When actress Patricia Arquette shined the national spotlight on wage equity for women in her recent Oscar speech, I was reminded of a major reason I decided to go into business for myself 19 years ago – to obtain more control over my financial security than I would otherwise find as a female employee in a traditional male-dominated workplace environment.

Getting started in business is tough for anyone, but especially for women and minorities, who historically have not held ownership positions in proportion to the population. Fortunately, I was able to attain my goal of becoming a small business owner by saving enough money to become a co-owner and operator of a Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise in Sonoma County.

Without the franchise model, it would have been all but impossible for me to gain entry into an area of business – plumbing – that twenty years ago was the exclusive domain of men.

Nearly two decades since I made the leap, it is gratifying and humbling to report that I have not just survived, but thrived. 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.

In my case, I have received unparalleled support of the franchise system, which has provided me with a strong brand, advice and a structured approach to running a business that is proven to work.

My relationship with the Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchising brand was built on the common belief that if I am successful, they are successful; this team-oriented approach has afforded my family and me an incredible opportunity that would have never been possible on my own.

My story tends to be the rule, not the exception, when it comes to franchising opportunities for women, minorities and veterans.

Collectively, the franchising industry represents a dynamic economic engine in California, home to 82,000 franchise establishments that support one million jobs and generate $94 billion in annual economic output. Franchising has created more jobs at a faster pace than other businesses and has produced more sales growth than other businesses in the five years since the Great Recession.

Telling my personal story and the larger narrative about the many dimensions of franchising is why I am taking part in the International Franchise Association’s annual legislative day this week.

With so many new faces in the legislature, it is important to continue efforts to educate those in the Capitol about the wide spectrum of franchise businesses in the state – nearly 300 different industries that use the franchise businesses.

There’s a misperception that our industry only involves quick serve restaurants. The reality is that franchise businesses are proliferating in many sectors of the economy, including financial services, healthcare, education, automotive, home improvement, hospitality and a wide range of other important consumer services.

Behind most every household franchise name – Domino’s Pizza, The UPS Store, SportClips, FASTSIGNS and California Closets to name a few – is the face of a California independent local business owner.

This reality is why IFA this week is also reminding California lawmakers that the state’s franchise laws and regulations are among the most stringent in the nation. These laws have allowed small businesses like mine to thrive while ensuring customer safety and satisfaction. In previous years, a small, but vocal, splinter group of franchisees has unsuccessfully sought undermine these effective laws, falsely claiming the existence of a David vs. Goliath environment among the franchise community.

Nothing could be further from the truth given my experience. There is no need to pursue unnecessary efforts to fix a system that is simply not broken. Messing with the existing franchise system would be disservice to small business owners, especially women like me who have worked so hard to get ahead.

Saunda Kitchen is the owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing in Sonoma County, California.