In the past, owning a franchise opportunity was limited to a very small group of business owners. However, increasingly franchisors are opening up their doors to minorities and women, as well as pushing assistance to veterans.

Now, the International Franchise Association has announced that it will be targeting a new group of prospective owners: professional athletes. The IFA is partnering with the Professional Athlete Franchise Initiative in order to increase the athlete community's involvement with franchising through education, research and interaction, a statement from the IFA explained.

"PAFI's mission to educate athletes about [the] value of franchise ownership as a second career supports IFA's mission to raise the awareness of franchise ownership for all individuals as part of our strategic plan," said IFA President and CEO Steve Caldeira.

The new initiative was announced in advance of the 2011 PAFI Franchise Summit to be held July 10-12 in Atlanta, Georgia. For many athletes, the summit serves as an introduction to the world of franchising through seminars that help athletes transition into franchisees.

"Professional athletes are strong leaders on the field who understand the importance of working as a team and as part of a system to achieve success – many of the same characteristics of successful franchise systems," Caldeira added.

Furthermore, the summit helps prepare franchisors to work with former professional athletes, including getting them involved with franchise growth initiatives. This year, the summit will also address several new areas such as developing mentorships between successful multi-unit athlete franchisees and prospective franchisees. Additionally, the summit will look at how to create hands-on opportunities for interested athletes to understand what it means to run a franchise unit.

The IFA is not the only group looking to increase the number of professional athletes investing in franchise units, though. PAFI is building relationships with numerous sports agencies to assist in helping athletes move into a second career outside the sports arena.

"As a professional athlete your biggest fears and frustrations begin to develop when you began to realize that injures or age are beginning to limit your ability to continue playing the game," former NFL player Michael Stone told PAFI. "In many cases we turn to our representation looking for thoughts and ideas on what we can do with the rest of our earning years."

To this end, the organization developed its PAFI Advocate Sports Agent Program to offer resources and assistance in career transition.

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