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Imagine a franchise network that trains, guides, and supports hundreds of poor women with little or no business experience to become successful business owners. Such "microfranchise" efforts, though relatively small in number, have been gathering steam in the development community and, recently, attracting the attention of the mainstream franchising indus- Deborah Burand try. Advocates have seized on microfranchising as a natural complement or follow-on to the widely acclaimed successes of the "microfinance" sector, which provides small-scale finance services to over 150 million of the world's poor. Microfranchising today is where microfinance was a decade or more ago. It is appropriate at this juncture, then, to ask: What guidance can microfranchising usefully draw from the microfinance experience? The first section of this article examines lessons learned from the microfinance sector and then traces the origins of microfranchising. The second section explores whether mainstream commercial franchising practices are relevant for franchising that takes place with those living at the base of the economic pyramid. The final section recommends the legal and regulatory environment that can best facilitate microfranchising.


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