As the regional franchise owner for commercial cleaning giant Jan-Pro Cleaning Systems Midwest, Alison Mairet oversees more than 40 franchisees, ranging in size from single-person businesses with revenues of $5,000 a year to million-dollar operations with large teams that serve scores of commercial clients. Mairet estimates that 40 percent of her franchisees are immigrants. “They’re people who had a dream of coming here to build a better life,” she explains. “Their attitudes are fantastic, and they’re willing to put that into their businesses.”
Many of the people I talk to were already working hard where they came from.
The immigrants with whom Mairet works come from far-flung places like Latin America, South Korea, and South Africa, but what unites them, Mairet says, is their work ethic. “Many of the people I talk to were already working hard where they came from, sometimes from a very young age,” she says. The Jan-Pro franchising system is attractive to this population because it doesn’t require a large financial investment, and it allows people to scale up their business over time. “It’s a very physical business,” she says. “It suits people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.”
Immigrants’ willingness to invest in Jan-Pro businesses and grow their franchises, is great news for Jan-Pro, Mairet says. “We do well in this business if our franchisees do well,” she explains. But it’s also good news for local communities: While franchises often start out as family businesses, operators typically begin hiring more workers as they scale up. The average franchise has two or three employees, Mairet says, but the larger ones often have as many as 10 employees. Immigrant franchisees, she concludes, add enormous value to Kansas City.
For this reason, Mairet believes immigration policy should make it easier for motivated foreigners to start businesses here. She knows some of her franchisees faced complicated, costly processes as they sought legal pathways to come to the United States, and Mairet would like to see a more streamlined system to help hard-working immigrants settle and invest in the United States. “All I know is that for us, they’re awesome and amazing,” she says. “We talk about it to our customers as much as we can.” In turn, Mairet says that her customers appreciate the economic impact that Jan-Pro franchises bring to America’s Heartland. Immigrants are “a critical resource for us,” she says. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do business the way we do.”