Anyone who has ever started a business, quickly learns that it is not a solo endeavor, but rather a team sport. When going from working form someone else to potentially working for yourself, the risk is enormous – it always has been, and it always will be, especially when you have your own skin in the game.  The thought of creating a business from scratch is truly daunting. In fact, a recent study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation showed a decrease of 31 percent in new business creation during the economic downturn.

However, through franchising, countless Californians can and have joined an established brand, even during the recent economic downturn, with the support to make progress right away.  Franchising continues to give potential entrepreneurs a leg up – with a proven, time-tested, very structured and scalable business model that works for many entrepreneurs in the state.

My name is Saunda Kitchen and I co-own and operate the Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise in Sonoma County, California. When I began operating in Sonoma County, I bought myself a job. I was in business for myself, but not by myself through the support of my franchise system, The Dwyer Group.  My franchisor has supported me since the beginning.  Our relationship built on the common belief that if I am successful, they are successful, has afforded me and my family an incredible opportunity that would have never been possible on my own.  Today, the job I bought myself 18 years ago, has multiplied in spades. We now employ 28 team members, and operate a 30-unit fleet that contributes over a million dollars of payroll to Sonoma County consistently year after year. I am proud of the work we do in our community and the essential services we provide.

As president & CEO of the International Franchise Association (IFA), I can tell you that most Californians may not even understand that franchising is so much more than just McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., Sonic or IHOP. The franchise industry spans a gamut of brands from these restaurants to auto parts stores and accounting, from yogurt shops to massage therapy and in-home health and companion care – the fastest growing segment of the industry. This great diversity is what gives franchising its strength. There are almost 300 different industries that use the franchise business model. In California alone there are over 1 million jobs related to franchising in over 80,000 franchise establishments which support $92 billion in economic output – a real economic driver in the state.

The franchise small business option is not uncommon for first time entrepreneurs like Saunda, which is one of the reasons why franchises are expected to add nearly 200,000 new jobs and 13,000 new establishments in 2014 across the country. According to recent data released by the IFA’s Educational Foundation, this expected growth is faster than that of the rest of the economy. In addition, overall jobs in franchising continue to outpace that of other sectors, with an increase of 2.3 percent

Further, returning veterans have also found franchising an ideal option in the struggling economy; since 2011, over 5, 200 veterans, and military spouses have opened franchises, and in the last two years 151,000 veterans,  military spouses and wounded warriors have found work in the franchising industry – which is something we can all support, no matter your party or politics.

Oftentimes, all these facts about our franchise small business owners go unnoticed and people perceive our brands as giant corporate enterprises. In reality, this could not be further from the truth. Eighty percent of franchises are true small businesses – the hidden small businesses in nearly every California city and town.

Franchise small business owners face many of the same challenges as their non-franchise neighbors on Main Streets across the state. The only difference is that franchisees are not alone. They are part of a team within a franchise system that support one another and continue to create jobs and opportunities for Californians.

This is why franchisees and franchisors from all around the state have come to Sacramento this week – to support each other and promote the idea that creating jobs in the franchise industry is a team sport, and to educate and remind legislators that there is much more to franchising than meets the eye.

Saunda Kitchen is the owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing in Sonoma County, California. Steve Caldeira is the President & CEO of the International Franchise Association.