Women's Franchise Network chapters offer benefits: local networking and educational events offer "bonding" opportunities for like-minded women in franchising.

Author:Brody, Mary Beth

We are in a time of remarkable change, some of it historical in scope and nature. But there are changes all around us that can have remarkable impact on our lives and businesses, most of which are done in small and modest ways. This is what has been happening since 2002 when the Women's Franchise Committee launched its Women's Franchise Network and helped the women of Denver establish the first local chapter. Since then, the number of local chapters has climbed to 16 with more in the planning stages. Even more importantly than the sheer number of chapters is the role these local chapters have played in the lives of women in franchising across the country.

A task force of WFC members oversees the network whose chapters operate independently and differ in the types of programs and events they hold. Most chapters meet quarterly; the format varies depending upon the topic (speaker, panel discussion, round tables) and the programming has been exceptional and well-received, featuring such varied topics as time management, financial planning, public speaking, life-balance strategies, conflict resolution, mentoring, health and wellness and market trends, in addition to a wide array of franchise-specific topics.

Jennifer Wisniewski, general counsel of The Alternative Board and co-chairwoman of the Denver network with LaShelle Fuller-Chapman, vice president of franchise support of Homewatch International, describes their goal as "creating an inclusive group for women that not only promotes franchising, but offers education and support to business women in a general sense."


Debra Vilchis, chief operating officer of Fishman Public Relations, has served as one of the co-chairs of the Chicago chapter and has been active in that chapter since it was formed in 2003. Vilchis says, "We've had so many different kinds of events over the years at the Chicago chapter, each with a different flavor. Some of them have been formal, with expert panelists weighing in on topics such as franchisee relations, mentoring programs and effective marketing. Everyone took away valuable knowledge. I remember one event where we had an author come in who wrote a book about Scarlet O'Hara. Each table was assigned to come up with different qualities that Scarlet had that would make her successful in today's business world, particularly franchising. I remember thinking at the time how wonderful it was to be having such an intriguing conversation with a group...

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