If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know I have been with the company a few years—a few years being…mmm…a lot. My first event soon after I joined was our Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, where restaurant operators gather with lenders and other dealmakers. I was, literally, one of the only women in the room. Couple that with my age—I was young—and it was intimidating.

Fast forward 30 years later, and I am by no means one of the only women in the room. The group itself has gotten larger, sure, but the women in executive roles at restaurant companies, franchise businesses and in finance have increased as well.

Still, there is work to be done getting minorities and women in leadership positions and as business owners in franchising. Take the subjects of our cover story this month: Jessica Myers and Davonne Reaves, at age 34, are the youngest Black franchisees of a major hotel franchise.

Reaves started out in the hotel industry as a front desk agent at Hyatt Regency Atlanta and came into contact with “a lot of hotel owners in my day, but one thing I did not see was owners who looked like me,” she tells FT Reporter Callie Evergreen.

She and Myers joined forces, and “had to create a path for themselves,” Callie writes. Today, they own Epiq Collective, which since its founding in 2019 has acquired more than $14 million in commercial real estate. They have taken leadership roles with franchisee associations, working to increase minority owners in the hospitality industry. Plus, they know a thing or two about raising capital, which is helping to propel their growth.

Their story is a part of a larger conversation we are having this month about opportunities, and barriers, for minorities in executive leadership roles in franchising, as well as franchise ownership. As Callie reports, some companies have been making efforts in this area for years, but numbers aren’t readily available to see what type of progress has been made.

Beverly Stallings-Johnson, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Wendy’s, tells Callie she joined the company to continue what the management team had set in motion earlier. “…the demographics and consumers are changing and we’re in tune with where they are headed. The talent of the future is evolving and it’s diverse, and we have to be inclusive,” she says. Sounds like inclusion is not only fair and right, but it is good business, too.

Speaking of good business, you’ll want to read Restaurants Reporter Nick Upton’s conversation with Aaron Anderson, franchisee of Original Hot Dog Factory and Rita’s Italian Ice shops in Philadelphia. Even though finding employees in the current market is difficult, it is good business “to take your time and vet your employees, you want them to be with you long term if you can help it.” Plus, he tells Nick, don’t always start from scratch: Find another franchisee interested in selling. “You’re putting up less money…you’ll open much quicker.” It’s advice from someone who’s in the trenches himself.

You also won’t want to miss out on our sandwich focus this month, with coverage on the 800-pound gorilla, Jimmy John’s, to upstarts like Ike’s Love & Sandwiches. Plus, we have advice on things like the growing problem of credit card chargebacks and how to take problems and make them into selling points.

And finally, don’t miss reading about a certain someone (on page 16, everyone) who is near and dear to my heart, and recently retired from Franchise Times Corp. Her adventures were our adventures, as they spilled onto the pages of FT, and we couldn’t be more grateful that she chose to share them with us. Those years, they went by quickly. Maybe too much so.

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