International Women’s Day is an opportune moment to reflect upon the contributions women are making in the franchising world. With almost half of franchises having a woman in an ownership position, women are a driving force behind the brands they represent. Debra Sawyer is a prime example of a woman leader thriving in a male-focused concept.
Debra Sawyer would describe herself as a mom, cheer coach and businesswoman. But to the Sport Clips support team, and the more than 16,000 stylists the company and its franchisees employ, she is also a role model. Debra currently owns 16 Sport Clips units with another set to open in April. She individually employs more than 150 female stylists which puts her in the top 10 of the roughly 480 franchisees that make up Sport Clips, a network that was recently rated the number one haircutting franchise in the nation by Entrepreneur Magazine. She also sits as President on the Sport Clips Team Leader Advisory Council (TLAC) made up of the brand’s most influential franchisees as elected by their peers. Currently the board is working on an initiative implementing new technologies system wide. To say Debra is an integral part of the Sport Clips organization would be an understatement. She is part of what makes Sport Clips great.
Debra Sawyer first entered the franchise world 11 years ago, with two young children in tow. Growing a new business, while working a full time job and raising a young family can be overwhelming, to say the least. What attracted her to the Sport Clips Franchise was the flexibility and work-life balance that the semi-absentee ownership model provides. The fact that it was not an owner-operator model allowed her to keep her work and family commitments, while growing a business on the side.
While there has been progress in gender equality, the fact is that women still bear a heavier load than their male counterparts when it comes to balancing work and family. Working mothers are faced with extra pressure in trying to juggle it all. Debra puts it this way, “Typically the majority of responsibility of the family falls on the woman and stress comes from trying to meet your family’s needs while working. But the opportunities are there. That is what I found in the Sport Clips Franchise.”
Debra’s advice to anyone looking to get into franchising is to pick something that you are passionate about and spend time learning the ropes. The fact that Sport Clips is a semi-absentee business model allowed her to take the time to learn the industry while simultaneously growing the business. She also adds, “Pick a franchise that you can get behind.” Debra’s strong commitment to Sport Clips' values are evident in the way she nurtures and develops leadership in the women she employs. She attributed part of her success in leadership to being a woman. She found that she is able to relate to her mostly female staff because she understands firsthand the delicate balancing act that working mothers experience. She has a strong desire for them to succeed at striking this balance. And her team is flourishing under her leadership, as evident by her continual growth, adding her 17th store this April, and by the unequivocal enthusiasm and commitment her staff demonstrates daily.
For the working mother, and really for anyone who is trying to juggle a multitude of responsibilities, Debra has some practical advice, “Focus on the most important item that will make the biggest impact on your business. Do this first thing each day before the drama of the day takes over. I work until 11 am each day on my most important issue that needs to be addressed. I will not schedule meetings or calls before then. That way I know I at least get my most important issue accomplished each morning.”
For the female entrepreneur, franchising offers a lot of advantages and benefits. And likewise, the franchises benefit from women stepping into leadership positions. Debra Sawyer is a testimony to that. The contributions women are making are becoming a driving force in the business world as more and more women pursue new and exciting entrepreneurial opportunities.