There aren’t many women in Sheri Osburn’s industry.
The owner of the CertaPro Painters franchise in Evans has been in business since 2008.
“Within the franchise, there aren’t that many single female owners,” Osburn said. “In this particular industry, there’s a lot of folks that like to call you honey and sweetie and they kind of talk down to you as if you don’t know what you’re talking about. I face that every day.
‘‘If you weren’t somebody that had a very, very strong sense of self or mission, it would be discouraging to have to work through that.”
Previously, Osburn was vice president of information technology and administration at a local logistics company, but she was laid off during the economic downturn. Around that time, she had a negative experience with a painting company, so she decided to give a painting franchise a try.
Today, she oversees five painting crews. Her business has grown every year, and she plans to expand into commercial work.
According to a report by the International Franchise Association, when Osburn started her franchise, it was during a time of decline for female-owned franchises nationwide. The report is based on a survey of business owners by the U.S. Census Bureau, which found that minority and joint ownership (man and woman) of franchise businesses increased from 2002 to 2007, but female ownership declined.
Minority franchise ownership grew from 19.3 percent in 2002 to 20.5 percent in 2007.
Anna Wilds, an Augusta consultant for FranChoice, works with clients nationwide to find franchises. An analysis of her clients’ demographics from 2006 to 2011 indicated that 20 percent of them who bought franchises were women, 20 percent were minorities and 16 percent were husband-wife teams.
CHRISTINE CRAWFORD, a black woman, is owner of McDonald’s restaurants at Walton Way, Deans Bridge Road and Medical College of Georgia Children’s Medical Center. She and her mother, Dee Crawford, operate five McDonald’s restaurants.
Crawford hasn’t seen a decrease in female franchise ownership because diversity is part of the McDonald’s corporate culture, she said. The president of McDonald’s USA is a woman, and women are presidents of several divisions.
“It’s been a long-standing priority for McDonald’s to encourage diversity,” she said.
According to the McDonald’s Web site, 45 percent of McDonald’s franchisees are women and minorities. McDonald’s also has associations to support female and minority franchisees, she said.
Shannon Unger owns two Martinez franchises, Kid to Kid and Uptown Cheapskate on Washington Road, which are both resale businesses. She has observed that Kid to Kid franchises are predominantly female-owned, while Uptown Cheapskate franchises are owned mainly by husband-wife teams.
Unger started the Kid to Kid franchise, which is almost six years old, with her husband before his death, and she opened Uptown Cheapskate last March. She hasn’t experienced many challenges in business, and the parent company even helped her and her husband find financing, which can be a barrier to many regardless of gender, she said.
She chose to open a franchise because she had never owned a business before and felt that someone could teach her necessary business skills and provide support.
The conservative nature of women is probably why more don’t become franchisees or businesses owners, she said.
“I think women tend to probably be more nervous about risk-taking in general,” Unger said. “Men are sort of brought up to take risks, and that’s how you get ahead. Obviously, owning your own business is a huge risk. There is no guarantee that it’s going to be successful. There’s no guarantee of a certain income. You might not have an income for a while. All of that is pretty scary.”
ALISA HARRISON, a spokeswoman for the International Franchise Association, said she couldn’t provide an explanation for why the number of female franchise owners in their study decreased because that information had not been gathered.
However, there are several factors contributing to more minorities entering franchising, she said.
“I think it’s a matter of more diversity within our society,” Harrison said. “There are more people in the pool. I think more and more minorities are aware of franchising and are learning more about it, so I think it’s more opportunity than anything.”
She expects the increase of minority franchise ownership to continue.
“It allows you to get into business for yourself but not by yourself,” Harrison said. “If you buy a franchise business, you’re buying a business that probably has a proven track record. You have access to the training and marketing that the franchisor does to promote the brand.”