ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Leslie Gay's career took a twist more than 10 years ago after taking an art class.
"I said there's so many people like me that just need that creative outlet but we don't have time or we don't know how to do it ourselves," said Gay.
She liked the class so much, she decided to become a franchise owner of Painting with a Twist.
"We're actually the first of the Painting with a Twist franchises. We've watched it grow up over 10 years and expand across the country," said Gay.
For former graphic designer Meghan Skelly, being a franchise owner in the AR Workshop has been a perfect blend of her artistic and business skills.
"There's a 160 locations and it's all women-owned which is amazing," said Skelly.
Women are soaring in the franchising business. One study finds that more than 40% of new franchise outlets have been owned or co-owned by women. That reflects growth in the corporate world.
"Maybe ladies have been kind of feeling as though they haven't been recognized for a long time so opportunities like this can really allow them to kind of shine and show everyone what they can do," said Skelly.
These business leaders said for them, franchising has been a good stepping stone into ownership.
"Even though we still have some things that we have to follow franchise-wide, you still are operating your own business and have an income for you. It's like setting up your own job," said Gay.
Gay and Skelly have learned how to pivot their businesses during the pandemic by offering take-home kits and socially-distanced classes.
"I just feel like there's so many women who want to own a business, whether it's something small or something large like everyone has a dream to do something," said Skelly.