Still, while statistics are elusive because most of the country's 2,200 franchisors don't track their franchisees by race or ethnicity, experts say Hispanics and other minorities are participating in this thriving business sector in fewer numbers than might be expected.
C. Everett Wallace, chairman of the International Franchise Association's Minorities in Franchising Steering Committee, estimates 6 percent to 9 percent of the country's franchised businesses are owned by Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans combined.
Industry experts differ on why the numbers are low. Some blame cultural bias; others see an uneven playing field. Some say the cost to open a franchise – anywhere from about $30,000 for a maid service, to millions of dollars to build and open a full-service restaurant – is prohibitive. And still others say franchisors need to do more to reach out.
"It's a marketing issue," says Mauricio Velasquez, CEO of the Diversity Training Group of Herndon, Virginia, a company that offers online courses about diversity to IFA members. "Franchise systems have done a poor job in reaching out to Hispanic markets. When franchisors complain that they can't find Hispanic candidates, I ask if they've attended conferences of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce or the National Council of La Raza. They don't even know those organizations exist."
Grounded in His Roots An Ecuadoran immigrant who left Wall Street finds himself in charge of international franchising for a real estate giant. He credits a multi-cultural background.
Looking back on his rise to the upper echelons of international franchising, Javier Parraga now sees the value of growing up one of seven bilingual children transplanted to the Eastern United States from Ecuador.
"My success in the international arena is directly attributed to my not being born here," says Mr. Parraga, now senior vice president of international development for the New Jersey-based Cendant Real Estate Franchise Group. "Culturally, I can relate to people around the world and they seem to warm up to me faster. I'm very comfortable in an environment where other languages are spoken.
"When visiting a Century 21 office in Tokyo a few years ago, I was having a difficult time communicating with one executive. When I told him I was born in Ecuador, he started speaking to me in perfect Spanish. He'd spent 10 years in Venezuela and said it's easier for Japanese to learn Spanish than English."
Mr. Parraga was the first of his family to attend college, graduating cum laude from the University of Maryland with a degree in accounting. He worked for the accounting firm Coopers and Lybrand, then moved to Wall Street, where he was the youngest vice president of a large retail brokerage.
"But I burned out on that 14-hour day, six-days-a-week life," he says. He joined a Century 21 real estate master franchise and started making sales pitches to independent real estate brokers from Virginia to Delaware on the idea of converting into franchises. "My background wasn't a driving force. I dealt equally with whites, Hispanics and African Americans, just as long as they were successful," he says.
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