bannerPeople Spotlight

2024’s Top Women in Franchising: Ali Kraus

Each year, 1851 Franchise does a roundup of the most influential and successful women in the franchising industry. In this installment, we speak with Ali Kraus, vice president of marketing for Benetrends Financial.

By Victoria CampisiStaff Writer
Updated 9:09AM 03/21/24

The Franchise Leader: Ali Kraus

The Company: Benetrends Financial

1851 Franchise talked with Ali Kraus, vice president of marketing for Benetrends Financial, about her journey in franchising, her accomplishments in the industry, and the strategies she suggests for franchisors looking to empower and support female franchisees this year.

1851: Can you share your journey to becoming a leader in franchising?

Kraus: My journey to the franchising world is one for the books. It kicked off in 2018 when I swapped lesson plans for business strategies, leaving my special education teaching gig to join the exciting world of Celebree School. It was all about juggling events for the school directors and franchisees, really getting my hands dirty with the marketing squad. I learned how to rebrand a business that had been around for many years, how to build an FDD [Franchise Disclosure Document], how to launch a franchise business and how to work on a team of talented marketers. Then, bam! Along comes COVID, and I’m brewing a baby while stuck at home, dreaming up big plans. Once the world kind of found its feet again, I dove into franchise development and found a passion for franchise development marketing.

In 2021, I was honored to accept a new job at Entrepreneur magazine, stepping up as the director of franchise marketing. Whoa, was I in awe of the talented brains behind the Franchise 500 there! It was so cool to learn about digital advertising, learn about all the industries and brands in the magazine, and be part of some insanely cool initiatives with the franchise industry. Fast forward to the summer of 2022 and I’m marching into Benetrends as a team of one on the marketing team. But today, I am proud to announce that our Benetrends marketing team is a team of four, and it’s been a blast. Together we’ve made a 40+ year old brand fun, we’ve redefined our why, and we’ve made some serious noise in franchise funding.

1851: What are the unique challenges and opportunities for women in franchising?

Kraus: The landscape has been shifting faster every year. Even just a couple of years back, who would’ve thought we’d see this surge of women storming the gates in what used to be the male-dominated industries like home services, the auto industry, and even finance? One of the coolest parts about working at Benetrends is the diversity here! Our entire staff is about 60% women! But here’s the scoop — it’s not just about filling seats at the table anymore. Women are carving out their own pathways in franchising and being recognized for their hard work and dedication along the way. From awards recognizing women like this very one by 1851 Franchise, podcasts like “Her Success” and “The Franchise Woman Podcast” are recognizing strong women in franchising and telling their stories every day.

And we can’t forget about networking groups — the Women’s Franchise Committee, the International Franchise Association, and all those local Women’s Franchise Networks. They’re like the secret sauce, giving ladies the boost to vault over hurdles and grab opportunities that might have seemed like a dream away years ago. These groups are providing resources for women in business, networking opportunities and even jobs! Challenges are definitely part of the gig. But opportunities? They’re there for the taking. Get out there and learn, network, build and grow — because there will be an army of support women right next to you.

1851: How do you define success in your role?

Kraus: Success for me is deeply intertwined with the growth and achievements of my team. There’s an incomparable sense of fulfillment that comes from witnessing team members hit their stride — whether it’s learning a new skill, independently managing a project, or confidently delivering their first presentation. Recently, I had the privilege of watching one of my team members present to our sales team for the first time. The sense of pride and accomplishment I felt in that moment underscored my belief that my success is a reflection of theirs.

1851: What advice would you give to franchisors looking to support and empower female franchisees?

Kraus: In the world of franchising, empowering female franchisees is vital. My advice to franchisors is straightforward — arm these women with the essential tools and resources they need to thrive. This means facilitating connections with their local Women’s Franchise Network and encouraging participation in the local Chamber of Commerce.

It’s also so important to integrate these franchisees into the broader franchise community. Bring them into the fold of franchise events hosted by the International Franchise Association. Emphasize the importance of involvement and the collective advocacy for franchising rights and opportunities. Participation in events like the Franchise Action Network’s annual walk on Capitol Hill is not just a show of support for women in business, but a powerful statement of solidarity.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to expose franchisees to other brands. It’s a gesture that speaks volumes about your confidence in the relationship. It can actually strengthen bonds and build a community that’s robust, supportive and ultimately more successful.

1851: What advice do you have for any women aiming to enter the franchise industry?

Kraus: For women eyeing the franchise industry, my advice is simple — network, network, network. Immerse yourself in as many relevant circles as you can. Explore diverse opportunities. Embrace the events, the workshops, the seminars. Say “yes” to new experiences, and “yes” to invitations that might lead you to valuable connections and insights.

1851: Is there anything else you think our audience should know?

Kraus: Authenticity in business is your greatest asset, even though it took me a while to embrace that. As someone who shifted to a new career path later in life, I struggled (quietly) with my identity in the franchising world. There were moments of self-doubt, questioning whether I belonged without a formal marketing degree, and so on.

But here’s the thing — I learned that my unique perspective was exactly what made me stand out. Embracing who I am, leveraging my experiences and staying true to myself — that’s when everything clicked. It’s when I started to see real growth, not just in my career but in the joy and

fulfillment I found from my work. And the connections I’ve made have become one of the most enjoyable and cherished parts of my life. So, to anyone reading this, remember that your individuality is not just important, it’s your superpower.