Wetzel’s Pretzels (Wetzel’s) is aiming to make franchise ownership more accessible for women and ethnic minorities. Through the creation of its Wetzel’s Pretzels Access to Equity Program, the brand strives to create a pathway to ownership, providing financial discounts, as well as educational and mentorship opportunities to underrepresented candidates from all backgrounds. The program launch, coupled with the brand’s targeted recruitment efforts, showcases its commitment to inclusion for all qualified candidates.
Powered by the vision of Jennifer Schuler, Wetzel’s first female CEO, the initiative seeks to eliminate barriers and provide prospective franchisees with access to capital. By bridging the gap, the nation’s snacking leader strives to support aspiring purveyors of pretzel happiness to achieve their American dream of business ownership and build generational wealth.
“While our pretzels are a delicious treat, they represent something bigger to our franchisees, and that is a dream of entrepreneurship coming to fruition,” said Schuler. “We’ve been hard at work designing this program to both level the playing field and elevate conversations within our system and across the industry about diversity and inclusion. Our franchisees make it possible to ‘Bring Pretzels to the People,’ so our top priority is providing them with the connections to capital, education and support they need to succeed.”
Capital: At its base, the Access to Equity Program offers a financial discount of 25% off the initial Wetzel’s franchise fee to qualified individuals who self-identify as female or as an ethnic minority. Wetzel’s is also pledging to reduce upfront equity costs and increase access to financing, through partnerships with lenders, such as: AmPac Business Capital, Urban Strategies Inc. (USI), Capital Impact Partners, Sterns Bank, GetFranchiseCapital.com, National Development Council (NDC) and CDC Small Business Finance. Similarly, the brand also connects candidates with its insurance partner, The Viti Companies, providing fair and equitable rates on business insurance.
Content: To supplement on-the-job training, Wetzel’s has partnered with Operation HOPE and Start Small Think Big to provide business education, access to professional services and financial counseling that can help put participants on the path to small business ownership.
“We’re proud to partner with Wetzel’s to support and elevate aspiring female and minority entrepreneurs, helping to make business ownership attainable and blaze a trail for future leaders of underrepresented communities,” said Lance Triggs, Executive Vice President at Operation HOPE. “Operation HOPE’s 1MBB program was uniquely designed to meet the needs of dreamers who are ready to launch and grow. Our team is here to support them every step of the way.”
Community: Wetzel’s believes in the importance of building a strong community where owners can share best practices, learn, and grow together. To that end, the program includes a mentorship component, where participants are paired with existing owners, allowing them to ask questions, gain insights and have access to experts with rich brand and industry knowledge.
“I’m so thankful to the Wetzel’s team for their incredible support in making this longtime dream of restaurant ownership a reality,” said McFadden.
Wetzel’s focus on inclusion and thoughtful program creation is turning heads across the restaurant industry. Most recently, the brand was named to Entrepreneur’s 50 Franchise Companies Doing the Most to Champion Diversity List.
“Historically there’s been an inequality among those who’ve obtained managerial and ownership roles and those who have not,” said Schuler. “Our goal is to foster a more inviting environment here at Wetzel’s with ownership that reflects the diverse tapestry of the communities where we live and work. We hope our focus on this important issue will inspire others across the restaurant industry, and beyond, to join us.”
Every element of the program, including its logo, was designed with an inclusive perspective and the company was honored to work with illustrator Danielle Coke in the creation. Founder of Oh Happy Dani, a lifestyle brand available at Target, and creator of the popular Instagram account @ohhappydani, Coke uses art to illuminate social justice issues and encourage hope. Her passion for advocacy has led to partnerships with Fortune 500 companies like Adobe, The Home Depot, Dell and Meta, collaborations with nonprofits, such as the NAACP and The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, as well as several community organizations in her hometown of Atlanta.
“The Access to Equity Program is such an incredible and intentional initiative, and I wanted to honor that by doing an illustration that highlighted the program’s desire to promote equity and inclusion for franchisees,” said Coke.
For additional information about the Wetzel’s franchise opportunity, visit wetzelsfranchising.com.
About Wetzel’s Pretzels
Providing a fun, fresh take on soft pretzels, Wetzel’s Pretzels was founded in 1994 by Bill Phelps and Rick Wetzel in Pasadena, California. Drawing fans to its mouthwatering, portable snacks that are hand-rolled, baked fresh and served hot from the oven, word quickly spread about the delicious West Coast brand. Today, Wetzel’s Pretzels has grown to more than 370 bakeries, including premier locations like Disney Springs® at Walt Disney World® Resort, Downtown Disney® District at Disneyland® Resort and Universal CityWalk™, continuing to cultivate fanatics around the world with its SoCal vibes and “gram-worthy” snacks. Its cult-like following includes famous fans like Ben Affleck, Billie Eilish, Jimmy Kimmel, Kim Kardashian and Meghan Trainor. As the nation’s leading pretzel chain, the franchise has received numerous accolades, most recently being named to Franchise Business Review’s 2023 Top Food Franchises and Entrepreneur’s Top 50 Franchise Companies Doing the Most to Champion Diversity lists. Jennifer Schuler, the brand’s first female CEO, was also recognized by Nation’s Restaurant News as one of the “Most Influential CEOs in the Restaurant Industry” and Kim Freer was named to Entrepreneur’s Top 50 Franchise CMO Gamechangers list.