Over the past decade the number of women running their own convenience store has been rising, but that growth has been slow. Currently only a third of owners are women, although females make up nearly three quarters of the work force.
Why are women seemingly missing out on these top jobs? How hard is it for them to take ownership of their own retail business and start to shift the gender bias which has been the status quo for so long?
One Stop franchisee, Sereena Khan is no stranger to decision making, organising staff and multi-tasking with confidence! In her former work life Sereena was a Teacher for 20 years and an Assistant Headteacher for 5 years, a job she was both successful in and passionate about.
Sereena admits she was looking for a change and also wanted something to hand down to her three children. She has now opened three stores from cold starts and has created a thriving multi-site convenience retail business, in just two years.
This path happened more by chance for Sereena when her family were on holiday in Barcelona and a store – which was already in the wider family – became the ‘change’ she was looking for. Sereena took over the shop and grew it successfully, but a return to the UK beckoned. She explains: “I didn’t have any experience of retailing in the UK but once I met with One Stop, I quickly realised how much support was available.
“From day one to now their help has been immense. One Stop start their partnership with a £50,000 refit and the whole team have been excellent. They stayed with us until we were completely comfortable with how everything worked and training was to a high standard.”
John Miller, Head of One Stop Franchise explains: “More women want to work and carve out top jobs for themselves and have the same opportunities as men. At One Stop our female franchisees are a powerhouse who are skilled leaders and decision makers, bringing different perspectives and values and enhancing our business.
“Our systems and processes have been designed to allow for greater flexibility so Sereena can see how her stores are performing online, at any given time. Franchising is the perfect way to go into business with a strong support network to help and assist at every stage.”
Sereena is one of a growing army of successful female entrepreneurs who are realising the exciting prospects available for women in the retail industry. Many join without a huge level of retail experience but have a range of transferable skills and many are natural multi-taskers. With franchising being such a multi-faceted role, the ability to switch and change is a crucial requisite.
Explaining her journey into One Stop Franchise, Sereena said: “My first store was in Rishton which was slow to start with but the whole team at One Stop showed me how to build sales with promotional incentives and strategies to make the store look really strong. The sales then just built, week on week.”
From a single One Stop store in the UK, Sereena took on two more cold starts in quick succession and as the support increased, so did her confidence! So much so that Sereena is now looking to open a fourth franchise explaining: “It’s a struggle to go wrong with One Stop. They lead you and help you to do the right thing, without taking away any of your autonomy. From the smallest question which might seem ‘silly’, nothing is too much trouble.
“I now have more time to spend with my family as I don’t need to physically be in the stores. The EPOS system is brilliant and allows me to run multiple sites from home. With my youngest only being 12, this really helps me keep the right balance.”
Whilst Sereena makes it sound relatively easy opening multiple stores so quickly, but she admits it’s ‘hard graft’ as you have to do things properly and get the right staff and management in place. Customers also want to see you have a passion for the store and are available to get to know them personally.
“I don’t know many women who run their own franchises,” explains Sereena. “It still feels very much like a man’s world, but there are so many opportunities and such a lot of support, you just need the belief you can do it. I’ve given this my all.
“I receive daily emails from One Stop with information and there is a franchise helpline I can call. We don’t have to think about anything in the stores as everything is done for us.”
Explaining what makes her such a positive role model for other female entrepreneurs, John Miller concludes: “Sereena has all the qualities we look for in a franchisee. She is a strong and influential leader who can delegate, whilst always providing encouragement and praise to motivate her team. Her customers are at the heart of what she does.
“Much of this was developed in Sereena’s previous career but we see many of the same qualities in our other female franchisees. For many, they have had to work harder to get to where they are which shows there is an imbalance which we are striving to address.”