08/20/2014 01:01 pm ET Updated Oct 20, 2014

Women in Business Q&A: Emily Howard, Unishippers franchise owner

Emily Howard started her career at 18 years old as a Front End Manager for a grocery store from 2005 to 2007. Next, she became an Office Manager for an Ecommerce website before becoming a Customer Service Manager for a jewelry manufacturer from 2010 until 2012. While working for the jewelry manufacturer, Emily worked with a local Unishippers franchise, the nation's first and one of the largest small package and freight shipping resellers, and was instantly attracted to the concept. In 2012, Emily pursued an opportunity with the franchise as a Shipping Consultant and two years later, she decided to invest in her own franchise alongside her husband, Roland, and father, Doug Hatch, to assist small to midsized businesses in Cache County, Utah.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Throughout my childhood my parents were always very supportive and encouraging of any activities and organizations I joined. I spent several years playing competitive soccer and they made sure to take me to every single practice and they'd hardly ever miss a game. Over time, I realized I wanted to show them my appreciation by becoming the best player I could be. This mentality has continued to impact every aspect of my life as I strive to make not only myself proud, but my family proud as well.

I became a single mother at the young age of 19, which has truly taught me the meaning of hard work. At the time, I knew in order to be successful given the circumstances, I'd need to work extremely hard to achieve my goals. I enrolled at the University of Phoenix in the Business Management Program in 2010 while working full time for a jewelry manufacturer. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with my degree, but I knew it was necessary to open up as many doors as possible and brighten my future. Going to college has provided me with a great deal of confidence as I've learned how to think more critically, and more importantly, how to share my acquired knowledge with others.

I've also realized how important it is to celebrate victories, no matter how small they may be. Doing so keeps me excited and focused on my career, family, and education. I use this as motivation to celebrate with my husband and family when I get home, or with business partners throughout the day, and the excitement seems to be contagious.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Unishippers?
Prior to Unishippers, I was involved in customer service positions where I learned what customers needed and wanted from business partners. Being a former Unishippers customer has given me even more insight and knowledge, and now as a franchise owner, I'm able to better provide Unishippers services with confidence since I have been in the customers' shoes.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Unishippers?
One of the highlights of becoming a Unishippers franchise owner has been seeing what I am capable of. Starting out with no sales experience before joining Unishippers as a saleswoman, I was unsure of what to expect. After welcoming guidance from anywhere I could find it and working my hardest, I realized I could be successful in sales and instantly fell in love with the field. It only took a few months for me to realize that I wanted to invest in my own Unishippers franchise. I started building this goal into my five year plan, which quickly became a three year plan and after 18 months as a sales consultant, it became a reality.

Another highlight is having the opportunity to meet with new customers across all types of industries. On any given day, I may meet with a meat manufacturer in the morning and then visit an art gallery in the afternoon. I love knowing that I can help customers save money and receive great service on whatever it is they need shipped.

Since I had never done sales before, one of the challenges I faced was learning how to rebound from a slump or a lost sale. Sometimes things don't unfold according to plan, but I realized that if you let it affect your attitude, it can have a rippling effect on the future and other aspects of your life. Although I learned this the hard way, it was worth it because when it happened again and my numbers started to drop, I knew how to push through the slump and wound having my best sales period yet.

What advice would you give to women who are looking to open a franchise?
My greatest advice for women looking to open a franchise is to believe in yourself. Don't be afraid to speak up and ask questions. It's very beneficial to connect with existing franchise owners in the desired franchise beforehand to ask the tough questions and set your expectations. If possible, it's also helpful to get your feet wet first and perhaps work for the company or a similar company before investing in your own franchise. Once you have the knowledge, you will become much more confident in your ability to achieve your goals. Lastly, it's crucial to make sure to have a support system is in place, whether it's at home with your family or through a network of colleagues.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Since my husband Roland and I are both involved in the business, technology and work can easily interfere with our personal lives. Therefore, Roland and I have set guidelines with specific times that the work day ends and family time begins. One of the main reasons we were attracted to Unishippers is because of the scheduling flexibility and its accompanying banker's hours, meaning it truly functions as a 9am-5pm job, which means we're able to have a nice work/life balance. We make sure to have family dinners each night and spend quality time with our kids and each other. The primary way we're able to do this is by managing our time through calendars and lists. We each work from home a few days a week so we're able to spend valuable time with our kids, driving them to and from school, preparing home cooked dinners, attending their sporting events, etc. All of our kids play multiple sports so we always make sure to incorporate their games, as well as family events, into our schedules so we don't miss a beat.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
My biggest issue as a woman in the workplace has been the amount of pressure I put on myself to succeed. As a mother, wife, student and small business owner, I wear many hats and often find myself feeling guilty when I have to make sacrifices to be successful in one area of my life versus another. Over time, I've realized I need to be easier on myself and understand that I can't be the best at everything all the time. Unfortunately for women, home life can easily overlap into work life, especially for those who work from home; it's all about finding a balance and committing to whatever task you're tackling in that moment.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I would not be a franchise owner today if it were not for the mentors I've acquired along the way. The Unishippers franchise owner I worked for before opening my own franchise taught me all about sales and pushed me to be better every day. He celebrated every victory with me which made me excited to show him what I could do. He recognized my competitiveness and found ways to fuel the fire. And when I decided to purchase my own franchise, he was thrilled and helped me turn it into a reality even quicker than I thought possible.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Within the Unishippers system, I greatly admire Stacey Roberts, a fellow franchise owner, wife and mother who has been incredibly successful. After almost 20 years of business, Stacey remains the top salesperson in the country and last year, her overall sales figures were better than the second, third and fourth place salesmen's numbers combined. As I've gotten to know her, she's become a friend and a mentor for me, and watching her succeed has been truly inspiring.

My mother is also one the hardest working women I know. Throughout my childhood, she worked nights as the Health Unit Coordinator for an emergency room so she'd be able to be home when my siblings and I woke up and when we returned from school. She also cleaned houses on the side, all the while keeping our own house clean, feeding us, and being a great mom and role model.

What are your hopes for the future of Unishippers in your area?
My hope is to build long term relationships with small to medium sized business owners in my area. Through my franchise, I hope to help eliminate some of the hassle the shipping process can create and share my passion for helping others by offering superior shipping solutions. For my first year of business, I project earning 700K in revenue with one sales activation per day, totaling 20 activations per period. In the next two years, I'd like to start building my sales team, and in the next five years, expand into new territories. In the distant future, I'd love to transition my business to become a legacy business for Roland and our three children.