Franchising is becoming more diverse. U.S. census data shows that franchise ownership rates between 2007 and 2012 increased by 50% for both women and historically underrepresented groups — and while more recent census data isn’t available yet, there’s reason to believe that growth has only increased. That’s because, in the years since that study, many franchise brands have ramped up efforts to champion the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). So who’s having the greatest impact? We decided to look into that — and, on the following pages, to honor some of the brands that we think are doing it best.
The franchises on this list were chosen editorially and listed alphabetically; there is no way to quantifiably rank them the way we do for, say, our Franchise 500 list. We based our decisions on information submitted by the companies as well as our own independent research. Brands were selected for a variety of reasons. Some offer franchise fee discounts and other assistance to help those who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), women, or LGBTQ+. Some promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in other ways, including the communities they serve and the services they offer; initiatives and programs they have implemented at both the corporate and franchise level; representation among their leadership team, franchisees, and employees; and more. Read on to find out just how diverse the efforts of the franchise community to support DEI have become — and what results they’re seeing from these efforts.
Please keep in mind, though, that this list is not intended to be an endorsement of any particular franchise opportunity. It can serve as a helpful starting point for those who wish to work with a brand that values DEI, but there are many other factors to consider before investing in a franchise, so you should always do thorough research. That means reading the company’s legal documents, seeking the advice of an attorney and an accountant, and talking to as many current and former franchisees as you can.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Women’s Forum of New York
Anywhere Real Estate
Anywhere Real Estate (formerly Realogy) has launched an Inclusive Ownership Program designed to attract real estate brokerage owners from underrepresented groups (including women, people of color, and people who identify as LGBTQ+) to affiliate with one of Anywhere’s franchise brands by offering incentives such as a waived initial franchise fee, additional financial incentives, exclusive education and mentorship opportunities, and complimentary membership and conference registration to an industry partner organization of choice.
Swimming pool maintenance, repairs, and renovations
America’s Swimming Pool Company (ASP) offers $5,000 off its franchise fee, which normally starts at $40,000, for women and minority franchisees. “ASP strives every day to produce an environment for successful franchise owners and employees, no matter one’s race or gender,” says the brand’s founder and CEO Stewart Vernon.
Ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, smoothies
The $18,500 to $37,000 franchise fee for a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop is waived for BIPOC franchisees, who also receive a rebate on their first-year royalty fees and can get up to $2,500 of training and development expenditures reimbursed. Ben & Jerry’s also waives the $7,000 transfer fee for existing scoop shop franchisees who sell their shop to an approved BIPOC candidate, and rewards the seller with a $10,000 payment.
Dream Vacations highlights its travel agents’ expertise in helping clients identify and book LGBTQ+-friendly cruises, destinations, resorts, tours, and events. The company estimates that 10% or more of their franchisees identify as LGBTQ+ themselves. Meanwhile, women make up around 65% of the franchise system, and are well-represented in the brand’s advisory council, committees, and leadership team.
Environmentally friendly residential cleaning
Ecomaids offers $10,000 off its $40,000 franchise fee for BIPOC franchisees, who it estimates own around 22% of its units. “We have owners from literally all around the globe that have discovered our opportunity and have since become a part of our family of franchisees,” says VP of franchise development Eric Martin.” They bring with them a wealth of different professional backgrounds and life experiences.”
Insurance and tax-preparation services
Fiesta Auto Insurance and Tax was started more than 20 years ago to offer auto insurance and tax preparation services to underserved Latino and Hispanic communities. The company specifically seeks out bilingual franchisees to help carry out its mission, and today the majority of its 240-plus franchise units are owned by people of color.
Around a third of Frios franchises are owned by BIPOC individuals, and two-thirds are owned by women. The company previously offered a 10% discount on its $35,000 franchise fee for minority franchisees, but this year chose to instead make the franchise opportunity even more accessible for all applicants by lowering the franchise fee to just $17,000.
Educational enrichment programs
Around 90% of Challenge Island’s franchisees are women (along with 100% of their corporate team), and they also have a significant number of Black, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ franchisees, with teachers receiving 10% off the franchise fee. The new Challenge Island book series, cowritten by CEO and founder Sharon Duke Estroff, features Black and Hispanic children as the main characters, and many of the company’s STEM challenge themes are designed to celebrate diversity, particularly during Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month. “Everything we do is about instilling a sense of inclusion, appreciation, empathy, and compassion in children,” says Estroff. “Diversity is so much a part of Challenge Island that we don’t have to make concentrated efforts to achieve it. It is what we are, through and through.”
Home care, nursing-care coordination, memory care
Senior-care company Homewatch CareGivers offers $5,000 off its franchise fee, which starts at $49,500, for all diverse and women franchisees. The company also created its ALLIES program — which stands for Aware, Listen, Lead, Include, Engage, Support — to help advance diversity and inclusion within the brand.
Franchisees from underrepresented groups (BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+, or those experiencing ageism) can receive 15% off of Junk Chuckers’ $38,000 franchise fee, along with two months of royalty fee credit benefits — a total value of $11,000. That’s helped contribute to a very diverse ownership pool: 72% of Junk Chuckers’ franchisees are BIPOC, and 54% are women.
Poke and acai bowls
Just Poke only began franchising in 2020, but the brand has already implemented measures to make sure diversity and inclusion will be integral to the culture of its franchise system. Women and BIPOC franchisees receive $5,000 off Just Poke’s $25,000 franchise fee, and get additional training for free. Both the corporate team and franchisees receive annual diversity training.
Kika Stretch Studios offers 10% off its franchise fee for BIPOC franchisees. Eleven of its franchise locations are owned by people of color and 12 are owned by women. “As a franchisor who is a woman of color, I know how important diversity is and how much it’s needed in the world of franchising,” says CEO and founder Kika Wise.
Asian American/Hawaiian food
L&L was founded by two Asian American immigrants, and even today many of its stores are opened by first- or second-generation immigrants. Ninety percent of all franchise units are BIPOC-owned, and representation continues at the corporate level. CEO Elisia Flores identifies as Asian American and gay, and all directors and VPs are people of color and 40% are women.
For almost 20 years, Choice Hotels’ emerging markets program has awarded and financially supported more than 300 franchise agreements with underrepresented minority and veteran entrepreneurs. In recent years, the company has expanded its emerging markets team and ramped up its efforts to increase diversity in the hotel industry. In 2020, it formed the Choice Hotel Owners African American Alliance (CHOAAA), offering franchisees a forum to engage with company leadership. This year, it launched the HERtels by Choice program to provide dedicated training, education, mentorship, and financial assistance to women entrepreneurs, who currently only make up about 10% of those involved in hotel investment and development.
In-home newborn and postpartum care
All of Let Mommy Sleep’s current franchisees are women, and a third are BIPOC. The brand is also offering 10% off its $39,000 franchise fee for LGBTQ+ franchisees. “The healthcare and childcare industries are inherently diverse,” says CEO Denise Stern. “Because of this, Let Mommy Sleep is in the fortunate position of being able to support diversity by simply hiring the best caregivers we can.”
Synthetic grass/artificial turf
“Our two best franchises are owned by women. This has opened our eyes that female leaders can thrive in male-dominated businesses such as landscaping and construction,” says Monster Grass cofounder Fermin Bergouignan. “This led us to offer an incentive to get more women to join our franchise.” Women and LGBTQ+ franchisees receive $7,500 off the brand’s $24,900 franchise fee.
Mosquito, tick, and flea control
In 2017, Mosquito Hunters began offering a discount on its franchise fee for BIPOC franchisees, who now own around 15% of the brand’s 140-plus units. The current discount is $10,000 off of $40,000. “We’re proud to have so much diversity in our system,” says Eric Martin, vice president of franchise development. “While owners come from different backgrounds, everyone understands the importance of customer service.”
Noodle dishes, salads, soups
Noodles & Company has formed an Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Council, created resource groups for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ employees, and introduced DEI-focused benefits. People of color make up 44% of its operations team, and women make up 56%. It also joined the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance’s Pathways to Black Franchise Ownership program to help create new Black-owned franchise restaurants.
Property damage restoration and remediation
PuroClean estimates that almost 25% of its franchise units have BIPOC ownership. The percentage of new franchise owners from diverse backgrounds may also be increasing, as last year, around one-third of new franchise owners joining the brand were of Hispanic/Latino origin. Over the last three years alone, franchise owners from these diverse groups have earned some of the brand’s most coveted annual awards.
In partnership with BlackRock’s Impact Opportunities Fund and James Collins, CEO of Eastwood Capital Partners, Retro Fitness recently announced the launch of Project LIFT, an initiative to open 500 new gyms in 50 Black and brown communities over the next five years. Franchise fees for these clubs will be waived and royalty fees will be reduced by 50% for one year, and a portion of their royalties will go to community organizations.
Coding, robotics, and STEM enrichment classes and camps for ages 7 to 17
Our core belief is that if you elevate stories of women and BIPOC individuals, this would attract more of this demographic,” says Ruth Agbaji, CEO and founder of Code Wiz. “We can offer incentives, but in the end, people want to see people like them succeeding.” Agbaji can point first to herself to inspire prospective franchisees. She grew up in Nigeria, taught herself to code, came to the U.S. to get her master’s in computer science, landed a job at Microsoft — and then quit to found her coding school franchise. And her recruitment philosophy seems to be working, as more than 90% of her franchise units are BIPOC-owned, and 70% are women-owned.
Self Esteem Brands
Fitness studios; facial and body waxing
All Self Esteem Brands offer a $7,500 discount on the franchise fee for qualifying minority candidates. Self Esteem Brands has also formed a DEI council, recently partnered with The J3 Collaboration Project to find more franchisee candidates from underserved communities, and is focused on an initiative to bring financing to prospective business owners from underrepresented communities.
Personal, companion, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s home care
Senior Helpers began offering an incentive for BIPOC franchisees just a year after it started franchising in 2005. Today, the company offers 10% off its $55,000 franchise fee, and has around 40 BIPOC-owned franchises in its system. “Senior Helpers is committed to providing the resources and programs that create a diverse and inclusive workplace for all,” says CEO and cofounder Pete Ross.
Children’s fitness programs
Half of Skyhawks franchisees are women, 40% are BIPOC, and the franchise’s leadership team is similarly diverse — but the brand isn’t stopping there. It recently began implementing new equity initiatives, including a training module to help coaches create a more inclusive camp environment, and the launch of the Skyhawks Rise nonprofit, designed to provide scholarships for underserved or marginalized youth to participate in Skyhawks programs.
Smoothies, healthful snacks, health products
Smoothie King boasts a diverse leadership team, starting with CEO Wan Kim, who started as the brand’s first international franchisee in South Korea before purchasing the company and taking the helm in 2012. The brand recently joined the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA) Pathways to Black Ownership program and will offer a discount on its franchise fee to MFHA candidates to help reach the program’s goal of creating 100 new Black-owned franchise restaurants by the end of 2023.
Denny’s is one of the first franchises to join the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance’s Pathways to Black Franchise Ownership program, which aims to create 100 new Black-owned franchises by the end of 2023. But that’s just the latest step in the company’s decades-long journey to becoming a leader in DEI. After facing discrimination lawsuits in the ’90s, Denny’s worked with civil rights leaders, including Coretta Scott King, to reform its corporate culture and practices. Today, 58% of Denny’s restaurants are minority-owned and 75% of employees are minorities, while 56% of its board members are minorities and 44% are women. The company also launched a Multicultural Recruitment Tour last year, and through its Supplier Diversity Program, it has invested more than $2 billion with diverse and disadvantaged businesses.
Staffing, recruitment, and employment-related services
Since 2013, U.S. Small Business Administration-recognized disadvantaged or minority groups have received a 25% discount on Spherion’s franchise fee. Spherion has a page on its website dedicated to outlining its efforts to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) both within its franchise system and in the workplaces it helps to staff, including the establishment of an EDI council comprised of local office employees, franchisees, and corporate team members.
Spanish immersion daycare and preschool
“Diversity and inclusion [are] at the center of everything we do,” says Robert Thesing, director of franchise development for Tierra Encantada, which offers a $5,000 credit toward opening, training, or marketing costs for BIPOC, women, and LBGTQ+ franchisees. That’s reflected not only in the diverse makeup of their leadership team and franchisees, but in the books, toys, and curriculum used in their daycare centers as well.
Tax and accounting services
Fast-growing young franchise Toro Taxes was specifically designed to serve the Latino market with tax services, life insurance, and roadside assistance. All of its 200-plus franchise locations are owned by people of color, and 65% are owned by women. The company’s leadership hopes to work with the International Franchise Association and other franchisors to create a Latino Leadership Council.
Children’s ballet schools
“We bear a unique responsibility to usher our students into a future ballet world that is a better ballet world — one committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Tutu School CEO and president Genevieve Weeks. The company promotes these values within its curriculum, teacher training materials, and social media content. And now it has partnered with Brown Girls Do Ballet to offer the Tiny Dancer Scholarship, offering full-year ballet tuition to young dancers of color.
Image Credit: Courtesy of The UPS Store
Postal, business, printing, and communications services
Through The UPS Store Diversity Ownership Program, first-time buyers of a new center who are Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, or LGBTQ+ are eligible to receive approximately 50% off of the franchise fee, which is currently $29,950. Last year, 22% of retail owners developing a new The UPS Store franchise participated in the program. The UPS Store’s parent company, UPS, has also launched the Proudly Unstoppable initiative to champion underrepresented small business communities by offering limited-edition express envelopes and boxes decorated with artwork from artists representing these groups, and by amplifying their stories across brand websites and social media platforms.
Diversity has been part of the V’s Barbershop brand since it was founded by CEO Diego “Jim” Valenzuela 23 years ago. “I learned immediately that having the United Nations of talent behind the barber chair was going to be V’s route,” says Valenzuela, “and that our clients, too, would come from all walks of life and communities. We’ve been diverse and inclusive from day one.” Today, 60% of the company’s franchisees are BIPOC, women, or LGBTQ+.
Soft pretzels, lemonade, hot dogs
Qualified women and ethnic minority franchisees who meet Wetzel’s traditional financial requirements receive 25% off their franchise fee. Those who do not meet the requirements and need financial assistance may qualify for Wetzel’s “Access to Equity” program, which includes business resources and education support, as well as up to 50% off the franchise fee, 50% lower royalty fees for one year for additional bakeries, and other discounts.
Pet sitting, dog walking, mobile pet grooming
Woofie’s offers a $5,000 discount on its $48,500 franchise fee for women and diverse candidates. The brand has an all-women leadership team and aims to attract an inclusive set of franchise owners. Their first franchisee, Tanya Lee, who was recently named an IFA Franchisee of the Year, is Asian American and grew up in Taiwan, and their third franchisees, Sebaot Gebre and Teferi Dejene, are originally from Ethiopia.
Salads; acai bowls; Mediterranean food; Mexican food; soups
WOWorks was one of the first companies to join the MFHA’s Pathways to Black Ownership program. The program’s goal is to see 100 new Black-owned franchise restaurants opened by 2023, and 1,000 by 2025. MFHA candidates are eligible to receive a discount on the franchise fee for any of the brands listed above, as well as professional development and training.
Burgers; chicken; pizza; Mexican food
In 2020, Yum! Brands announced its Unlocking Opportunity Initiative, which includes a commitment to spend $100 million over the next five years to promote equity and inclusion, education, and entrepreneurship for its employees, restaurant teams, and communities globally. As part of that initiative, 2021 saw the opening of the Yum! Center for Global Franchise Excellence at the University of Louisville, which offers education for existing and potential franchisees. The Center is open to all eligible students regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age, but has a particular focus on recruiting underrepresented people of color and women and educating them about the franchise model of entrepreneurship.