This Entrepreneur Is on a Mission to Eradicate Generational Poverty in the Black Community — And She's Using Franchising to Do It.

Franchising boasts global brands and widespread recognition, but in many industries, there is a lack of diversity at the ownership level. That’s where Tarji Carter comes in. She’s educating anyone who will listen that franchising is a way to eradicate generational poverty — and build generational wealth — in the Black community.

“I’m not here to beat the drum of ‘Mr. Corporation, you need to diversify.’ I take my time, my resources, to bring it to the community — this is franchising, the opportunities and here’s how you deal with your eyes wide open,” Carter says. “I don’t go around the country preaching that diversity is a great thing [anymore] because anyone with a brain agrees that it’s a great thing. Businesses that invest in diversity do better, plain and simple.

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now and take this quiz to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

Learning the franchise business

Carter spent 15 years working for some of the world’s biggest brands, including Wingstop, Edible and Bojangles. In 2017, she launched Guest First Services, a consulting firm specializing in coaching and counseling for individuals looking to become franchise owners.

However, as her career progressed, she realized that there was a lack of diversity at the franchise ownership level. According to a Lending Tree study, Black franchise ownership contracted by more than 18% from 2014 to 2020.

She’s also out to prove an old stereotype wrong. “Just because a community is predominantly African American doesn’t mean that everybody in the community is poor, uneducated or doesn’t have the resources to be a franchisee,” Carter says, “because that seems to be the messaging — that it’s hard to find qualified African American franchisees.”

The Franchise Player

Carter was working on a franchising initiative backed by PepsiCo when the program ended in October 2022. “It prompted me to start The Franchise Player [in January 2023],” she says. We provide education, opportunity and resources to the African American community about franchising.

The Franchise Player’s playbook helps potential franchisees decide if the industry is a good fit. Then, Carter’s organization helps them to identify brands and opportunities that make the most sense based on their background and qualifications.

Related: From Coding to Creole Cooking — Here Are 5 Inspiring Success Stories of Black-Owned Businesses

More employee than consultant

Adrian Archie started his petNmind pet supply business about 10 years ago and decided to franchise in 2020. In 2021, he contacted Carter for help. Archie had sales experience, but the franchising process seemed daunting. “I jumped into franchising thinking it would just be an easy transition,” he says. “I know my business, and people wanted the franchise. But I quickly realized the franchise industry is a completely different industry within itself, no matter what the concept is.”

Archie says Carter has been instrumental in helping him get his franchise, which now has three locations and plans for more, off the ground. “She came into the business and immediately perfected my sales process,” he adds.

Although this might be typical of a good consultant, there was more to Carter’s approach that impressed Archie. “What’s most uncommon with Tarji is that she cares about how she’s treating your business,” he says. “You would think she’s an employee, not just a consultant.”

Giving back to the community

Like most Americans who grew up from the 1970s to today, Carter has fond memories of visiting McDonald’s. “Growing up in the inner city of Roxbury, Massachusetts, I would frequent all these places, specifically McDonald’s,” she says. “I love it and have since I was a child. I have memories of my dad and my family there.

Her father was an intelligent man but never mentioned anything about franchising to Carter. “I found that odd because if it was something that had reached him, he would have shared that with me,” she says. “It pains me to see that a lot of businesses flourish in the African American community and don’t necessarily give back. They hire from the community, but how are they giving back to the community?”

Related: How Rap Icon Jadakiss Is Using Coffee to Build Black Generational Wealth

The Franchise Game

In September 2023, Carter launched The Franchise Game, the first-ever African American franchise symposium and trade show in the country, held at Yum! Brands’ corporate office in Plano, Texas. The event was so successful it will be held again this August at Yum!’s Plano campus.

The event drew more than 150 people who watched panels with top franchise players. “We had retired NFL player Damon Dunn, who’s an African American franchisee with Dunkin’ that I brought into the system,” Carter says. “He had no restaurant experience, but he’s a Stanford grad and has done very well.”

Carter says the biggest benefit from the gathering was learning from some veterans who have worked in franchising, operations, real estate and design.

An untapped audience

Carter has also started sharing her message with a younger audience. “I ended last year speaking to a couple of different types of classes at Morehouse College about franchising,” she says. “These students hadn’t considered franchising; they were all about startups.”

Following her recent talk at Morehouse, several students approached her and thanked her for exposing them to franchising and its opportunities. “It was something that they had not considered before or hadn’t really even heard about,” she says.

As Carter’s mission continues, she’s encountering more Black entrepreneurs who need her services — and wish she were around when they started out. “People ask all the time where we were 10 years ago, so there is a need for what we’re doing here — educating an audience that nobody’s tapping into in a way that truly has an impact — with compassion and empathy.”

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