- diverse as health care, art education, hotels, jobs have been downsized, “right-sized” or out-
ing franchise owner for 2007. personnel services, real estate, automotive care sourced. Others are entrepreneurial minded yet
and accessories, travel, home maintenance want to work for someone else, while others
and construction. These are 900 new parent have marketable skills but their life circum-
companies, many of which, like Abrakadoodle, stances don’t permit a regular 9-to- 5 job.
operate many “units.” “It is difficult to accurately track franchise
Overall, franchising accounts for more numbers, because each year some franchises
Smythe’s quest to find meaningful and
gainful employment is all too common. And,
like her, a growing number of people are find-