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.