According to a recent report from LendingTree, the city of Louisville is among the top cities in the nation for franchises.

About 20% of Louisville employees work for a franchised company. By comparison, only about 12% of employees in Cincinnati and Indianapolis do the same.

When you consider the corporations that call Louisville home, this ranking makes perfect sense. Yum! Brands (parent company of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut), Papa John’s, Texas Roadhouse, Long John Silver’s Inc., FranNet and Tumbleweed Tex Mex Grill & Margarita Bar all are headquartered here. Collectively these chains generated about $27 billion in sales in 2018, according to Technomic data.

UofL is leveraging its proximity to this robust industry. In fall 2019, the College of Business launched a fully online franchising certificate program aimed at both franchisees and large franchisors. Director Kathy Gosser believes UofL is the only school that offers a full, all inclusive certificate program focused specifically on the franchising industry.

That is intentional. When Todd Mooradian was named College of Business dean in 2016, he looked at industries where UofL could stand out because of the unique attributes of its hometown. He found his own Triple Crown: franchising, equine, distilling.

UofL added an online Distilled Spirits Business Certificate in April 2019, and its Equine Industry Program has been around since 1986. In addition to a sharpened focus on family business, a franchising program was a logical addition to the certificate portfolio.

“Louisville has been called the ‘franchise city’ and is the home of several global brands that distribute through franchise systems,” Mooradian said. “We are being very deliberate in building new initiatives strategically based on the university’s strengths and the city’s strengths, and we think franchising is a clear strength of Louisville.”

Gosser, a KFC retiree, joined UofL to lead the program. She is joined by Denise Cumberland, a College of Education and Human Development professor, and three other adjunct faculty members with experience from Aramark, Jamba Juice and Jackson Hewitt. The program, which expands beyond restaurant franchising, currently includes six courses ranging from franchising fundamentals to human resources infrastructure.

Another unique feature is curriculum input from the International Franchise Association (IFA) and other industry experts.

“When we were getting this started, it was important for us to get the IFA on board so we could learn from them what is needed and what they are hearing from their members,” Gosser said. “That way we knew the curriculum would be as relevant as it could be in order to establish [UofL] as a leader in franchise content. Our courses have earned credits toward the IFA’s Certified Franchise Executive designation.”

Connecting with the IFA, which represents over 1,400 franchise brands around the world, differentiates UofL’s program from anything else out there.

“Partnering with them – in fact, being their only partner in a program like this – is a distinctive honor and gives our graduates the prestige of both the IFA and the UofL College of Business,” Mooradian said. “Creating valuable offerings in underserved sectors of the market for business education is always going to be strategic. Doing it really well with worldclass experts and connecting with leading firms in the sector is differentiating for the university.”

Gosser and Mooradian both expect this program to evolve and would eventually like it to be an undergraduate track.

“We have plans to offer this content to other audiences and I hope it will be offered to our undergraduates soon,” Mooradian said.

The demand is certainly there – in Louisville and beyond. According to the IFA, franchising directly creates 7.6 million jobs and indirectly supports 13.3 million jobs.

Alicia Kelso
Alicia Kelso is the director of social media and digital content. She joined UofL in 2015 as director of communications at the Brandeis School of Law. She also serves as a senior contributor at, writing about the restaurant industry, which she has covered since 2010. Her work has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Bloomberg, The Seattle Times, Good Morning America and Franchise Asia Magazine.