Independence comes in many forms. To some women this means leaving behind a corporate routine and swapping pinstripes for steamy bustling kitchens and the patties and buns that are a major part of life in the fast food franchising business.

According to Simone Cooper, Head of Franchising at Standard Bank, more women in South Africa are following the lead of their counterparts abroad by taking on the challenges and opportunities offered by franchises.

“Internationally, women play a major role in franchising, with estimates indicating two women enter the industry for every man setting up shop. In South Africa, the most popular franchising operations are fast food chains, although women can also be found managing enterprises that range from real estate franchises, retail and service outlets.

“The fact that women tend to be detail orientated, are happy working with teams and have proved to be adept at managing multiple outlets simultaneously, has seen major franchise operations, like McDonald’s, extending opportunities to women.

“We have seen an increase in the number of women opting for a franchised business to gain independence. Chances of failure are reduced with a franchise compared to an independent start-up, because a professional team is on hand to assist with business site selection, marketing, product lines and staff selection and training,” says Ms Cooper.

Standard Bank has financially assisted three women in reaching their goals of becoming McDonald’s ‘burger queens’, leaving stable corporate positions to pursue their aims of becoming businesswomen in their own right.

Zanele Mvelase was on the executive fast track in the financial services sector. After 13 years, she realised that while she was busy building a career, her children were growing up without a mom. She was searching for an alternative career path where she could be her own boss, and have the flexibility financially to plan her family time.

Independence via the franchising route, which offered training and high levels of support for new business entrants, appealed to her. The golden arches of McDonald’s resonated with her and the franchise offered what she needed.

Ms Mvelase took a leap of faith and commenced with the nine-month McDonald’s training process while relying on her own financial resources. She then had to wait for a restaurant to become available.

It was when things were beginning to look desperate that she got the news that the McDonald’s company-owned restaurant in Hartebeespoort was available for her, and in July 2012 the purchase of the restaurant was concluded.

Within months she was offered the opportunity to own a second McDonald’s restaurant in Brits. Ms Mvelase jumped at the opportunity and the new restaurant opened in July 2013.

Although she knows that the pressures of owning and operating a second restaurant will place demands on her family time, Ms Mvelase is confident that this will be more feasible when the restaurants are fully up and running. She already has the ability to work hours she decides on, and takes her children – who have become favourites at the Hartebeespoort restaurant – with her when she can.

Victoria Moyo, an experienced entrepreneur, says she has business in her blood. The holder of an MBA, and a former executive with two leading South African banks, first cut her entrepreneurial teeth with a fuel and fast food franchise outlet before selling both and moving to a corporate career.

The path to McDonald’s began while she was attending a course at Harvard University in the USA. The course, aimed at Women leading business innovation, spurred her desire to return to the business world.  During the trip, an experience at a McDonald’s restaurant in New York further increased this desire, and the McDonald’s franchise model offered a partnership that appealed to her.

Back in South Africa, achieving her dream involved resigning from her corporate job and taking on the McDonald’s nine-month training course that had to be self-funded. “Once I decided to leave the corporate world, I had to commit to completing the training. I reported for work at the designated restaurant and was soon arriving at 6.30 in the morning and leaving after 10.00 at night,” says Ms Moyo.

When it came, the offer to buy a McDonald’s restaurant demanded an additional sacrifice – packing up her family and moving from Gauteng to Amanzimtoti on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast.

“I flew to Durban, looked at the restaurant and relocated,” she says dismissing all the challenges involved in relocating a household and two children.  In February 2012, Ms Moyo became the proud owner of the Amanzimtoti restaurant, and took over ownership of the restaurant in the Galleria just ten months later.

She says that the capital intensive nature of a fast food outlet and the funds required to buy a franchise are some of the major obstacles franchise owners face.  “Being associated with a major brand, having a sound business plan and an obvious passion for the business is what counts when being assessed for finance by a bank,” says Ms Moyo.

Gcina Manyaka, ‘Mama G’ to many people in Soweto, was the first person to bring   McDonald’s fast food to the Gauteng township.

The owner of all five of the McDonald’s restaurants in Soweto, she isn’t content with her achievements yet, but is looking forward to owning eight restaurants before she considers taking a back seat.

It was while studying for an MBA in Australia in 2000 that she fell instantly in love with the brand.  “I was in one of the McDonald’s restaurants and could see the crew in the kitchen having fun doing their jobs. They seemed to be enjoying what they were doing. I knew there and then that this was the type of business I would like to run one day,” says Ms Manyaka.

On her return to South Africa she worked for major companies before quitting her job to venture into the franchising business. Her determination to purchase a McDonald’s restaurant was met with several rebuffs. A year later her persistence paid off. She was accepted to undergo the rigorous on-the-job evaluation programme.

It was in 2006 that she opened her first restaurant at Jabulani Mall.  She was able to open her second restaurant in Maponya Mall just eight months later. The latest three restaurants came almost six years later, two of which were financed by Standard Bank.

Ms Manyaka is pragmatic about raising the money needed to get into business.

“Banks have to be careful when funding businesses and have to look at the track record of the person applying, as well as the brand they have chosen. Once Standard Bank had assessed me and the McDonald’s brand, they were quick to assist. They are still my partners, standing by me as I grow my business holdings.”

Ms Cooper agrees. “The food retail franchise sector can be difficult to break into. Clients have to have the right credentials and the ability to run a successful business. It then becomes easier to look forward and plan for future growth with financial support.”

“Our team assesses prospective franchisees individually to examine whether they have done their homework properly, understand the local environment and are willing to learn. We can then consider a partnership with them as they enter and grow their businesses,” says Ms Cooper.

Editorial submission – Magna Carta

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