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Women's History Month Spotlight: Tara Riley, Fresh Coat President

Riley shared with 1851 Franchise her experience as a woman leader in business, her journey through the franchising world and her passion for the home services industry.

By Luca Piacentini1851 Franchise Managing Editor
SPONSOREDUpdated 3:15PM 03/23/23

Fresh Coat Painters, the leading painting franchise that provides residential and commercial painting services, is celebrating Women's History Month by spotlighting Tara Riley, the company's President. Over the past 30 years, Riley has been a trailblazer in the franchising world, bringing her passion for business and the trades to the forefront. 1851 Franchise spoke with Riley to learn more about her career, her advice for fellow businesswomen and her plan for the future. 

Following the Path That Is Following You

Riley's background in franchising is extensive, having first started her career with a job at McDonald's in high school. “I've been in franchising for my entire life, but it wasn’t intentional at first,” said Riley. “My journey began with a high school job at a McDonald's franchise, which continued into college. At that time, I knew I wanted to be in business but didn't have a specific path in mind. After being promoted at McDonald's, I discovered my passion for business and eventually became the director of operations for a franchisee who owned 12 stores.”

From there, Riley moved on to McDonald's corporate, where she honed her skills in franchise support and business coaching. “This is where my love for franchising truly blossomed,” she said. “Although I spent 20 years with McDonald's, I found that the corporate world led me away from working directly with franchisees and into the more political aspects of a large company.”

Riley’s journey then led her to work with a variety of smaller franchises such as Sport Clips and N-Hance Wood Renewal, ultimately landing at Fresh Coat Painters as President in 2014.

“My mission was to help develop strong business coaching support models for these emerging companies,” said Riley. “What attracted me to the home services sector was its potential for growth — you aren’t confined to the four walls of a physical retail space. In the world of home services, there are no restrictions to productivity, making it an exciting industry to be a part of.”

Learning from the Best

Throughout her career, Riley says she has gathered a wealth of experience and knowledge, which she now uses to improve the lives of Fresh Coat franchisees as Brand President. 

“Every stop I’ve had along the way, I’ve learned something new,” said Riley. “I’ve seen different business models, different franchisors and different skill sets, and as I’ve been going through my career, I have collected all that knowledge.”

Riley's primary advice to others in the industry is to network and engage with the community. She has an MBA and a CFE certification from the International Franchise Association (IFA), and attributes her success to her strong connections and involvement in the franchising world. In fact, those connections are how she first heard about the opportunity to join Fresh Coat. 

“Former colleagues who were familiar with Fresh Coat and my work approached me, which is not unusual in the franchising world,” said Riley. “One of the advantages of being in business and franchising is the importance of staying actively involved in your community. Networking not only benefits your business and personal brand, but it also fosters learning and creates unexpected opportunities. You never know when something new is going to come up.”

An Exciting Opportunity

With a strong passion for painting and home improvement, Fresh Coat proved to be a natural fit for Riley. “The satisfaction of witnessing a project come together and observing how paint and color can rejuvenate a space is incredibly rewarding,” she said. “I am a strong advocate for the trades as a whole.”

For example, over the past 20 years, Riley says there has been a decline in young people entering the trades, leaving a gap in the workforce. That is why she has worked to address this issue through Fresh Coat, which has developed training programs and internships to encourage more people to consider careers in the trades.

“The trades represent an excellent opportunity for earning a great income and supporting family businesses, yet many young people remain hesitant to join the industry,” she said. “But the potential to make money in this field will only continue to grow.”

From a franchising perspective, the scalability of the Fresh Coat business model also excited Riley. “I've always enjoyed setting and surpassing personal records, such as increasing hourly revenue,” she said. “In this industry, there are no limits to growth, allowing for the development of large, successful companies. This potential is what we strive to help our franchise owners achieve, and it's what makes this line of work so fulfilling.”

Women in Business

Riley says she is proud to be a part of an industry — franchising — that has helped several women achieve their goals in business, with Fresh Coat's top franchise owner, Sarah Ross, being a prime example.

“Franchising has significantly contributed to empowering women in business, with many choosing this route,” said Riley. “Despite people often asking what it is like to operate in a male-dominated industry, I don’t really think about it. Being a woman in this sector is a natural fit, especially in the residential domain where most decision-makers are women. This compatibility makes franchising an appealing and rewarding option for aspiring female entrepreneurs.”

When it comes to her advice for others, Riley encourages women to get involved in the community, join local franchise networking chapters and attend IFA events to learn and grow in the industry.

“I’ve learned so much from networking with other people in the industry,” said Riley. “That is where you hear great ideas for how to help franchises grow.”

For those considering Fresh Coat specifically, Riley suggests asking three key questions: “Are you ready to own your own business? Do you like this industry? And, do you want to scale? If the answer to all three is yes, then Fresh Coat may be the right fit,” she said.

Looking to the Future

In her role as Brand President, Riley says her long-term goal is to build Fresh Coat into an iconic brand. “As we welcome new franchise owners, they also strive to become iconic within their community and market,” she said. “By attracting more owners who share the vision of becoming known, trusted and loved, we ensure that customers are well-cared for in their community. This approach ultimately contributes to the growth and success of the brand.”

In the short term, Riley aims to help existing owners scale and grow the system to over 250 units in the next few years. She is also focused on leveraging technology to give franchise owners a competitive advantage and improve their businesses' efficiency.

Overall, when it comes to what she has learned in her career, Riley's message to anyone in business is simple: Don’t get in your own way and try to be comfortable in your own skin. 

“The key to effective leadership, whether you're a man or a woman, is to assemble a team of the smartest people in the room,” said Riley. “Focus on treating everyone as equals and lead by surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you, and your business will grow and thrive.” 

The total investment required to start a Fresh Coat franchise ranges from $53,850 to $76,750, including the $44,900 franchise fee. For more information, visit

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.