Local women balance business, family

Published 10:21 pm Friday, May 4, 2018

For the past few months, Maria Danaith Jackson has been making a name for herself in Chesapeake with a children’s hair salon.

The wife and mother of both a 4-year-old and 6-year-old had been a stay-at-home mom for six years before she and her husband, Josh, purchased a Cookie Cutters franchise on Cedar Road. Jackson, a former engineer, wanted a business that would also allow her to take care of her kids, and Cookie Cutters was an ideal fit, she explained.

These salons are made especially for small children to be comfortable while they’re groomed, with TVs playing cartoons and a balloon reward afterwards.

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Jackson said last month she had four stylists with room to grow, and her mornings are already busy. Parents bring their children as early as possible, and Jackson is able to bring hers as well.

“My son goes to preschool close by, so I can leave for a few hours and go to his soccer practice,” she said. “I have all this flexibility that I wouldn’t have as a full-time engineer.”

Jackson is part of a growing trend of female entrepreneurship in Virginia, made evident by WalletHub’s findings on “2018’s Best & Worst States for Women” published on March 5. The results showed that Virginia had the third-highest percentage of businesses owned by women.

Female franchise owners in particular have multiplied in recent years, according to FranNet, a franchise consulting company. Company data has shown that franchise ownership among women has risen by 71 percent between 2011 and 2016, compared to just 26 percent for men.

Marc Steiner, the FranNet consultant who worked with the Jacksons on their Cookie Cutters franchise, said that suburban growth in Suffolk and the rest of Hampton Roads has increased demand for the services of recognizable franchise brands.

He also explained that the workforce has changed in recent years, from the traditional demographic of white males around 50 years old to younger entrepreneurs and more women that see the value in owning their own businesses.

“People find a level of security in associating with a franchise brand, as well,” he said in a phone interview.

That was one of the incentives for Tracey Payntar and her husband, Eric, who partnered with Glenn Coffey to purchase a Mosquito Joe franchise in 2013, now known as Mosquito Joe of Southern Hampton Roads with an office on Suffolk’s North Main Street.

“It makes getting into a business for yourself so much easier, because there’s already an outline in place,” Tracey Payntar said in a phone interview. “There are people in place to help you with everything from setting up your office to advertising and promotional material.”

The couple has four kids between the ages of 7 to 12. Mosquitoes are coming out in force with rising spring temperatures, and Payntar balances family and customer satisfaction with the help of reliable staff.

“No matter how much you want to do everything yourself, you’re just not going to be able to do it, so for me it was about finding the right person,” she said. That person turned out to be Melissa Poole, the operations manager. “She has just done a phenomenal job, and she’s allowed me to take steps back from the day-to-day operations of it.”

Nicki Digby-Dalton, owner-operator of the Chick-fil-A on North Main Street for the last 13 years, has plenty of experience meeting high expectations. She has 88 employees at her franchise, about 32 of which work during the winding lines of cars at lunch.

Her store’s drive-through record stands at about 135 customer transactions from noon to 1 p.m., with about the same transactions inside the store simultaneously, totaling approximately 270 transactions in just one hour.

“We try to make it look as good as we can, but it does get a little crazy in here,” she laughed in a phone interview.

Like many other owners, she’s a mother, and her flexibility as an owner lets her and her husband spend more time with their two daughters.

“I’ve been able to do those things, because I’m in business for myself,” she said.

Owning a franchise has allowed both moms and dads to be successful in both family and business. But taking that first step isn’t easy.

“It’s a scary venture,” said Kim Teixeira, director of education for Sylvan Learning Center. “The thing that slowed me down the most was the fear of putting everything out there. We sunk our savings into this and took some equity from our house. That’s a very scary step to take when you have young children.”

But she and her husband’s gamble paid off. Since 2013, she’s expanded from her Chesapeake location to North Suffolk, plus classes at the Suffolk Family YMCA. She juggles that with her responsibilities to three teenaged children.

“Owning a business and living with three teenagers is quite the adventure,” she laughed. “Sometimes running the business is easier than managing my teens.”

She said her children’s admiration is gratifying.

“Seeing my kids be proud of me makes me want to cry,” she said. “That’s pretty powerful for a woman, when your kids are asking you how business is going. Sylvan is doing great, and seeing them be proud of me is huge.”