Limited by Labels: When is a Franchise a Small Business?

Limited by Labels: When is a Franchise a Small Business?

Note: Today is the first day of National Small Business Week, which has been recognizing the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners since 1963.

SBA_NSBW2015_FINAL_v2For many years, I spent a lot of energy helping the original AT&T (the long distance company) market directly to small businesses. Yes, there used to be a long distance company that helped small businesses grow  in particular, by offering an affordable toll-free service. In its day, it was THE WAY small business grew outside of their local territory.

Back in the day, I also spent a lot of energy trying to coin new terms. I wanted to avoid the appearance of using “small” as a demeaning label (not especially endearing coming from the likes of a giant like AT&T). But with the passage of time, society’s respect for small business has grown.

Today, we are very protective of the term “small business.” Small businesses are recognized as the growth engine of the U.S. economy — a group that should be afforded all the rights and protections of the “big guys.” In fact, smaller businesses have an edge over large corporations when it comes to public perception.1 Far from being perceived as demeaning or de minimis, today the “small” in small business is a badge of honor.

Which brings me to the case of the Great Harvest Bread Company, and how we should think of its locally owned bakeries . . .

Great Harvest Bread Company: Large or Small?

While we are a franchise company (large), each bakery is locally owned and owner-operated (small). In many ways, we are a network of small business owners who wanted a smarter way to do small business ownership. 

Nobody franchises like Great Harvest. We describe our Freedom Franchise as being midway between an independent startup and a traditional franchise. Our website’s “About Us” section has a page about our commitment to our communities; its title reads — We Have the Spirit of a Locally-Owned Small Business. But more than the words, our values and practices prove it.

So, rather than fall into the trap of labeling Great Harvest as only a franchise  and all of the exclusions that come with it  I challenge you to take a closer look.

Most Great Harvest bakery owners have one or two stores, not mini-franchise empires of ten to twenty stores owned by an LLC or an ex-NBA star. Our bakeries are essentially owned by your next door neighbors. In other words, hard-working folks like you, who are trying to earn a living by getting up in the middle of the night to bring you the freshest products on the market. They do it every day, just a stone’s throw from your backyard. It’s as close as one can get to farm to table every day!


The way our Freedom Franchise works is: each owner is free to make their own menu, bake what they choose to suit local tastes, and name a product however they choose. No rules, no robotics, no step by step instructions. No, this is not your local McDonald’s or Dunkin' Donuts. These are local small businesses, creating local products from scratch, using only the premium wheat exclusively sourced by “the Franchise” from family owned farms in Montana’s Golden Triangle, famous for growing the best tasting wheat in the world!

So Why Am I Telling You This? Why Do Labels Matter?

Because in too many instances, local town officials are jumping to quick decisions that exclude your local Great Harvest Bread Company from their local farmer’s markets. They are being excluded because of a franchise label  as if that makes them not a small business, or not a local business. This is simply the wrong decision and is depriving your local town of the chance to enjoy our fresh, locally-created products.

So don’t take no for answer. Every Great Harvest meets the definition of both a small business and a local business, which — perhaps unlike any other business in your community  is selling locally-made products. No products are trucked in. If ever there was a true farm to table business worthy of a farmer’s market (aside from the farmers) we are it. So to all of the local town officials out there relying on traditional labels, I say, “Let our people grow!!”

Learn More About Why Great Harvest is Different

Why Great Harvest is Business. The way it ought to be.

Read more about Great Harvest’s small business bent:


1 See “Why Americans Love Small Business,”


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