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Wine & Design CEO

Originally published by Franchising USA


Women in Franchising - Harriet Mills_2.jpgI got in to franchising almost by accident. After being laid off from my job in the corporate world, I decided I wanted to start my own business. I was looking to break out of the 9 to 5 world and make money to help support my growing family on my own terms. Being a mom and an entrepreneur is tough – nurturing both kids and a new business is a huge commitment of time, but being your own boss allows you work on your own terms and build enough flexibility into your schedule to be there for your family. Soon after opening my first Wine & Design, one of my first art instructors approached me about opening her own location. She fell in love with the concept just like I did and was inspired to become a business owner. Realizing I could not only run my own business, but also others do the same was a very exciting idea for me.

We’re proud of the broad range of backgrounds and experience levels we see in our franchisees, but it’s especially exciting for me as a woman and as a mom to have the opportunity to empower other women by helping them become business owners. I’ve relished the opportunity in my role as a franchisor to advise and mentor fellow women and to see them succeed. When I hear about other women looking to become franchise owners, there are a few pieces of advice I always come back to.

Get into a Business that Shares Your Values

Starting a business is hard work. There are long hours, nights you’ll bring work home with you and weekends where the workweek never truly ends. It’s import that you’re passionate about your business because that passion is what keeps you going. You need to believe in what you’re doing, and becoming part of a business that shares your values and focuses on the things that are important to you is a key to inspiring the kind of passion you’ll need. When you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work – it feels like you’re acting on your dreams, and that makes a world of difference. Women and mothers benefit from focusing on a fun, family-friendly business because it feels like an extension of their family life at home, and when work and home life spill over into each other, it doesn’t create tension.

Ask Questions and Do Your Research

Make sure you’re joining a business that sets you up to succeed. Look for a franchise with a track record of success for people with backgrounds similar to yours. Talk to the franchisor’s leadership team and listen to how they talk about their business. You want to be a part of a system that emphasizes the products or service you’ll need to sell to consumers, not one that’s in the business of selling franchises. Ask about the flexibility franchisees enjoy and how many hours the average franchisee invests in their business. Find out about the potential for growth and how many franchisees go on to own multiple locations. Learn about the support network and the kind of access you’ll have to other women you can look to for advice on getting your business off the ground.

Find a Strong Mentors

Perhaps most important of all – look for people within the system who are willing and able to take you under their wing while you learn the ropes and get your business off the ground. Franchisors are your partners in business and only really succeed when their franchisees do, and the very best franchise systems nurture a culture where the franchisees also support each other and want to help each other succeed. Those other franchisees have seen and overcome the challenges of starting a business and should be eager to help others do the same. Look for a system that includes other female franchisees because they’ll understand the challenges you face both at work and at home, and they’ll be able to share their experiences and the lessons they learned

When you invest in a franchise, you’re not just starting a business – you’re joining a system and tying your success to a network of other business owners. You want to find one that shares your values and your goals from top to bottom. Through your research, you should look for a system that boasts success stories from other entrepreneurs like you and one that fits your life. When you find one with a strong network that not only supports franchisees from the top but also boasts a strong community the supports each other, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.

Harriet Mills is CEO and Co-Founder of Wine & Design. Starting her business after being laid off from her corporate job with a new four-month old, Harriet’s main inspiration to begin Wine & Design was to build a career that provided the flexibility needed to maintain a healthy work-life balance and fun, family-focused atmosphere that left plenty of room to be a successful entrepreneur and mom. Since creating her first Wine & Design studio in 2010, franchising came only so naturally as the artists hired at the studio, wanted to start their own. Today, Harriet prides 77 Wine & Design studios across 16 states in the nation. She has been awarded with the Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 in 2016 and was seen on Season 8’s finale of Shark Tank. Harriet continues to lead the paint and sip industry with her unrelenting drive, market savvy personality and innate business instincts.

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