When Valerie Daniels-Carter tried to franchise her first Burger King in the early 1980s, there weren’t many other African-American women in the sector – and she didn’t exactly find a “welcome mat,” she said.

At times, she recalled, it felt less like she was up against a “glass ceiling” than a “cement ceiling.”

But today Daniels-Carter is a top franchising success story, with her Milwaukee-based V&J Holding Cos. boasting 4,000 employees and more than 120 restaurants from Pizza Huts to Coffee Beanery stores, making V&J one of the largest female-and black-owned food franchise companies in the country.

She even has a partnership in Auntie Anne’s Pretzel stores with former NBA All-star Shaquille O’Neal.

While many African Americans have thrived in business franchising – from retired NBA players like Junior Bridgeman to rap stars such as Rick Ross – advocacy and industry groups have been working to boost overall black representation.

African-American owners make up just 3% of franchise owners, according to Eric Stites, CEO and Managing Director of the Franchise Business Review, an independent franchise market research firm, based on a survey of 27,000 franchises over the last 18 months. Overall minority representation is about 20%.

“For so many years, franchising has been heavily populated by white males,” said Miriam Brewer, director of education and diversity for the International Franchise Association. However, she said, “It’s been shown time and again that companies that value diversity have a healthier bottom line.”

Daniels-Carter, the co-founder, president and CEO of V&J, agreed, saying “diversity is critical – the franchise needs to look the like marketplace.”

Source: USA Today