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Prominent U.S. franchise lawyer, Earsa Jackson, CFE, talks about the newly-formed Black Franchise Leadership Council, a network for Black American leaders to make the franchise model more accessible.
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What’s the role of the Black Franchise Leadership Council (BFLC) and what are its goals, challenges and ambitions?
EJ: The BFLC was launched in February 2021 to coincide with the celebration of Black History Month. The mission of the BFLC is to:
• Foster awareness, understanding, and access to franchise opportunities for Black entrepreneurs
• Create and maintain an organisational culture where inclusion, diversity, and creativity are valued
• Educate franchisors, franchisees, suppliers, and the franchise community to provide new perspectives and stimulate discussion of blacks in franchising
• Provide regular opportunities for the exchange of information with Council Members and, as appropriate, with other councils, boards, committees and other groups within the Diversity Institute, IFA Foundation, IFA and external groups
The Council has received significant support from the franchise community at large, as well as from the IFA Board lead by chairwoman Catherine Monson, CEO and president of FASTSIGNS, and IFA president and CEO, Robert Cresanti. It has also received bipartisan congressional support.
How did you become part of the BFLC and what will your role be?
EJ: I am the chair of the Diversity Institute which is one of the signature programs under the International Franchise Association’s Foundation. I also serve on the board of the Foundation. The BFLC was born out of the Diversity Institute and will operate under the Institute. I was involved with the initial meeting to call together key players to lay the groundwork for the Council’s role. I will continue to be intimately involved with the BFLC providing strategic leadership and guidance.
Who is involved in the BFLC and what will their roles be?
EJ: The BFLC is chaired by Diversity Institute board member, Richard Snow, vice president, SBA national franchise relationship manager as WSFS Bank. Carolyn Thurston, founder of Wisdom Senior Care franchise and board member of the International Franchise Association will serve as vice chair. Pamela Gore, senior manager, franchise recruitment at Inspire Brands and Diversity Institute board member, will serve as secretary. LaTonia Pouncey, president and owner, AtWork Personnel NYC and Diversity Institute board member, as well as vice chair of the Diversity Institute and IFA board member, JD Draper, CEO of Viridian Group have provided amazing support to the BFLC.
General membership is broad and open to leaders from all business industries and franchise sectors including franchisees, franchisors, suppliers, and stakeholders who reflect a broad spectrum of diversity of thought, experiences and ideas. To ensure progress against goals, the executive team identified above, among others, will take the lead on coordinating strategy, events, and outreach. The first general membership meeting will take place March 20, 2021. Please contact Ashley Mancheni at firstname.lastname@example.org for the meeting announcement or to get more information on the BFLC.
Opportunities are available for Council members to support the initial committees which BFLC plans to establish as follows:
• Community Partnerships
• Marketing & Communication Outreach
• Education & Learning
• Access to Capital & Funding Strategies.
Sponsorship opportunities are available for companies and individuals as well.
Why is now the right time to launch the BFLC?
EJ: This past year has presented us with so many challenges, first starting with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Then the United States was hit with what has been dubbed a second pandemic, which was sparked by the senseless killing of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer while other offices stood by and watched.
“I believe that it is the start of the industry making some real progress to bring more diverse candidates into franchising”
As the nation caught wind of this story and video of the killing floated around the airwaves, the country almost simultaneously erupted in protest after protest – for weeks on end. Even the businesses that had quietly sat on the sidelines of discussions on racial and social injustices could remain silent no more as the conversation showed up at their doors. Many companies did some soul searching and concluded they had some blinders on. They are ready for some critical conversations; but most of all, they are ready to take some action. The time is now for the BFLC to move the needle on diversifying franchising.
Are you noticing a rise or decline in Black franchisees and what do you think franchise brands can do to encourage more people from minority backgrounds to pursue business ownership?
EJ: Franchising, as a whole, is a very strong business model. Even during a pandemic, franchising held strong. According to data just released by the International Franchise Association in February 2021 conducted by FRANdata, the number of franchised business establishments are expected to grow by 3.5 per cent in 2021. We want to ensure that these opportunities are available to a diverse audience.
According to a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2018 at the request of the IFA Foundation, nearly 30 per cent of franchised businesses were owned by minorities compared to 18.8 per cent of non-franchised businesses being owned by minorities. Only eight per cent of franchised establishments are owned by Black people. While this is an improvement over previous studies which reported Black franchise ownership at only half of this representation, growth has been too sluggish. Upon reviewing these statistics, a number of us in franchising wanted to analyze why Black people were so underrepresented in franchising.
We have identified some of the explanations for the disparities in representation of Black people in franchising, and the BFLC will address some of these disparities. One explanation is a lack of awareness and exposure to franchising from a business perspective. More exposure to the business side of franchising takes the patron from a customer/ consumer to a mentality of business owner.
Another explanation relates to the disparity from the standpoint of brands not considering underserved/underrepresented communities in their growth plans. I call this an opportunity deficit. It is a loss for brands because it is untapped potential. It is a loss for a community that might thrive with a franchised business owned by a local resident who might employ local residents and buy supplies from local suppliers. All of a sudden, with the infusion of one business, jobs are created. Management opportunities are creating. Other businesses are supported. Strong businesses contribute to strong neighborhoods.
Another explanation is a gap in generational experience for business ownership. Exposure to business ownership provides a different vantage point on what one believes is possible for himself or herself.
Another obvious explanation is lack of access to capital.
What changes need to happen in order to see more people from minority backgrounds take up leadership roles within franchise organizations?
EJ: The BFLC will play a critical role in getting the right people to the table for conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion as it relates to Black representation in franchising. It will provide opportunities for education and training to franchise companies as well as potential Black franchisors and franchisees. It will address the gaps caused by lack of access to capital and the experience gap. It will arm franchise companies with effective tools for attracting Black franchisees and to hone internal talent for management and leadership roles. I am pleased with the interest in BFLC and believe that it is the start of the industry making some real progress to bring more diverse candidates into franchising.
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