During the past several decades, franchise opportunities have seen a new segment of owners emerge alongside the economic power of minorities. As the percentage of African Americans, Hispanics and Asians owning a franchise in America has grown steadily, a "new majority" has emerged, according to Franchising.com.

With a new population of owners, comes new markets and customers, along with a host of business roles, such as chief diversity officer or diversity/inclusion manager. Shifting demographics offer businesses a golden opportunity to embrace the future while boosting their bottom line.

In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, minority-owned businesses have been on the rise since the early 1980s. Between 1982 and 2002, the percentage of minority-owned businesses rose by 18 percent, writes the Web site. Even more recently, the Census Bureau reported that this statistic rose by nearly half - 45.6 percent - between 2002 and 2007, and these numbers are expected to be even higher when the agency releases the results of its 2010 Census.

As these numbers have increased, franchisors have begun to implement minority recruiting and training programs - and not in an effort to be "PC," says Franchising.com.

"It's good business and they know it. Discounts on franchise fees and royalties, and payment plans to make entrée easier for minorities, are not unusual at many franchise companies. And it's no secret that customers like to shop where people are more like them, and the same holds true for employees," explains the Web site.

The International Franchising Association has introduced several initiatives to cater to this new segment of business owners and make it easier for minorities to enter franchising. For example, in 2006, it launched the MinorityFran program that seeks to "not only increase the numbers of minority franchisees, but to send a message to all communities that franchising is a smart and affordable way to realize the American Dream of small-business ownership."

As a result of a study the association undertook to understand the barriers keeping minorities from becoming franchise owners, the IFA identified three "gaps": an informational gap, a relational gap and a capital gap. To address these issues, the IFA launched a program, in partnership with local and national business groups, to hold one-day meetings in cities nationwide.

The United States Small Business Association also offers a variety of resources for minorities seeking to enter the business world, including the HUBZone program, the Minority Business Development Agency and the Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference. 

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