Is Franchising Right for You, Ladies?

This is a reprint from The Huffington Post.

This may be the year of the entrepreneur, but does that include franchising?

Brenda Dronkers says:

Yes! There are so many reasons that right now is a good time to buy into a franchise. For women in particular, there are so many low cost as well as home-based franchise brands. In the past, it seemed that franchising was geared more for the brick and mortar, high investment, high strung entrepreneurs. However, these days, with options like tutoring services, food trucks, home services and so many other industries adding a low cost franchise opportunity with flexible work schedules, it is primetime for women in franchising.

Brenda Dronkers knows about franchising. She’s the founder and former president of Pump It Up, the Inflatable Party Zone. Founded in 2000, she grew it to what is now the largest children’s recreational franchise system in the country. She sold majority ownership in 2007 after sales hit $70 million.

Brenda’s kids were 4,9, & 11 years old in 1999 when she attended a church carnival. There were two big inflatables in the church warehouse that were by far the most fun attraction at the carnival. Kids would wait in line to jump up and down for a few minutes then swing around to get right back in line again.

Brenda found herself awestruck in two ways. The first was that both her youngest and oldest kids were both completely enthralled with the inflatables. Usually her kids weren’t entertained with the same activity since they were seven years apart. Secondly, she realized that because these were inside, there was no weather issue allowing for year-round fun and parties.

Without a college education or biz experience, ten weeks after this aha moment, Brenda opened her first Pump It Up.

If you are considering buying a franchise, Brenda recommends that you ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can I follow training and directions easily?
  2. Can I follow someone else’s system requirements?
  3. Am I a multi-tasker?
  4. Can I fund the franchise until it is up and running successfully?
  5. Last but certainly not least… Do I have my family’s support?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then franchising may be for you. If in fact it is, Brenda suggests these questions be asked of a potential franchise:

  1. How long has the franchisor been in business?
  2. What kind of ongoing support will the franchise offer?
  3. Does the franchise have a solid growth plan?
  4. How do the rest of the franchisees like working with the brand?
  5. How much freedom does the franchise give you?

Brenda describes how she managed to balance mom & biz when she first launched:

When I began PIU, my children were 4, 10 and 12. When hubby was at the firehouse, I took them with me to the PIU when I had parties booked. I had an office, and I taught them all to make goodie bags (free child labor, except for all the ‘goodies’ they grabbed). I brought a TV, books, toys and made a play area/homework room for them. This lasted for about six months, and then I was able to hire a manager to work the parties. I did the rest of the business from home. Many moms, if given the chance, would choose to work from home once they have their baby like I did. As moms, we have this amazing way of being able to balance our home and business life. It will take some practice, but it can be done.

For many moms franchising can be an effective, flexible, rewarding and supportive business option. There are lots of franchise systems set up by franchisors that are focused on targeting women who want to work from home. Out of the approximate 3,500 franchise opportunities, Brenda says that about 1,000 are home-based options.

She recommends the following franchises for mompreneurs who prefer to be home based:

Games On the Go: This is a mobile RV that travels to birthday parties and events. The RV is full of retro games, such as Pac Man, Donkey Kong and more It has a very low start-up cost and is designed to be run from a home office.

Stroller Moms: This is a franchise that trains you to host stroller fitness classes in your neighborhood. This is not only a great source of revenue, but the mompreneur actually makes friends and can take her baby to work!

Bark Busters: This franchise will teach its franchisee to train dogs. So, if you love dogs, what a great way to get out of the house, and run your own business as well.

Home Helpers: If you love senior citizens, you may love Home Helpers. The franchisee of this franchise work’s from home, making appointments to visit and assist senior citizens…o n your own schedule!

Brenda talks about the benefits of going with a franchise as opposed to starting your own similar type of biz:

When you invest in a franchise, you are investing in a proven business model. I was very blessed that PIU was a hit. According to About.com, studies show that franchises have a success rate of approximately 90 percent as compared to only about 15 percent for businesses that are started from the ground up. The increased probability of success usually far outweighs any initial franchise fee and nominal royalties that are paid monthly. Also, many franchises participate in women’s funding opportunities, or have pre-registered with the SBA to avoid lending issues. Franchising is amazing. But not all franchises are created equal. If you decide to explore franchises, be sure to use your talents as a woman…practice discernment and use your intuition as you speak to these franchise brands. Any doubt, find another brand.

There’s such a variety of options available and if you spend enough time researching, Brenda is confident that you will find the right business match. You too can then jump for joy!

Mom Inspired Products

More and more moms are becoming entrepreneurs as they’ve developed product ideas from their everyday lifestyles. I’m sure we’ve all had that “Why didn’t I think of that?” moment when we hear about a new child-based product that has come out and is extremely useful. As moms, we are constantly thinking about our children– so if we figure out something that works for them, why not share it and make it available to all moms out there too?

As the founder of Pump It Up, I am always looking to encourage and support other moms on the pursuit of entrepreneurship. The road can be rocky, but the rewards can be amazing in so many ways. Like most moms, I created PIU to solve a problem. Most mompreneurs have done the same. As they have raised their little ones, they have realized a need or a problem and then have created the solution for not only their own children, but hopefully for millions of others.

Mom Invented features moms who have created products and business ideas, and I wanted to share some inspiring examples:

Kiss-u-Tissue Tubes were invented by mom Amy Davis (tissue dispensers that fit into car cup-holders).

In an interview with Mom Invented, Amy stated: “I had never worked in business in any way before I started this company. It all began when I was driving my kids to a friend’s house in September of 2007 when one of them cried out for a tissue. A quick glance in the rear-view mirror told me that this kid needed a tissue NOW, so I quickly began to search my immediate surroundings: the seat next to me, the floor, and the hold-everything bag next to me; only to come up short. And then as I reached behind me to search the floor of the back seat I glanced up at the road just in time to swerve out of the way of my neighbor’s fence.  That was a wake-up call.  I pulled over to the side of the road so I could attend to one thing at a time.  And I thought, ‘I can’t be the only one with kids who have autumn allergies and wait until the last minute to cry out for a tissue.”

Tammany Atkinson is the mom inventor behind Bee’s Knees (patented baby pants with neoprene in the knees to protect babies while crawling on hardwood and tile floors)

In Tammany’s interview, she said: “I started Bee’s Knees when I noticed our son Jackson’s knees were red and bruised from our hardwood and tile floors. I tried crawling around to see what it felt like and I felt so badly for him that I was inspired to create a solution.”


The Zaky is one of the best mom-inspired product story I’ve ever heard of (saved the best for last).

Mom Invented shared Yamile Jackson’s story behind this great product:

In 2001 Yamile Jackson gave birth to her son Zachary 12 weeks prematurely. He weighed less than 2 pounds, and when he was 3 weeks old, Tropical Storm Allison hit Houston, shutting down power and water in the hospital. The hospital staff, Yamile and her husband, Larry, had to keep Zachary alive by hand for nine hours until he could be evacuated, and at that time Yamile made a promise to do whatever she could to help all babies — and prayed for the opportunity to do it on Zachary’s behalf, not in his memory.During the 155 nights Zachary spent in the hospital, Yamile spent at least 10 hours a day with him in the neonatal intensive care unit, but she hated leaving him at night. She had learned from the nurses how to use her hands to comfort him — how to hold him and how to touch him to give him boundaries, but she wanted something to continue to comfort Zachary in her absence. So she sewed hand-shaped pillows, which she slept with to give her scent, that she could leave with her son to keep him feeling warm and secure.

She could see a difference in Zachary’s monitors when he was being cradled by the pillows, and seeing that he was at ease helped Yamile feel more relaxed. Two weeks after she finally brought Zachary home, Yamile got a call from the development director at the NICU to see if she could make her “little hands” for the other premature babies, and she knew this was how she could keep her promise to help babies and their parents.

Yamile spent the next three years refining her hand-sewn design and bringing The Zaky to market. It’s now available in many retail and online stores, is used in hospitals nationwide, and has won numerous product awards.

 Whether it’s an itty-bitty product idea, or a huge life changing business concept, moms can use their day to day experiences to help them become successful in many different ways. Let your ideas soar!

I will be highlighting one or two businesses in my blog, as well as on my new podcasts that will be out soon. Please send me an email if you would like to be featured (brendadronkers@gmail.com)!
Peace and love.
-Bren

Meet Bree Johnson, Mompreneur…

Bree Johnson is a mom of three who owns her own event company, Mod Events and Co, and creates handmade accessories for her etsy shop, CocoRoseCouture. I am constantly inspired when reading her blog, The Polka Dot House, to see furniture she has re-purposed, and to see that she is still extremely involved with her family every step of the way.

Why did you start your companies and when?
I always knew that I wanted to do something with my life. I see so many mothers who forget to find out who they are, as well as taking care of their own family. I feel like a happy mom makes a happy family. I started my event company when I moved to Canada from Rexburg, Idaho.. I wasn’t allowed to work, so having my own business seemed like a good idea. I’ve always been a girlie girl– loved parties, was one of those 5 year olds that threw balls for all her dolls– that, and I’m an extremely organized person.
So, I went to event planning courses and floral design courses while I was waiting to become a landed immigrant in Canada (they call it a permanent resident). They wouldn’t let me finish my Bachelor’s Degree in Canada at any university (until I had status here). I took continuing ed classes, and after those classes, I decided I didn’t want to work for anyone. I wanted to carry out my own ideas, not someone else’s. So in essence, I planned weddings and decorated for Christmas parties for a couple years.
Starting a business takes money and I needed more capital, so I decided to open an etsy shop to raise money for the event company. Little did I know it would take off in a big way.. and now my etsy shop, CocoRoseCouture, is my soul source of income and turned out to be my main business. I do events on the side and private functions for people, and it’s still my passion.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. How does your background relate to your businesses?
I’m married, 25 years old, have twin 3 year old boys and an 18 month old daughter– they are the true joy in my life. I grew up in a very creative family. Every Wednesday during the summer when I was little, my mom turned the TV off, and would have us work on scrapbooks or pick something new we wanted to learn to do. She made us set goals. I learned lots of technical things through scrapbooking and other crafts during all my summers growing up.
My grandma was also very inspiring. Every meal had a centerpiece. We used fancy china, etc. and I just remember lots of great memories coming from setting tables. She inspired my creativity.
I also think I’ve had some hard knocks in life. I had 2 sisters pass away when I was a teenager, along with other things.. but my motto my whole life has been that I have a choice, and I choose optimism. I think my work always exudes optimism. I love color, I love bright patterns, and I love things that remind me of happy memories. Life is worth celebrating.

You are a mom of two twin boys and one little girl. How do you find time to work?
I work at night. My kids go to bed at 7:00, so from then until midnight every night I work on shop listings and making pieces. My husband sits with me and he’ll watch Modern Family with me while I sew. We go out every Friday. If theres ever anything at night where I need a break, I will take it and just hang out with my husband. I think it’s important to find the balance that works for you and your family. During nap time and while my boys are at preschool in the mornings, I do marketing, answer emails, get ready for photo shoots, and photograph product. I think it’s all about scheduling and using every part of your day.

What has been your greatest success with your company/companies?
I planned a couple weddings. Seeing the whole setup before the bride got there is always the best part. Then watching their reaction.. totally stellar. I think being noticed by boutiques that want to carry my product makes me excited. Knowing my pieces are all over the world is kind’ve a cool feeling. I also get excited when my work gets featured in magazines and editorial shoots. It’s fun to see my ideas where I created the feel for the shoots, and having them be captivating to others. I also love when I get small emails of people saying they love this, or thank you for doing the special order. Dealing with fun customers and special orders are always exciting, I never get bored.

What has been your biggest source of inspiration? What keeps you going?
Like I said before, I draw form happy memories in my life– carousels, dresses, china plates, old photos, etc. What keeps me going is an innate sense to create. I think we as human beings have that built into us.

What is the most rewarding thing about being your own boss?
Deciding when I want to work, how I want to work, and being able to do whatever creative thing pops in my head next, without having to ask permission.

How have you managed to juggle the roles of mom and business owner? What gets pushed aside? (cooking, cleaning, etc.)?
You do not want to see the upstairs of my house, my bathrooms, or any of my drawers. I also don’t have an office, so half of my bonus room is always covered in silk and vintage buttons. I do a lot of crock pot meals.

What advice would you offer to other moms creating their own products and ideas?
Find something you love to make. If you wouldn’t wear it or put it in your home, it’s not going to sell. Your product is a reflection of you. Try and make something that is your own design, something unique that screams to people: I need this! Keep working hard.. it takes time to build a business (and a learning curve). Get good photos of your product. Network and meet people– I found my photographers through etsy, we work together to do amazing editorial shots. That, for me, is such a fun part of my job (secret inner stylist coming out). Make your shop or business feel cohesive, from your logo down to your packaging, make sure it feels the same. The basis for my shop was like a cupcake shop for accessories.

What is the biggest obstacle you had to overcome as a mom business owner?
I think knowing that I’m the one who has to deal with feedback. Some days it’s wonderful, but other times packages dont get there and people are mad about wait times, etc. Knowing not to take it personally when someone isn’t happy took awhile for me to learn. I had to learn to think of it as a business.. not me.

What is the best advice you can give a mom who wants to start a business, or a mom who already has one, and needs to hear from mom’s like you?
Don’t give up. Find your niche market and cater towards that. Don’t compare– other people are at different stages in life and some have been running business for a lot of years. It takes time for it to get to the point where it will be successful. Talk to other creative people, especially if you sell on etsy. Join the teams they do. Do critiques (which I did with my shop a lot in the beginning). You can learn so much through others. Don’t worry about being the most amazing shop on etsy, because people will love your product for you.. and heaven knows that didn’t happen overnight. Did I mention get to know creative people? Almost all my big breaks have come through networking on my blog, twitter, through fashion shows, fairs etc. Love your product make it you. Talk to everyone you meet.

Bree is such an inspiring mom, and reminds us all that it CAN be done– she has found what works for her and her businesses. What steps can you take to insure your work and family balance? Congratulations, Bree, on inspiring us all!