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Franchises a key to African American small business success



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In 2009, Michelle Lewis visited a Painting with a Twist franchise.

She took a bottle of wine with her to the New Orleans-based studio where she sipped and socialized while painting a mural of two martini glasses. The experience left a lasting impression. A year later she bought a franchise and opened a sip-and-paint store near her hometown of Detroit.

“I never considered myself to be a go-getter type of person,” said Lewis,49, who quit her full-time job as an architect. “I thought a business owner had to have a stereotyped personality. I thought I’d stick with the small stuff. But for me, it became bigger than the small stuff.” 

Lewis went on to open two more locations in Michigan, partnering with her older sister, Donna Lewis, 55, to open one in downtown Detroit. They now oversee 30 employees, some of whom are other family members.

“Being successful at this business has given me a different state of mind,” the younger sister said. “I now know that I can do other businesses and I will.”

Michelle Lewis (left) and Donna Lewis (Right) jointly opened up a Painting With a Twist franchise in Detroit.

Black entrepreneurs have thrived in franchising for years and are choosing this route over founding traditional small businesses at a faster rate than the broader population. Government data show a substantial jump in the number of black-owned businesses from 2007 to 2012, from 1.9 million to 2.6 million. Statistics also show that 30.8% of franchise businesses were owned by minorities, while non-franchised businesses have nearly 19% minority ownership. 



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