Women in Franchising: Four Female Franchisees Behind the Best Fast-Food Chains

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day and female franchise owners who’ve made it big in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Here are four women that are changing the face of franchising in the food sector!

Shannon Helmer – Pita Pit, St. Thomas, Ontario

  1. Why did you decide to invest in a Pita Pit? What about the brand appealed to you the most?

Shannon: My standard answer whenever anyone asks me is always… I ate their once and I was hooked! On top of that, the Pita Pit brand showed me a unique perspective to the customer experience that I had never come across in other fast food establishments and it really intrigued me. They are committed to providing the best quality food and customer service across all their franchised locations.

  1. What were you doing before franchising? Did you always want to open your own business?

Shannon: Prior to investing in my Pita Pit location, I had a 23-year career working as a marketing analyst for a globally recognized manufacturing company. The thought of owning my own business had never crossed my mind until I came across Pita Pit and an opportunity presented itself to open my own location!

  1. What are the benefits of franchising with Pita Pit?

Shannon: The main benefit of being a franchisee with Pita Pit is their head office support. The franchise has a strong support system, training tools, and business coaches who work with you on every aspect of your business. Even more importantly, joining the Pita Pit team feels like you are a part of a family. You are working with other business owners so you never feel alone in your franchising journey.

  1. Why do you think it is important for women to get involved in franchising? As a woman who owns her own business, what are you most proud of?

Shannon: Women compliment the franchise industry in so many ways. We are great communicators, networkers, and organizers. We can approach day to day tasks with direction and focus, not to mention there is a sincere desire to prove that we can be successful as business owners.

As a female entrepreneur, I am most proud of the fact that I was able to create a successful business without sacrificing any part of my personal or professional life. Every aspect of my journey so far has involved my family and the support of the team I work with every day. An equal balance is a recipe for our continued success.

  1. What advice do you have for women who want to buy a franchise?

Shannon: If you find a franchise that inspires you, go for it! Determine the amount of flexibility you have in your personal life to operate the business, set goals for yourself and always dare to dream big!


Catherine Reyes and Imelda M. Reyes, OPA! Of Greece – Calgary, AB

  1. Why did you decide to invest in an OPA!? What about the brand appealed to you the most?

Catherine: We love OPA! and have always been big OPA! fans! That’s first and foremost. But also, it’s a company that had already made its brand known to Canadians. So rather than starting from scratch, we had the opportunity to work with an organization that already had an established reputation and had made a meaningful impact in the marketplace.

Imelda: We used to live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for 13 years and while we were living there we learned to love the taste of Mediterranean food and appreciate the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. When we came here to Canada, every time we ate out we would look for Mediterranean options and when we decided to put up a restaurant, our first choice was OPA! It is the complete package – the taste and quality of the food, presentation to the customers, affordable pricing and its leadership position in the marketplace.

  1. Many people may be hesitant to go into business with family why did you decide to invest in a franchise together?

Catherine: We’ve always known that if we were to go into business, doing it with family would always be our best bet. Knowing how knowledgeable my mom was in business, I knew I could learn a lot from her, and what better way to learn than alongside someone I’ve known and looked up to my whole life. My mom really was the catalyst that got our business venture going.

Imelda: We decided to invest in a franchise as a family because we believe that it is an advantage for us – it allows us to do business and discuss things with transparency. We have each other to rely on and we have the same priorities when it comes to making the business successful because it belongs to our family.

  1. Why do you think it is important for more women to get involved in franchising? As women in business, what are you most proud of?

Imelda: Our society is now so much more welcoming to women into the business world and appreciative of the talent, creativity and business acumen we have to offer. There are so many big opportunities to explore and countless ways to achieve success in any profession, including franchising. Women are being recognized as strong individuals who can stand for themselves because they know what they have to offer and aren’t afraid to pursue big and exciting goals.

Being a woman in business makes us feel fulfilled, confident and secure. I have been able to positively influence and inspire other people, especially my family, friends and peers. I have become stronger and more confident in my abilities as a business owner and am committed to maintaining a positive attitude, knowing that I can meet and overcome whatever challenges may come my way. I am also proud to have the opportunity to work closely with my daughter and see her succeeding in business as well.

  1. What advice do you have for women who want to buy a franchise?

Catherine: As with everything in life, success in franchising will require a lot of your time and hard work, so be ready to commit to your business and take the time to prepare for success by doing your research on the potential business opportunities in front of you. Once you’ve decided, take a chance, be positive, remember why you’re doing it and GO! GO! GO!


Angelee Medeiros, Wendy’s, Ajax – Ontario

  1. Why did you invest in a Wendy’s? What about the brand appealed to you the most?

Angelee: Through school and adulthood, I had always wanted to be in business for myself. I had been a General Manager at my current franchise for a number of years, and had learned all about Wendy’s and business through that experience. Suddenly, I was turning forty and felt that if I didn’t jump into franchising I would never fulfill my personal dream of becoming a business owner. So, I took the leap and became a Wendy’s franchisee.

  1. As a member of the Wendy’s Franchise Advisory Council and Wendy’s Aloha Governance Committee, you already go above and beyond the typical responsibilities of a franchisee. Why was it important for you to get involved with these groups?

Angelee: It is personally important to me to represent my fellow franchisees. I consider myself to be a little unique amongst my peers who sit on the Wendy’s Franchise Advisory Council and Wendy’s Aloha Governance Committee; I am a single-unit owner, a Canadian, and a woman.

These three traits certainly provide a different perspective within these groups. First and foremost, I bring certain experiences that only a single-unit owner can offer. Being hands-on, in the restaurant on a daily basis, provides key insights on how proposed changes may impact operations.

  1. What makes a great leader? What tactics do you implement to become a team leader?

Angelee: A great leader is organized and can prioritize their time well. A great leader recognizes their faults and never blames others for their own blunders. She learns from her mistakes and rises to the occasion when necessary.

To run a successful team, leaders have to admit when they’re wrong; gain trust; and respect amongst their peers and staff. Over everything else, you have to convince yourself that you have the qualifications and capability to lead.

  1. Why do you think it is important for more women to get involved in franchising? As a woman who owns her own business, what are you most proud of?

Angelee: In today’s society, franchising is a man’s world. It’s important for more women to get involved with franchising and make it more representative of the population. Women look at things differently. When I sit in on council meetings, I’m usually the only woman. I bring an entirely different perspective to many topics because I think about it in a different manner. We need more women to use their voice and talk about their perspective of running a business and being a franchisee.

I’m most proud to be a role model for other women in general and young employees who are women. I’m also proud to be a strong role model to my own two daughters. I’m proud to show them what a strong woman can do in a man’s world.

  1. What advice do you have for women who want to buy a franchise?

Angelee: Do your homework, obtain all the information that you can about the business, and get involved with a franchise that shares your values. Remember, it’s your personal wealth, time, sweat, and tears you’re investing, so ensure you’ve done your research and enjoy the type of business you’re considering. Don’t be afraid to jump in. Believe in yourself and start as early in your life as possible.


Amarjot Bhattal, Marble Slab / Poko Popcorn – Calgary, AB

  1. Why did you invest in a Marble Slab/Poko Popcorn franchise?

Amarjot: My mom and I were exploring the franchise as we had seen the need for a premium ice cream brand in a specific location that we were interested in. What sold us on this brand versus the other franchise system was the transparency in all aspects of the business. They wanted us to be a part of their business only when we were ready and confident enough to be involved as franchise partners.

The support from head office is like no other. They truly are invested in your success as a franchisee. It is a system that truly believes in the success of each of their franchisees, equating to the success of the brand. Thus, each team member within the head office goes above and beyond their call of duty in ensuring the needs of franchisees are taken care of immediately.

  1. Many people may be hesitant to go into business with family, why did you decide to invest in a franchise with your mom?

Amarjot: When entering a partnership – it is very important to find like-minded people who are just as passionate, ambitious and result driven as you are. My mother and I often get told that we are a dynamic duo. Her strengths are my weaknesses and vice-versa. She brings tremendous experience with her while I have vast knowledge in many areas that she has not been exposed to during her career. The mixture of these items has allowed us to build a very strong partnership and achieve an even greater vision than what we originally foresaw.

  1. What were you doing before franchising? Did you always want to own your own business?

Amarjot: I was a high school student when my mother and I began to look at prospective businesses to buy. We were a bit hesitant to start a business on our own within the Food Service Industry and thought that a franchise would be the best way to begin. Purchasing a business was more so for her, as she had just left the corporate world to pursue a business – something that had always been a dream of hers. My plan was to be involved part-time within the business while completing university, and then to pursue a career of my own while growing the business in tandem.

Our first location opened in December of 2011, I was in Grade 12 at the time. In 2014 I began to research prospective career opportunities and found the economic state within Alberta had begun to decline rapidly with tremendous job losses. Fortunately, an opportunity arose to takeover an existing Marble Slab Creamery location. I managed this second location for the remainder of university. When I finished, I then decided to only pursue a career with Marble Slab. It has been the best decision in my life and have no regrets looking back today.

  1. Why do you think it is important for more women to get involved in franchising?

Amarjot: Being a business owner comes with flexibility of many kinds which is very important in a woman’s life. Many women want to transition towards entrepreneurial opportunities, being self-employed or opening up their own businesses, however they find themselves unsure of where to begin and how to do it. With set process, procedures and policies in place – a franchise system tells you and teaches you how it works.

Franchising is the perfect opportunity for unsure women to enter in the business world as you are leaning a proven business model and having an experienced franchisor to show you the way. The opportunities are endless, the learning potential is limitless and the growth can be magnanimous.

  1. What advice do you have for women who want to buy a franchise?

Amarjot: The recipe for success in any franchise is composed of many ingredients. First and foremost, it is very important to find the need for a particular product in a certain area. Analyzing the demographics and competition within your area is a key step of the process.

However, a greater part of your success lies within the passion you have for what you are selling. Passion cannot be taught and it definitely cannot be faked. It is what will keep you going through the good times and the bad. Thus, the BEST advice I can give to any woman wanting to purchase any franchise is to learn early on of what you are passionate about. Each business, product, idea or franchise is not for everyone. That is why it is very important to figure out early on of what you truly believe in. Ultimately, your success lies in what you believe in.