Why Women Should JUMP into Franchise Ownership – The Benefits of Joining a Franchise
by: Wendy Graves – Franchise Co-owner, Signarama Louisville East, Kentucky
I got into franchising with my husband, Lloyd Graves, who was looking to start a business. His background was in commercial signs, so I encouraged him to go with something he knew. We found Signarama, the world’s leading sign and graphics franchise, which is part of the United Franchise Group of affiliated brands and consultants.
Lloyd and I discussed going out on our own with an independent shop, but after running the pros and cons of what that would cost us in time and whether we could scale quickly, we realized Signarama was the better choice. It was a brand name with a built-in client base that we could grow and expand. Signarama knew my husband’s vision of being a manufacturing store, and their structure allowed us to pursue his dream. For us, that was the key to our decision: support when needed and freedom to diversify all in one.
Freedom and Support
Lloyd bought the Signarama franchise about ten years ago and I followed him full-time two years later. I’m proud to say I’ve been in franchising for eight years, Lloyd taught me everything I know about signs, and I consider him my greatest mentor. He has encouraged my personal and professional growth, understanding that my success is his success – which is truer than ever since we’re in business together! While it’s been financially rewarding, there are several other benefits to being a franchise owner.
As the owner, you have the freedom and autonomy to decide how your store runs, but as a franchisee, you get the support of the corporate marketing team and the knowledge and expertise of other franchisees who’ve been where you are – so you’re never alone if you don’t want to be. It’s been a winning formula for us; we’ve hit the mark in seven of our ten years of joining the Circle of Excellence, which recognizes sales and leadership.
Two days a week I work remotely and the other days I’m in the store in Louisville. It’s a great balance, the best of both worlds – some days I get to enjoy the camaraderie and energy of working side-by-side with employees and interacting with customers, and other days I can take care of responsibilities that require a little more focus and solitude. I do a lot of the back-office work: human resources, keeping the books, planning marketing events for our team to attend or for us to host, vendor relations, and ordering.
What has helped make us so successful are the relationships that have come from joining the Signarama family. Having people you can lean into for answers, a great corporate support team, and a mentor/mentee program have really positioned us for success. People also want to be a part of companies that have a proven track record and established client base – and that’s what franchising gives them.
Serving as a Resource to Other Entrepreneurs
We have had many opportunities to give back in response to all the benefits we’ve received. I feel privileged to be able to support other Signarama stores that need help in manufacturing; with one of them, we got to share a joint Best in Show award from UFG for 2022 performance.
I’m also personally filling the gap, by creating a podcast called “WISE Wednesdays” and two private groups dedicated to supporting and encouraging women in our business.
The number of women working in the franchise industry is seeing impressive growth throughout the country, which is why UFG created Women in Franchising National Appreciation Day. It’s observed every year in October 14 to shine a spotlight on women in the franchise business, whether as owners, employees or corporate executives. To me, it means I have other “sisters” in the world running either the same business or different brand – growing a business, leading a team or giving back to the community and, most importantly, showing the next young woman the possibilities that await her as the owner of her own business.
If I could give any advice to a female entrepreneur thinking about getting into franchising or just starting out in the industry, it would be just one word: JUMP. Never let time or fear be the reason you slow down your dream. Stop allowing the fear that is playing in your head to dictate your next steps. Stop thinking you have more time – you don’t. Instead, pray, start to map out your plan, grab a mentor, and JUMP.
It won’t be easy. You will have days of tears and many more of victory and when you look back you will wish you did it sooner.
Now, go be great!
Wendy Graves joined the signage industry in 2013 when her husband, Lloyd purchased Signarama Louisville East. She first intended to join the company in a supportive role, but little did she know signage would become her passion.
Her wealth of knowledge led to her becoming the company’s operations manager. Wendy had the foresight for growth and in 2020, inSIGNia Wholesale was born!
Insignia was established as the manufacturing wholesale arm offering services for smaller to mid-size companies that didn’t wish to fabricate. Wendy’s customer base and partnership has been primarily with companies in the Midwest-providing lit and non-lit signage needs.
As a viable member of the sign industry, she noticed a void in the inclusion of women and their accomplishments in the industry. As someone who thinks outside the box, Women In Signs, Etc. (W.I.S.E.) was created in January 2021. The group fulfilled the need for a lack of connection with women in the signage industry. It has organically grown to over 1200 amazing owners, team members, vendors, and more. There is also a podcast on Spotify, with the same name, showcasing some of the ladies that she meets with a focus on business and personal growth.
In Nov 2023 she became a partner starting Make It Happen Signage Academy- US. This allows her to bring all the passions of training, mentoring, product knowledge improvement, and a general cheerleader of others in this amazing industry.
Wendy has lots of goals for not only the success of the retail, wholesale side and W.I.S.E group soon. High on her priorities is the goal to make a difference daily, for someone struggling, compassion that leading can be scary and challenging. Learning a new trade has its setbacks but in this trade you will never be alone, an amazing sign lady is one call or text away.
Read more inspiring stories from Women in Franchising
According to research by Guidant Financial, it’s estimated that women account for approximately 31% of all small businesses and franchise ownership in the U.S. A third of these have successfully owned and operated their businesses for 10 years or longer. Get to know some inspiring women in franchising on She Owns It: The Franchising Craze – Entrepreneurship Made Accessible for Women with Lindsey Coffelt, Owner, Graze Craze Okemos, Michigan and Why Women Should JUMP into Franchise Ownership – The Benefits of Joining a Franchise with Wendy Graves – Franchise Co-owner, Signarama Louisville East, Kentucky and From Nurse to Franchisee – Why I Made the Biggest Pivot in My Career from Kristine Ellis, Owner/Operator, The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill Bend, Oregon.