By Damon Dunn / For the herald
I grew up in a family of 10 in a three bedroom trailer. In my predominantly African-American community, I never knew anyone who owned a business. But as I got older, I was fortunate to build relationships with mentors who taught me how to create my own opportunities through franchise business ownership. Today, I operate coffee and bakery franchises in six states.
My story is not unknown. While women and people of color are vastly underrepresented in the business world, we represent more than a quarter of franchisees. This is because the barriers to entry are lower when opening a business under an established brand. Franchises provide access to capital, training, management assistance and supply chain savings, which helps minority entrepreneurs overcome discrimination and other challenges.
That’s why it worries me to see progressive champions like Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who I know has good intentions, making it harder for people like me to own and operate a franchise. She’s chair of the powerful Senate committee that oversees labor policy, and she uses that perch to push bills like the PRO Lawwho many see as the upcoming grim reaper for local franchise owners.
I’m a proud business owner, pure and simple; yet the PRO law would class me as an “employee” of my brand. It’s an insult to any franchise entrepreneur like me. It would also classify all of my employees as their employees, preventing me from setting policies for them that I know are right. It would erode the trust I have built with my workers and put their working lives in the hands of people they have never met.
The PRO law would also make franchising much less attractive to brands. By forcing them to meet strict labor requirements and offering huge benefits to hourly workers, it would increase their costs to the point where they simply could not afford to open new sites. Equally serious, it would force them to raise prices so much that existing establishments like mine would quickly lose customers. There aren’t many people who are willing to pay for their coffee and donuts, especially in the midst of inflation.
It would cost countless jobs across the state. In every restaurant I own, I create more than a dozen jobs, and that’s in addition to the downstream supplier jobs supported by my sites. Altogether, Washington franchise locations employ more than 150,000 people.
I share Senator Murray’s passion for helping workers prosper; but like other franchise owners, I don’t need Washington, DC to tell me how to take care of my people. I care for them because it’s the right thing to do, not to mention the only way to attract the best workers in a tight labor market. Senator Murray has good intentions, but she is too far from the front lines to see the real effects of her policy. They would hurt the very people they aim to help.
Today, in addition to running my businesses and supporting my employees, my passion is helping young minority students see the potential they have to be independent, own their own business and earn more. for their family. Franchising is one of the most powerful ways to do this. Teenagers I work with are often surprised to learn that black-owned franchises earn on average more than twice as much as other black-owned businesses.
I also remind them that franchises don’t just include McDonald’s and other big name brands. In fact, only a quarter of franchisees are quick service restaurants. The remaining three-quarters cover industries such as child care, home renovation, fitness services and hair salons. Whatever you want to do, there’s a franchise for you.
Supporting this all-American business model is a powerful way to encourage higher rates of entrepreneurship among people of color, women, and other underrepresented groups, ultimately empowering these Americans to give back to their communities and to uplift others.
Senator Murray’s policies would make it more difficult to own and operate a franchise business, and they could very well blow out the franchise candle altogether. That’s why I think we need new leadership that will support business-friendly policies, especially those that support that ultimate opportunity generator: the franchise business model.
Damon Dunn is a resident of Gig Habor and owner of franchises in six states.