GayFranchise.com promotes lucrative niche
GayFranchise.com Co-Founders, Michael Lamb left, and Grant Courtney. Lamb is also the editor of an online business magazine for gays, Echelon.
The term “girlfriend,” as defined by Jennifer Jackenthal, president and co-founder of My Girlfriend’s Kitchen, means plucky, fun and business savvy. So when she says her franchise is advertising on GayFranchise.com because she’s looking for more girlfriends, she means that in the most politically correct sense of the word.
“We have some gay owners and they’re fabulous. We enjoy working with them,” she says. “These guys are girlfriends and that’s what we’re looking for.”
The other reason Jackenthal decided to advertise on GayFranchise.com is that with online franchise search Web sites so prolific, not to mention so many new concepts coming onto the market, “everything gets lost in the shuffle,” she says. “We don’t want quantity, we want quality.”
Jackenthal likes the fact that right now GayFranchise.com, which launched in March, is relatively smaller than mainstream sites. Michael Lamb, co-founder of the site with Grant Courtney, however, has big plans to beef up his offerings, adding an off-line directory plus a trade show scheduled for October of this year.
The gay and lesbian market isn’t one that can be ignored, Lamb claims. There are more than 800,000 gay and lesbian entrepreneurs, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and research firm Packaged Facts projects that the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) community will have purchasing power of $835 billion by 2011.
Particularly notable to the franchise community is that gays are twice as likely as the general population to be professionals or managers, and also are more likely to have graduated from college, according to GayFranchise.com statistics. Plus they are loyal to companies that support their community. And, better yet, they are risk-takers.
“It’s a second coming out,” Lamb says. “It’s hard enough in your personal life, but when you come out in the workplace it affects your finances.”
Knowing a franchisor is accepting of diversity is something that’s welcomed by the gay community, he contends. “You’re much more productive at work if you’re out…if you can have a picture of your boyfriend on the your desk and you can talk about what you did over the weekend. Lying is mind-intensive,” he says.
| Buying power of|
gays and lesbians:
• Average household income of more than $85,400
• 800,000 are entrepreneurial
• Purchase from companies/brands that advertise with or support their community
This isn’t the first time someone has tried to galvanize the gay franchise community. In January 1996, Thomas Cutler formed the Gay & Lesbian Franchisee Association in an attempt to compile a directory of gay-friendly franchises. It had 127 members at the time, but quickly disappeared.
Lamb says they’re not interested in forming an association, but rather in providing franchisors with quality leads from the gay community.
Since the site is relatively new, Roy Billesbach, director of franchise development for V2K Window Décor & More, says it’s too soon to judge the results, but said the staff at the Internet site are “more responsive than other advertising venues we use.” V2K, a home-based decorating business with185 locations in the U.S. and Canada, is also a premier sponsor of the GayFranchise.com’s one-day franchise expo and conference, which will be held at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood on October 17.
The reception by franchisors has for the most part been positive, Lamb says, although it swings between “Yes, I’ve been looking for this,” to “Hell, no,” and a hang up. Usually, if the franchisor doesn’t come on board, it’s for other reasons, such as budget, not discrimination, he adds.
The founders are recruiting traffic to their site through membership in the numerous gay chambers of commerce throughout the United States; through gay pride events; the company’s online business magazine, Echelon; and also by advertising on the International Franchise Association’s Smart Brief, Lamb says.
To date they have about 20 companies on their site, which Lamb refers to as a “humble beginning.” But, he’s confident there’s an audience for what they’re offering. “We didn’t think we’d get auto (franchises to advertise), but we did,” he says. “The more creative-based franchisors are interested.