The powerlist: 50 era-defining women to watch in 2023 | Global Franchise
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Wednesday 7th December, 2022

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The powerlist: 50 era-defining women to watch in 2023

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The powerlist: 50 era-defining women to watch in 2023

We celebrate the key figureheads, disruptors, and up-and-comers working in the international franchise space. Nominated by you, these powerhouse females have changed the industry for the better

Suzie McCafferty

Age: 40 something
Lives: Scottish Borders
Job title: Founder and CEO
Name of company: Platinum Wave Franchising
Years in the industry: 23

I imagine everyone’s career is a series of highs and lows, and I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be – you can’t get everything 100 per cent right, 100 per cent of the time and if you did, you’ve never learn anything. COVID-19 is the thing that threatened our business more than anything else ever has. Most of our client work was put on hold and there was a huge drop in franchise recruitment across almost all sectors, and that lasted for a good year.

We collectively decided we weren’t going down without a fight, and what that taught us, was just how good we are in a fight! This would be a great time to know any boxing metaphors, but we just rebuilt faster than the challenges could knock things down. And it wasn’t just us, we were blown away and really very proud of how franchising as an industry came together and self-supported. 2022 is going to finish as by far our best year by almost every measure – so triumph from adversity!

We have a lot planned for 2023 and the biggest thing is already under construction. Platinum Wave’s primary divisions are consultancy and mentoring, international development, franchise recruitment and executive recruitment – and we’ve seen amazing growth in every part of the business. So 2023 is all about us stepping up (as we do every year) to make sure our clients get the best service possible – that means having the best people on the team with all the right tools!

I don’t really focus too much on what competitors are up to, except to hope they are doing a good job. That might sound odd, but I’ve always thought competition is a positive in any industry provided it’s built around quality. And for the franchise industry, the most important thing to me is that people get the right advice and support, whoever they get it from. Platinum Wave is successful because of the strength of our team – there are some really great people out there specializing in different aspects of franchising, and we work closely with quite a few, but I just think we offer consistent expertise right across the team.

I get to help a lot of people in my job, and I have a lot of great stories, but I don’t think I could choose one above the others. I don’t even try to hide my competitive side – I love to win, but, for us to win an award for the work we do. Judged either by a panel of our peers or by our clients – it just doesn’t get better than that for me. That’s how you know you’re getting it right and not wasting your time. I’m up there dancing on the ceiling with Lionel Ritchie every time! My motto is ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it’.

Franchising certainly looks and feels like a much better place than when I started out. My straight male friends at uni thought they’d won the jackpot because there were nine girls for every boy on campus, but when I got into franchising the ratio was like the opposite of that times 10! I really hope it’s a welcoming and fair place to be, but maybe I’m not the right person to judge if the playing field is finally level yet.

I still think I’m 21 most of the time, but sadly I’m not – so what better way to use nearly 25 years in franchising than by sharing all that experience with others who are carving out their own adventure in the industry? I do a lot of mentoring, I do more and more every year and I absolutely love it. I’ll be honest, a lot of my franchising knowledge has been learned the hard way i.e. on my own time and with my own money – I think that resonates with a lot of people, so they feel completely at ease discussing their own mistakes and the things they are struggling with.

To be honest, if I’ve done anything to help pave the way for, or inspire, even one other woman to come into franchising and kick some ass as a franchisor, franchisee or in whatever role, then I’d be genuinely over the moon about that!

Sheila Fischer

Age: 48
Lives: Norwood, NJ
Job title: President
Name of company: MFV Expositions
Years in the industry: 27

During COVID-19 we at MFV produced face-to-face events and every bit of that came to an end on 13 March 2020 when the world shut down. I wasn’t sure how I was going to pivot out of that. Luckily, with the help of our entire team, we launched online events until we were able to go back to face-to-face.

Since May of 2021, we are building the trade show world back up and have produced several successful events again. In 2023, we are planning on hosting three events in the U.S. MFV also produces events in the U.K., Germany, Mexico City and Guadalajara. Our latest venture is that we are planning to produce an IFA Convention-like event for all of Latin America called FIAF Franchise Convention. The event will be produced together with the IFA and supported by all of the Franchise Associations throughout Latin America.

We have been producing events for over 30 years and as a result, have created some amazing strategic partnerships. Our most important partner is the IFA, who for all this time, has been a huge part of our success. I also believe a major factor is our commitment to our client’s success. The franchise industry isn’t really that large so we count on our clients continuing to do business with us for many years and the only way that is possible is to provide them with a strong return on investment. I think my approach is, regardless of the effort, if it will make our events better, more successful for our clients we must make the effort. So items such as adding an online component, including matchmaking or figuring ways to do business with organizations, which in the past was not possible, took lots of effort, raised lots of eyebrows…but in the end, certainly worth it.

I feel mentoring is one of the most important aspects of my job. I have been in the exhibition industry my entire professional life and held every position imaginable. I think the mentoring I received is what allowed me to rise to my position as president and feel obligated to do the same for others.

There are so many I’m grateful for and fortunate to have experienced. To name a few… going from an administrator position to leading salesperson in the company, being promoted to vice president, 22 years ago. Winning the global award for business development with Comexposium is another highlight as is being given the position of president.

I truly believe you need to live everyday to the fullest. My daughter asks me all the time, “What are we doing tomorrow or what can we do next?”. I always tell her, let’s just enjoy what we are doing right now. If you are constantly looking for the next thing you will never enjoy the moments or memories you are currently creating.

Farrah Rose

Age: 63
Lives: York
Job title: Head of international development
Name of company: The Franchising Centre
Years in the industry: 39

Though you wouldn’t believe it now, my move into franchise consultancy was, in many ways, the most risky decision of my career. I was giving up a secure board director’s position at a well-established British company. Work was erratic in the early days, so my income was too. I was working hard to find a foothold in what was then a very white, male-dominated industry. On top of that, I was raising two young kids as a single mum, with no local family support, all whilst my family in Tehran was going through some truly harrowing experiences. “Very challenging” barely even covers it! That may have felt like a low point back then, but it taught me so much.

I learned that women who are passionate about their work and their children, and who have found their real purpose, can be extremely resilient, resourceful, strong and overcome any adversity. Working 16 hours a day for decades became a way of life for me, but it was well worth enduring, now that I can look back and see where my journey has taken me. As an Iranian woman working in the U.K. during the Iranian revolution and the Iran- Iraq war, I chose to count my blessings by focusing on gratitude, opportunity, and hope for the future, all without losing my God-given female talent of compassion. It is all too easy for us to forget that personal and career development only stems from going through the pain of growth!

My plan for 2023 is to continue my contribution to the global franchising community. I want to focus on leaving a legacy in emerging markets by sharing knowledge, as well as doing all I can to uplift other more junior female franchise executives.

I can honestly say I have never thought too much about, or compared myself to, any competitors. I respect the ethical ones and we all succeed in our own unique way. We are all on a journey to fulfill our own perception of what success means to us individually. Ideally, we should also contribute ethically to the industry we are passionate about. I don’t focus on whether or not I am more successful than my competitors, because I have been through enough self-development, learned to recognize my own unique success factors which are quite simple really… continuous gratitude, commitment, ethics, loyalty, compassion, hard work and humility. As consultants, we must never forget our privileged position: we are entrusted with our clients’ hope, trust and vision, which we must cherish and not take for granted.

The challenges I have faced over decades of being a self-made Persian woman in the U.K. has given me what I need to develop a true sense of self-respect and self-confidence. Once I owned that, I saw the world through different eyes. I have been running many Franchise Awareness seminars in emerging markets and free evening seminars in empowering women in the third world (Afghanistan being the main one since I speak Farsi). This is a part of my work I enjoy enormously and would like to expand on.

I believe knowledge is power and those who willingly share it with others are my kind of people. I am privileged enough to have had several! Being appointed to the board of the international division of Arcadia Group was a major move. However, the biggest highlight has to be working with the three founders of The Franchising Centre in their first few months and helping them to build a leading consultancy firm that is now recognized as one of the most respected in the world. We now have associates in 103 countries, and are celebrating our 25th year!

Every time I win an industry award or recognition, I reflect on my journey and humbly thank my lucky stars to be in the position I am. I never take any of the accolades or testimonials for granted – humility is very important to me. However, all of this is eclipsed by what I consider the biggest highlight of my life as a whole: outstanding children who are passionate and successful in their own careers, and approach life with humility, respect, hard work, and ethics.

Push yourselves out of your comfort zone, otherwise, you live a half-life! Trust me, the only real failure in life is not having dared to try. Perhaps I have also reached a wise age at which I realize that money is not everything. I was given an opportunity back in the early 80s to enter into a growing industry (if you can call franchising an industry), I grabbed that opportunity with both hands. I worked tirelessly, with unwavering commitment to my own success, whilst determined to uphold the good ethics of franchising.

I trailblazed my way through an industry without any compass or guidance. So my motto is: do what you are passionate about and remember that leaving a legacy over and above financial gain is truly important. Over the last 40 years, I have seen this industry not only go from strength to strength but embrace diversity in a way no one would have dreamt of in the 1980s. Recently, I moderated a round table during the Global Franchise Multi-unit Month where even I as a non-white Anglo Iranian, learned so much about the contribution all races and genders are making. I believe both the IFA’s and bfa’s positive initiatives to set up and support ‘women in franchising’ has contributed significantly to the key role women now play in our industry. When I first entered the franchising arena as a marketing assistant to the European marketing director of Burger King Europe in the early 80s, franchising, let alone franchise consultancy, was almost unheard of amongst SMEs. I have had to trailblaze my way through setting up franchise consulting processes, documentation and procedural pathways, which I am truly delighted to see have been followed by some of my other colleagues in our industry. This has led to the privilege of receiving GNF Worldwide’s 2022 Award in the category of ‘ The Creator’.

Jane Masih

Age: 60
Lives: Berkshire
Job title: Managing director
Name of company: Owen White Solicitors
Years in the industry: 30-plus

Balancing the challenge of a career and family life isn’t easy and takes determination and the support of family and colleagues. I try my best to guide our trainee solicitors as they work in Owen White’s franchise team and pass on my franchise knowledge to the next generation.

I take a pragmatic approach and with many years of experience I have witnessed “the good, the bad and the ugly” in franchising in the U.K. Over the past 30 years things have definitely improved and I hope that it will not be too long before the question is truly redundant. I hope I have made a positive contribution over the years.

Angela Coté

Age: 47
Lives: Victoria, B.C. Canada
Job title: CEO
Name of company: Angela Coté Inc
Years in the industry: 25-plus

When my first child was born I stepped away from the day-to-day operations of my three retail franchise stores and strategically supported my husband to run them. As the kids started to become more independent, I started to feel restless and keen on a new challenge.

As I looked into a new career, I realized I had lost a lot of confidence in myself. Being a mum is an incredibly important and difficult job – but I struggled to shift from that full-time role into a professional mindset after so many years. I knew I had a lot of energy, drive, and a can-do attitude… but sitting around and not doing anything about it wasn’t getting me anywhere.

One day I was in my inbox and saw an e-newsletter from someone in my network who had left her corporate career and become an executive coach. Part of her offering was helping people uncover their passion, skills, and desired lifestyle in pursuit of designing their ideal path.

Investing in that coaching program was one of the scariest leaps I’ve taken, but it helped me discover I wasn’t cut out for a corporate nine-to-five job and that I had a lot to give the world when it came to business growth and particularly franchising. My background of being a founder’s daughter of a franchise company that we grew to almost 500 locations had taught me so much more than I realized.

We are really honing in on helping franchisors with professional development for field coaches as a means to improving franchisee performance and profitability. We have developed and tested a curriculum that incorporates everything from the best ways to structure a franchisee coaching call to how to have difficult conversations with franchisees. The goal is to have a full-field coaching certification program launched in 2023. Also on the horizon is our second annual AC Retreat. We love bringing franchisors together for true collaboration and peer-to-peer problem-solving! The retreat is in late January in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Not only do we guarantee franchisors will leave with clear action steps and amazing new peer relationships, but the resort is top-notch and even has a pillow menu!

When it comes to the work my team and I do with field coaching teams to improve franchisee performance and profitability, our experience in the industry is our secret sauce. I personally have been on the franchisor side of the franchise relationship, spent time in the field supporting franchisees, and spent 18 years as a multi-unit franchisee. These unique experiences have helped shape my perspective on how to improve franchisee performance.

My team is made up of fellow franchise professionals who have been on both sides of the relationship, and in a variety of brand sizes. We all follow the AC Method, which includes a variety of intentional touch points designed to ensure we are aligned on best practices and how we deliver our service.

I love mentoring, which I why I started a business built around the concept of helping people in franchising. I learned from my very first executive coach about the magic of creating space to work on your business and the value of having an outside set of eyes to see your blind spots.

It is amazing how much time and money can be saved when you aren’t messing around with trial and error. And in franchising, it is particularly important that we don’t waste time and money because there are people’s livelihoods at stake.

I’m such a big believer in the importance of gratitude and celebrating even the little wins. One thing that comes to mind is that my team hosted our first-ever AC Retreat in Cancun this year.

We wanted to create an opportunity for franchisors to come together for true collaboration and peer-to-peer problem-solving. We had our attendees come with their three biggest three pain points and we created a space where attendees could connect and discuss with one another (and our team) to problem-solve and leave with clear action steps toward solving their challenges.

Other highlights include various industry awards, such as Entrepreneur Inc’s top supplier list, which is exciting as we are fairly new and in and amongst some well-established consulting companies.

One last thing I’m really proud of is that as a Canadian company, we have been able to establish ourselves in the U.S. market and about 70 per cent of our clients are U.S.-based. We love our Canadian franchisors, but there are definitely a lot more franchise systems in the U.S. and we learned fairly quickly that our expertise was up to speed across the continent.

My tagline is “Go Be Awesome!” This phrase started when I was going to my first franchise conference early in our business growth to speak on my first panel. Mixed in with the excitement was some nervousness so when my family dropped me off at the airport, my then 11-year-old daughter said: “Go be awesome, mum!”. I started saying it and people seem to get a kick out of it so it stuck and even became a core value at AC Inc. Basically it means “You’ve got this!”.

Along with our signature, Go Be Awesome, we also have five other core values that we truly live by as a team (find them on our website, angelacote.com). They guide our decision-making from who joins the team to who we work with.

Earlier in my franchise journey, I had some men tell me that no one would want to pay for the type of support I wanted to offer field coaches. At times, this made me question my mission but ultimately I trusted my gut and my amazing team is proving them wrong!

I’ve definitely felt and seen examples like this in the franchise space throughout my career. But I’m so proud to see the field is beginning to do much better when it comes to diversity and gender.

I love seeing people from all backgrounds thrive in the franchise space with the right can-do attitude and a strong community around them.

We have created an incredible community via our weekly roundtables, which were born out of an attempt to help franchisors when the pandemic first hit in 2020. Initially, they were very casual and the challenges we worked through were very reactive. Franchisors were learning from each other about things like how to get personal protection equipment (PPE) and financing for franchisees.

What makes this initiative a game changer is that it was built directly on the feedback from franchisors. When franchisors wanted to have weekly planned-out topics like franchise development and corporate culture, we implemented weekly topic emails.

When franchisors shared that they wanted an opportunity to learn specifically with their peers, we kept the group exclusive to franchisors and now offer sponsorships for suppliers who would like to get involved and support the community.

Mary Kennedy Thompson

Age: 59
Lives: Waco, Texas
Job title: Chief operating officer
Name of company: Neighborly
Years in the industry: 29

There was so much fear in the world, our country, and in business in general during COVID-19. But, we learned to pivot and understand how our franchise owners and team were doing through the pandemic. Learning new technology and changing many standards to meet new COVID-19 requirements and keep our teams safe took a lot of work and keeping a keen ear to the pulse of our organization. Everyone at Neighborly, franchise owners and the franchisor, worked hard, continued to build trust, and ensured our customers were served. It’s one of my proudest moments in franchising.

A crisis allows people to rise to the occasion and prove their mettle. It was inspiring to see all we did. How our people came together, despite the fear and unknown, changed me as a leader.

We have dedicated teams who live by our values of respect, integrity, customer focus and having fun in the process. And those values attract excellent people who want to make a difference. 2023 is about taking the lessons from the past three years and applying them as we grow our brand and continue to create lasting bonds that keep us strong.

Leadership is mentoring. It’s helping people around you be the best version of themselves. It’s showing people on your team how they can grow within your organization and in their lives. Show me a leader who does not mentor and I’ll show you an organization that is not growing. Conversely, mentoring happens at every level. I so appreciate learning from others in our group. All of us have different experiences, backgrounds, and thoughts. Diversity brings strength.

My sincerest hope is that franchising continues to grow and lead the way in diversity. While I’ve always appreciated that franchising is more diverse than most industries, there is always room for growth and learning.

We led with values before others did. Combine that strong foundation with building a true platform that brings businesses that repair, enhance and maintain homes and properties, and you’ve got the power to disrupt the status quo.

Pip Wilkins

Age: 43
Lives: Devon and Gloucester
Job title: CEO
Name of company: British Franchise Association
Years in the industry: 23 years

For me adversity comes in lots of different ways, I have loved every high and low in my journey in franchising because every single one of them was a lesson learned and has helped me develop both personally and professionally. The hardest time in my career to date though was overcoming the suicide of my ex-partner and balancing grief with work. I am a HUGE believer in the phrase that is now so often spoken, “it’s ok not to be ok,” and seeking help from your support network is not a sign of weakness, it shows great strength of character.

You never know what someone else is going through or how they are feeling inside so always take the time to be kind. It costs nothing but could mean the world and more to them.

We have lots of exciting plans and developments for 2023 which will see the association go to another level. We are undergoing an exciting branding project at the moment which will be rolled out in 2023, developing more services to support both our members and the wider franchise sector and working on strategic partnerships that will benefit all. All I can really say is… watch this space!

Our standards are one of the highest of franchise associations worldwide which we seek to maintain and evolve all of the time. It is as much our why today as it was when we were established over 40 years ago and we have always kept that at our heart as we continue to innovate and drive franchising in the UK forward.

Helping people is one of my core values so whether it is as an informal sounding board or to signpost people to the right advice, at the right time for them, I’m there! My door is always open and the mobile is always on whether that is for someone in our team or anyone in franchising.

My stand-out career highlight was being promoted to CEO of the bfa in 2016. Having worked in the association for a number of years and spent time on secondment with some of our established franchisor members I had huge ambitions to modernize and develop the bfa to the next level in the way our members wanted. To be entrusted with the CEO role is a huge privilege and I am still as passionate and proud to hold the role as I was when I took it.

I believe that franchising is becoming more and more diverse. 20 years ago the male-to-female ratio was poor but through initiatives like Empowering Women in Business (EWIB) and promoting the successes of females in franchising, we have shifted that ratio considerably.

As an advocate for women in business, I have supported bringing more women into the franchise sector for many years. A decade ago, I set out to create a space where women from franchising and the wider business community could come together with a common purpose, to make new connections and to share best practice. I am also passionate about highlighting the opportunities franchising could bring to the next generation and one of the bfa’s key objectives is establishing franchising within academia.

Emma Lehner

CEO and co-founder, Bodystreet International

As a professional athlete who represented Tanzania, Emma has always had a dedicated focus on achieving results. This is reflected in her role as co-founder and CEO of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), boutique fitness franchise Bodystreet, which she founded in 2007 with husband Matthias. For Emma, Bodystreet is not only about an exciting keep-fit format, but about a shared vision. “It’s not just about business but also about shared values and above all, about fun and joie de vivre,” she explained in an interview with Global Franchise.

In 2019, Emma became a senator at the German Senate of the Economy and in 2022, was elected vice president of the German Franchise Association. As an expert in health, fitness and high performance, in 2021, she could also add published author to her list of achievements with the launch of her first book Glücklich, fit und attraktiv (Happy, Fit and Attractive).

Jania Bailey

CEO and president, FranNet

Under Jania’s leadership, FranNet has become one of the most respected voices in the franchise consultant industry in North America.

With over 30 years of experience in the banking and franchise industries, Jania has worked closely with the IFA throughout the years and is currently serving as chairman of the IFA Membership Committee.

As FranNet’s CEO, Jania has managed to convert the company to a franchise model while establishing national relationships with several key organizations such as SCORE, ASBDC and BNI.

Having scooped the IFA Bonnie Levine Award in 2019, Jania is also the author of Thriving – The Journey to Success in the Business World which was published in 1995.

Catherine Monson

IFA immediate past chair and CEO, Propelled Brands

As the CEO of the leading sign and visual communications franchisor in North America, Catherine brings 30 years of franchising and management experience to her leadership role.

Having been named one of Franchise Dictionary Magazine’s 50 Women of Wonder (WoW) in 2020, Catherine’s numerous industry awards are a testament to her motivational and accountability-led management style.

She believes in a two-way relationship with franchisees as she leads Propelled Brands, the multi-brand franchisor that includes FASTSIGNS, NerdsToGo, MY SALON Suite and Salon Plaza.

“I know I have a lot of people in franchising that look to me to mentor them and give advice and I think that is a blessing,” she said.

She has appeared on the two-time Emmy Award-nominated reality series Undercover Boss and is the immediate past chair on the IFA’s board of directors after serving as its chair from February 2020 to 2022. She has also served on the IFA Executive Committee and Franchisor Forum.

Katalin Mandel

CEO, Hungarian Franchise Association

Having occupied her C-suite role for more than 15 years, Katalin has organized multiple franchise expos, worked with numerous franchise brands and co-authored several books, the latest of which, Franchising in V4 Countries, looks into the Central and Eastern European market.

Katalin is also an active member of the World Franchise Council after being involved in the European Franchise Federation’s Executive Board between 2016 and 2018.

Closer to home, in Hungary, Katalin could be regularly seen organizing training for aspiring entrepreneurs and workshops for those planning to expand their business into a franchise network.

Recognizing her efforts, Matthias Lehner, co-founder and CEO of Bodystreet, said: “Katalin has made Hungary a real franchise country. She’s actively involved in European franchise activities and a great role model for ‘Fair Play Franchising’.”

Ruth Agbaji

Founder and CEO, Code Wiz

Proclaiming herself as the nerd in chief of Code Wiz, Ruth is on a mission to help kids connect with their inner genius.

With a master’s degree from Tufts University and software engineering experience from tech giants like Microsoft and Kronos, Ruth taught herself coding when she lived in Nigeria.

The keen entrepreneur used her very own passion for coding and founded Code Wiz Franchising, the education business which aspires to help kids connect with technology in meaningful ways that have a lifelong positive impact.

“I really believe that you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to and I want to show that in every part of my business and life,” said Ruth.

Timea Vas

Founder and CEO, Don’t Panic English and Timea Vas Consulting

Timea started teaching English as a second language in a spare room in her parents’ house in Hungary, which then grew up to be the first English school in her town.

By the time she was 25, Timea found herself in Oxford, where she obtained her second TEFL degree and met her soon-to-be husband.

“In January 2014, we were sitting in Albert Park in Auckland with only 69 cents in our pocket,” she explained. “That was the moment when we decided to build such an online business that allows us to pursue our dreams to travel the world and to be financially free.”

This is how Don’t Panic English came to exist, becoming Hungary’s leading and Europe’s fastest-growing English school franchise in just three years, generating between $2m to $3m each year.

Timea added: “I founded my new business in 2021 to help female entrepreneurs by giving them the step-by-step blueprint to automate every process in their current business so they can live a financially stable, healthy and fulfilled life.”

Gabby Wong

CEO, FranConnect

With more than 25 years of experience in the private equity-backed software industry, Gabby has the knowledge to place any SaaS business for high growth, customer success and product innovation. Prior to her CEO role at FranConnect, an enterprise cloud platform used by over 800-plus franchises, Gabby has held executive leadership positions with worldwide responsibility for global operations at Primavera Systems (now Oracle), Trusted Computer Solutions (now ForcePoint), Verint, and Clarabridge.

Speaking about her role, Gabby said: “FranConnect’s market leadership is unparalleled and we are uniquely positioned to support the market in innovating to support the growing needs of the ecosystem.”

Gabby is also known for her ability to build organizations that can scale globally as well as for her ability to focus on product innovation and customer success.

She added: “The franchise industry is dynamic, fast-paced, and competitive, and as a result, our customers are demanding more innovative technology that can help them grow their brands in a faster and smarter way.”

Julie Wagstaff

Co-owner, ActionCOACH UK

Having had to experience two redundancies, Julie’s story with ActionCOACH dates back to 2005 when the company found her through its extensive drive to recruit more coaches within the UK.

During her first six months as an Action Coach, Julie had seriously struggled to get the business going. But after asking one of ActionCOACH’s most successful professionals for help, she started generating £18,000 a month in income.

Julie’s determination soon paid off – she and her business and life partner, Ian Christelow, acquired the final piece of their ActionCOACH UK portfolio in 2018 when they bought the Northern Ireland region.

“ActionCOACH thrives on positive word of mouth in the business community and building a team of delighted franchise partners is, and needs to stay, front and center of everything we do,” said Julie.

Sarah Luna

President, Xponential Fitness

Sarah’s journey with Xponential Fitness began in 2015 when she joined as national sales director and then SVP of operations for Club Pilates.

Being one of the youngest women to serve as the top executive of a global fitness company, Sarah became president of Xponential Fitness back in January 2021.

And it looks like she comes from a family which nurtures the entrepreneurial spirit.

“I started dancing at the age of three and had a professional career,” she explained. “I then eventually entered the world of pilates in college, but before that, my mom was a Jazzercise franchisee and my dad was an independent small business owner.”

Having worked as a Pilates coordinator for luxury fitness brand Equinox since 2013, Sarah knew that she wanted to be a part of Xponential Fitness when the opportunity presented itself.

“Success for me is seeing that there’s success in others,” she added. “That may be my teammates or it could be franchise partners, but if I’m the only one that’s successful, then that isn’t success to me.

“If I’m able to effect change at both the corporate and franchise studio level, then I’ll be happy.”.

Kristen Pechacek

Chief growth officer, MassageLuXe

Kristen is passionate about both franchise sales demand generation and business-to-consumer marketing. Her background includes a wealth of franchise and marketing experience, including a certification as a franchise executive from the IFA and membership on the IFA Marketing & Innovation Committee.

As the chief growth officer, Kristen’s role is to accelerate the growth of MassaLuXe’s presence in the U.S.

“Kristen is a visible player in the franchise game,” said MassageLuXe CEO, Mark Otter. “Kristen has had success in growing franchise sales, but she also understands the importance of helping current franchisees build their business and the customer journey.”

The aspiring chief growth officer has also served as a digital marketing director for Self Esteem Brands, LLC, which represents franchise networks such as Anytime Fitness and The Bar Method.

Laura Rea Dickey

CEO, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Having been with the brand since 2009, Laura Rea has most recently served as a chief information officer before transitioning to CEO in 2017.

With over 20 years of experience in the marketing and information technology fields, Laura Rea received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Hospitality Technology in 2019 for utilizing Amazon’s voice technology in restaurant operations in partnership with IOLAP.

As Dickey’s Barbecue Pit CEO, she has overseen the development of the first international locations with restaurants in the U.A.E. and has also helped pioneer the third-party delivery program for the brand and developed a proprietary data platform in 2015.

“Many folks want to partner with us, but few end up doing so as our rigors for brand protection and a cooperative mindset is an absolute requirement,” explained Laura Rea.

Joey Wat

CEO, Yum China

Having joined Yum! Restaurants China in September 2014 as president of KFC China, Joey was promoted to CEO just a year later. Before joining the brand, she worked at McKinsey and later headed the A.S. Watson Group UK, including Superdrug and Savers retail chains.

“Joey is an extraordinarily talented executive with a strong track record of accomplishing excellent business results at our KFC brand,” said Muktesh Pant, former CEO of Yum China. “The Yum China board is confident that, with Joey’s strong leadership, the KFC brand will continue to expand in China and generate impactful same-store sales growth and that the Pizza Hut business, in both casual dining and delivery segments will benefit from her strategic oversight.”

Lucy Campbell

CEO, Right at Home UK

Lucy first joined Right at Home in 2015, wanting to make a difference in the home care sector. Since then, she’s risen through the ranks to now hold the position of CEO of Right at Home UK. Whether it is her years at Right at Home, Lucy has always been involved with businesses, in what she refers to as the “for-more-than-profit sector”; so there is always an element of social return on investment, as well as a financial return.

Prior to joining the home care franchise, she was CEO of FranchisingWorks, an organization that supported people during transition periods in their lives, such as when leaving the armed forces or parents wanting to return to work through franchising.

Jennifer Wai Fun Liu

Founder and chairwoman, The Coffee Academics

Jennifer wears many hats – she is not only an award-winning serial entrepreneur, an innovative brand creator and interior designer but she also has an architectural background from Cornell University in New York.

Using her passion for technology and innovation, Jennifer pioneered an online platform for the property sectors of Hong Kong when she founded her very first company PP.com in 2000.

Determined to bring her favorite European coffee and food destinations to Hong Kong, Jennifer founded The Coffee Academics, which has now expanded to Singapore, Thailand, Mainland China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Korea.

She is also a passionate social advocate, serving in various important public service positions and NGO foundations.

Morgan Kline

CEO and co-founder, Burn Boot Camp

Morgan grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan, and quickly grasped that in order to be successful you need to climb the corporate ladder. She, therefore, worked for the Kellogg Company right out of college, eventually leaving to form Burn Boot Camp with her husband Devan and built it up into one of the nation’s most well-recognized fitness programs. As a mother to three children, Morgan can relate to a lot of women and mums, and thus, built Burn Boot Camp to allow them to feel confident, empowered and motivated.

In August 2022, Morgan was appointed CEO of Burn to further strengthen the brand’s outlook on the fitness industry. While other gyms focus on aesthetics, Burn puts an emphasis on improving confidence and performance through community-based fitness.

“Nothing is more empowering than having self-confidence. Being proud of the woman you see in the mirror every morning is a feat many try hard to attain but few experiences,” said Morgan. “From inception, Burn Boot Camp entered the market as a female-focused boutique gym franchise built for her and her family. I am incredibly inspired and fuelled to embark on this next chapter of Burn’s legacy serving as its CEO, with our ‘Burn Nation’ dedicated to giving women the self-assurance they deserve in a world that is so connected to social media and unrealistic body image messaging.”

Heather Hudson

COO and co-founder, 9Round

Heather “The Hero” Hudson is a black belt in Shotokan Karate and an avid fitness competitor. Growing up with a fervor for health and fitness, she and her kickboxing world champion husband, Shannon, opened a 9Round gym during the height of the 2008 recession with no budget and a marketing campaign that comprised of a few flyers being handed out in the local neighborhood.

Just like an intense workout regiment, this business decision took plenty of determination, but the results were immense: today, there are over 600 9Round locations open and operating throughout 41 states and in 20 countries.

She lives by the belief that “man becomes what he thinks about most”, so keeping a proper mindset is key to leading a happy, successful life.

Sherri Seiber

President, FranFund

To say the least, Sherri is a franchise finance expert. As the president of FranFund, Sherri spends her days working with franchises to design all-in-one funding plans to help grow their networks, and through her experience and expertise, FranFund has developed a network of lenders that has allowed it to have a loan approval rate of 99 per cent.

Anna Phillips

Founder and CIO, The Lash Lounge

Not many people can say that they pioneered an industry, but that is precisely what Anna did with the launch of her salon dedicated to eyelash extensions in the US – The Lash Lounge – in 2006. “Anna founded an entire industry – lashes. She is a trailblazer and incredibly smart and talented,” said franchise mentor and advisor Sally Facinelli, CFE.

With the aim of helping women feel confident and cared for, the franchise started as a lone salon in Texas but now has expanded to 115 locations in 28 states and many more units in development.

Deanna Loychuk

President and co-founder, 30 Minute Hit

Founded in 2004 in North Vancouver, Canada, Deanna and her husband, Jackson, built the boxing and kickboxing concept 30 Minute Hit into a true fitness franchise trailblazer.

“She has grown the brand from concept to 100 locations in four countries and has been a champion of the franchise model for more than 15 years,” said CEO Jackson Loychuk.

“She has donated her time and experience to numerous franchise organizations in support of the industry at large and continues to mentor emerging franchisors.”

Mary Aldred

CEO, Franchise Council of Australia

Under Mary’s leadership, the FCA has been dedicated to working for and on behalf of members during Australia’s franchising inquiry in 2019-20 and a number of the FCA’s recommendations were taken on board as part of the process. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCA has been unwavering in its efforts to keep members informed and has been engaging with governments on issues that have a direct impact on franchising, including business restrictions and commercial leasing arrangements.

“The FCA is continuing to work closely with government and other industry peak bodies to ensure that the voice of franchising and small business is heard by government as we head down the path to economic recovery,” said Mary. “Given the unprecedented challenges for business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCA has been absolutely focused on providing practical support for all our members through this period. The leading priority has been to proactively engage with government and advocate on the key concerns and issues affecting our members.”

Carisa Findley

President, freecoat nails

“Carisa is a true superstar within the franchising industry and beyond! Not only is she passionate about helping small business owners build the businesses of their dreams, she also deeply cares about them and her team.

“She’s bringing that same passion to her new role as president of freecoat nails. I’m so excited for her and so excited to see where she takes the brand!” said Jody Ryan, sr director communications and PR at WellBiz Brands.

Carisa took the helm of the franchise in June 2022 as the brand continues to reimagine the clean beauty movement moving away from the typical negative experience and harmful chemicals used in traditional nail and beauty salons nationwide.

Jackie Bondanza

CEO, Hounds Town USA

Now a veteran of the industry, Jackie did not have your typical route into franchising. A book editor and journalist until 2013, Jackie dived into the world of franchising headfirst with Hounds Town USA when she first met founder Michael Gould as a customer with her two dogs at her local store.

She soon gave up her editing career to help Michael franchise the business and in 2015 was appointed as CEO of the fast-growing doggie daycare brand. She now lives and breathes franchising – in just five years she took the brand from a couple of locations to 97 in development.

“Jackie has forever changed the pet industry and franchising. Not only has she created a supportive and dedicated team but the culture she founded brings excitement to everything the brand does,” said Cooper Flynn, marketing manager at Hounds Town USA.

Heather Mcleod

Mcleod CMO, Authority Brands

Heather is an active change agent who thrives when revamping and improving existing programs, systems and processes. A skilled relationship builder, she has proved herself in senior marketing roles at Neighborly and The Cleaning Authority prior to joining Authority Brands in 2018.

“Heather is a literal superwoman,” says Desirae Mills, director of communications at Authority Brands.

“At 35, she has accomplished achievements that many twice her age are still attempting to acquire. From leading a team of more than 60 employees to achieve record-breaking brand revenue goals to founding and chairing the Women’s Franchise Network in Baltimore and serving on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore, Heather continues to make an impact within and outside of the franchising industry.”

Christina Russell

CEO, Radiance Holdings

It’s fair to say that Christina has certainly earned her franchising stripes. With an extensive leadership background working with brands such as Curves, Camp Bow Wow and Pure Barre, Christina joined Sola Salon as CEO in 2019 and was instrumental in the formation of Radiance Holdings (parent company) and the acquisition of Woodhouse Day Spa in 2020.

As CEO of Sola, she looks after 600 locations across the U.S., Brazil and Canada, and has supported over 18,000 independent beauty professionals, 90 per cent of which are women, to chase their dreams and experience the freedom of salon ownership.

Since acquiring Woodhouse, it has become the first brand to scale a luxury spa through the franchise model and under her leadership has opened its 75th location and remains on track to open eight additional spas this year.

Shelly Sun

CEO and founder, BrightStar Care

Shelly founded BrightStar Care in 2002; a decision motivated by her own empathy causing her to want assured comfort for her own grandmother, and other senior citizens like her. “In 2002, my family struggled to find a dependable, high-quality care provider to take care of our grandmother,” explained Shelly. “It was a frustrating experience, and it motivated me to fill that need for others who were going through the same experience – that’s why I founded BrightStar Care.”

Today, she heads up the 365-locations-strong franchise, represented by 200 small businesses and reached $639m in revenue in 2021, as its CEO, putting quality of life at the forefront of the benevolent brand.

Sherry Mcneil

President and CEO, Canadian Franchise Association

Sherry was bitten by the franchise development bug while working for Little Caesars of Canada. Her passion for franchising is now fuelling her desire to strengthen the framework of the industry in her role at the CFA. As the president and CEO, Sherry is the inarguable expert on conducting business in the country.

While she promotes carefully considered expansion, she’s confident the CFA can help any business achieve their goals. She advises aspiring franchisees to brush up on their people skills because franchising is ultimately “all about people”. She explained: “The greatest people skill that individuals can develop is their listening skill – to listen to understand, and not to listen to respond.”

Fiona Cresswell

Head of franchise development, Anytime Fitness UK & Ireland

An inspiring leader and speaker at The British & International Franchise Exhibition, Fiona continues to make her mark across the UK’s fitness franchise industry. “She really cares about who joins the Anytime Fitness network and makes sure it’s not just a transaction.

With an extremely positive and caring outlook, she manages to make anyone’s journey into and within the network an outstanding success,” said her colleague, Kara Ratcliffe, franchise marketing manager at Anytime Fitness UK & Ireland.

Mandy Shaw

CEO and president, Blaze Pizza

No stranger to power lists, Mandy Shaw truly stands out as a woman of influence in U.S. food service as her long resume of success in the industry shows. She was the fast-casual chain’s chief financial officer before taking over as CEO in November 2019, just before COVID struck.

Despite facing an unpredictable worldwide pandemic and the complexities of mandated closures and CDC guidelines, Mandy’s agility, leadership and hands-on approach enabled Blaze Pizza to weather the storm and positioned the brand to accelerate growth in 2022 and beyond.

Mandy continues to push the boundaries with new culinary innovations and continues to invest in company-wide initiatives that positively impact the business and bring new opportunities for the nearly 10,000 team members that work across the Blaze system. 

She has also worked to increase diversity and inclusion at the company by creating more career and hiring opportunities for women, people of color and LGBTQ+ team members.

Ruth Brown

Director of business development, Home Instead UK

“Promoter, advocate, expert counsel, mentor and supporter of ethical franchising, Ruth never tires of celebrating the huge difference franchising brings to peoples’ lives. She does this through her role with Home Instead which has seen her recruit over 200 franchisees and her board position with the BFA,” said Diana Stephenson, who is a member of the board of trustees at RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity.

Ruth has worked in franchising since graduating from university and is instrumental in recruiting new franchisees to the Home Instead network, guiding them through the set-up process and overseeing their business support. Her passion for social purpose makes her an inspiring and influential woman to watch in franchising.

Larisa Walega

VP, marketing, Ziebart International

Larisa is currently the VP of Marketing at Ziebart International Corporation, a parent company of the largest franchised automotive aftermarket appearance protection brand geared toward bringing back that new-car feeling to thousands of customers every day. In her role, she leads marketing for employee branding, franchise development and retail consumers, effectively helping to grow brand awareness and lead generation across each vertical. She also leads efforts to create a seamless customer journey across each business unit, utilizing key messaging and measurement to optimize each customer’s experience.

Larisa also serves as the vice chair of the International Franchise Association Women’s Franchise Committee and as a member of the Auto Care Association’s Marketing Committee. In 2022, she was recognized by 1851 Franchise as a ‘Top 100 Influencer in Franchising’.

Dale Cohen

Partner, corporate franchise and licensing, Akerman LLP

Franchise attorney Dale has been a partner at Akerman in New York for nearly two years, bringing to the firm a wealth of experience in M&As, domestic and international franchising, distribution and licensing law – advising new emerging brands as well as widely recognized mature brands in structuring and implementing their franchise.

“She is very diligent in her work and has tremendous problem-solving capabilities,” said Abhishek Gupta, skills that mark her out as a rising legal star to watch in 2023.

Carla Van Wyk

Former head of operations, Walfinch

Carla made a strong impression in her post as head of operations at Walfinch. Franchisee Frederick Holscher, said: “She understands the industry. Carla walks the second and third mile to support us as franchisees. She is available and approachable 24/7 to support you in your hour of need. She is a problem solver and always leaves one motivated and inspired to carry on for the sake of our higher purpose.”

“She is our total support, dynamic, and her energy just takes us to the next level,” agrees Tracy Lezar, managing director at Walfinch Kingston and Weybridge.

Kelly Blackmore-Lee

Director of operations, Caremark

Kelly is a strategic visionary and a top-grade project manager with over 14 years of experience in the franchising sector, including senior positions at the bfa and Revive! UK. Highly endorsed by her colleagues in the sector, she is described as “all-inclusive”, a “dedicated, driven professional with great mediation skills” and an “ambassador for the franchising community”, with a “style and flair for business”.

“With previous franchisor senior roles, and as head of compliance at the bfa, Kelly understands franchising,” agreed Emma Scholes, director of marketing at Caremark. “Five months in at Caremark, she has made tremendous improvements to our operations by immersing herself into our network and overhauling our processes. She is now focused on introducing key strategies for future growth.”

Sarah Robertson

Group director and UK managing director of The TaxAssist Group

Sarah has been on the board of directors at Norwich-based TaxAssist since 2004, helping to transform the business development department, successfully introducing shopfront premises for many franchisees, and contributing extensively to the overall development of the business. In her new role, Sarah is focused on looking after all aspects of support provided to the UK network, recruiting new franchisees, and making sure TaxAssist continues to embrace the latest tech. “Sarah is an amazing leader and has driven the growth of TaxAssist Accountants in the UK,” said David Paulson, bfa board member and senior vice president, franchise development at The TaxAssist Group.

Therese Thilgen

Co-founder and CEO, Franchise Update Media

Throughout her long and illustrious career, Therese has helped make the franchising community stronger through her leadership and mentoring of women in the business community, expanding opportunities and encouraging young businesswomen into the sector. Her company, Franchise Update Media continues to grow as one of the most recognizable multi-media brands in franchising, producing websites, magazines, books, research and conferences. Most tellingly, women leaders are represented on all the company’s advisory boards and represent 50 per cent of its team members.

Julia Choudhury

Corporate development director, Franchise Brands plc

A director and shareholder of Franchise Brands since its formation, Julia has over 30 years of commercial, finance and investment experience. She held a number of senior management positions at AXA Investment Managers between 1997 and 2005, including director of strategic development and head of UK retail, before becoming managing director of the UK operation.

Having joined the Group in 2008, Julia has a particular focus on corporate development, which includes acquisitions.

“Of particular interest are businesses in the B2C service sector, but the key criterion for an acquisition prospect is a compelling proposition from which franchisees can be successful,” she said.

Liane Caruso

Senior VP, Entrepreneur Media

“Liane is entrenched in the franchise community and has a wealth of knowledge and experience on all sides of the industry. She is a rockstar, marketer, connector, relationship-builder, leader, and encourager,” said Carley Wooley, senior director at the International Franchise Association.

Jackie Lobdell

VP of franchise development, Slim Chickens

Jackie’s career in U.S. franchising has been marked by success, overseeing growth and innovation across all the brands she’s worked with. Now, as vice president of Slim Chickens, she is catapulting her influence further still, as she continues the company’s aggressive expansion strategy. “Jackie’s love of the brand, determination and infectious attitude has been an integral part of what has fueled the growth of our franchise system,” said COO Sam Rothschild, on her appointment. With rapid expansion across the US, Jackie’s influence in F&B and franchising singles her out as one of the industry’s leading female figures.

Helen Doron

CEO, Helen Doron Educational Group

Born in the UK, Helen is a British linguist and educator who lives in Israel. Founded originally in 1985 to teach children English as a foreign language, the Helen Doron Educational Group has taught over three million children to speak English, master maths, experience nature, and learn through movement using unique methodology through a growing international franchise system, ensuring her ongoing status as an international icon in both education and franchising.

Lexi Miles Corrin

Founder and CEO, WAXON Laser + Waxbar

Beauty entrepreneur Lexi launched Canada’s number-one waxbar in Toronto in 2012, aged just 26, and the brand has now extended into 14 locations across Canada. Lexi is “creating a franchise brand with a strong culture that empowers females and creates opportunities for females in Canada,” said Kimberly Chohan, manager in franchise development at WAXON. While managing all aspects of her business, from branding and new locations to customer care, Lexi also blogs about sensitive topics that women might be too afraid to talk about, and has launched a female-focused podcast, We Go There.

She is passionate about giving back to her community and has a role on the board of White Ribbon, an organization that strives to eradicate violence against women.

Monica Feid

Co-founder and COO, BizCom Associates

For the past 23 years, Monica has dedicated herself to leading a world-class creative team and executing award-winning integrated PR and marketing campaigns across the U.S.A. In the past two years alone, she has overseen her agency, BizCom Associates, triple in size, serving a growing roster of national and international franchisors. She has also completed her third book as a ghostwriter to franchise executives. “Monica captivated on getting media attention for all our clients,” said Sylvia Shtraym, account executive at the firm.

Lucy Archer

Director, Rev PR

A key player in the UK franchise industry as director of Rev PR, the country’s largest specialist PR firm, Lucy has supported the growth of some of the U.K.’s largest franchise brands.

Recognized across the industry and valued highly by all the brands who work with her, Lucy was awarded Best PR/Marketing Business in the Best Woman Business Awards in 2019 and also won the Outstanding Small Consultancy prize in the Chartered Institute of PR (CIPR) PRide awards.

Lucy’s expertise as a content creator will continue to elevate UK franchise brands across the media in 2023 and beyond, ensuring she remains an influential figure in the UK franchising sector.

Amber Manning

CEO, Just Cuts

With an extensive career in franchising, not-for-profit and financial services, Amber was just 20 years old when she became Australia’s youngest financial services franchise owner and operator. Now Amber is the driving force behind Just Cuts, the largest hairdressing franchise in the Southern Hemisphere.

“Just Cuts is a family business in every sense, we support small family-owned businesses that style their client’s hair across generations. It’s a business I’m proud of and feel privileged to lead,” she said.

This year Amber has once more joined the top 10 at the Inside Franchise Business Top 30 Franchise Executives 2022 event.

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