When Cendant, the world's largest franchise company, purchased Century 21 in 1996, the company hired Mr. Parraga to sell master franchises for Century 21 around the world. He is now in charge of international franchising for five Cendant brands – Century 21, ERA, Coldwell Banker Residential, Coldwell Banker Commercial, and Sotheby's, and is responsible for 4,800 franchises with over 35,000 brokers in 64 countries.
"Franchising provides a tremendous opportunity," Mr. Parraga says. "Hispanics who know Spanish and want to work internationally can thrive here."
But increasingly, franchise companies interested in expanding into Hispanic neighborhoods and recruiting Hispanic franchisees and executives are launching aggressive outreach programs.
Nearly 600 franchisors now support the National Minority Franchising Initiative, a consortium dedicated to eliminating what it calls an "unacceptable gap" between minority populations and franchise ownership.
The consortium (www.minorityfranchising.com) lists minority franchising seminars, held frequently around the country, and provides lists of franchise "how to" publications, including the "Minority Franchise Guide."
The International Franchise Association's expos include minority franchising workshops, and its annual convention March 6-9 includes events geared to prospective franchisees and minorities. The association's Educational Foundation and the Association of Small Business Development Centers also have launched a Minority Technical Assistance Program to increase the number of minority franchisees.
Individually, franchisors also are reaching out. McDonald's has long-fostered a support network and franchising system for Hispanic franchisees. Hotel franchises including Cendant (Travelodge, Ramada, Days Inn and others) Accor (Red Roof Inn, Motel 6) and Choice Hotels (Comfort Inn, Econo Lodge) provide incentives such as forgivable loans to qualified minorities.
Meanwhile, the Franchise Partnership in Chicago seeks to connect aspiring minority entrepreneurs with franchisors and help finance the deals. Founded five years ago, the program enlisted 16 franchise companies including Carvel Ice Cream, Dunkin' Donuts, PostNet, Sign-a-Rama, and Fantastic Sam's hair salons. Story continues below >>>>
From Cars to Burgers to Hotels
Franchising opportunities impress persistent entrepreneur.
Arturo Alvarez's entrepreneurial spirit blossomed when he was a teenager in Mexico City and had a pet lion. "My parents said they'd kick me out of the house if I didn't sell it," he says. "I ran an ad, but nobody wanted to buy it." He then offered to trade his lion but received only offers for "crocodiles and boa constrictors" until a man offered to trade for a factory full of unassembled toys.
Mr. Alvarez and his friends put the toys together, sold them at subway stations just before Christmas, and vacationed in Acapulco on the proceeds. Procter & Gamble recruited the enterprising young man right out of school at the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey, but he quit after eight months for another venture – selling used rental cars that government agencies had returned to the Volkswagen dealership his father managed. When he ran out of cars, he had enough knowledge and money to start a body shop.
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