In good times and bad, franchises can offer a proven business model to people eager to run their own show. The trick is finding one that is right for you.
Here are seven franchises that we think are worth a look, based on our interviews with franchise experts and consultants. All have demonstrated solid growth despite the harsh business climate -- and none of them require exorbitant start-up fees.
We focused our search on franchises with growth of 70% or more since 2006 (or 10% or more since 2010 for new franchises). Then we narrowed that list to those with franchise fees of $50,000 or less. Finally, we sorted by franchises in industries that are doing well and are expecting continued growth, according to experts.
Product/service: In-home health care
Franchises in the U.S.: 152
Net worth requirement: $150,000
Royalty: 5% of gross revenue
Franchise fee: $39,500 for initial service area (subsequent fees drop as territories are added)
Although caring for seniors, a growing demographic, is its main focus, Synergy HomeCare provides home care for all ages. It offers franchisees ongoing training through webinars, teleconferences and annual meetings to help business owners stay on top of new technology and trends. Synergy franchisees have an average of 75 to 100 employees working for them within two years. Franchise growth has been impressive: About 950% since 2006.
Product/service: Fitness programs for children
Franchises in the U.S.: 45
Net worth requirement: $75,000
Royalty: 8% of gross revenue
Franchise fee: $33,000
Local school districts strapped for cash have slashed their extracurricular budgets and recreational programming. Franchises such as JumpBunch allow schools to outsource gym classes, a cost-effective alternative to maintaining their own physical education departments. The service is also in demand with day care programs and camps. JumpBunch franchises have grown 181% since 2006.
Product/service: Business development and consulting
Franchises in the U.S.: 75
Net worth requirement: $100,000
Franchise fee: $49,950
FocalPoint Coaching seeks franchisees, or "coaches," who have previous experience in marketing, human resources or finance.
Coaches work with entrepreneurs and small to medium-size firms on business development. The company offers up to 150 hours of training each year to its business owners, who can work from their homes. The company has business coaching programs for clients on iPads. Franchises have increased 20% since 2010.
Signal 88 Security
Product/service: Virtual monitoring, emergency response and foot patrols, among others.
Franchises in the U.S.: 87
Net worth requirement: $50,000-$80,000
Royalty: 4% of gross revenue
Franchise fee: $35,000
Franchisees typically have a background in police or security work, or are military retirees. While Signal 88 Security is growing throughout the country, the company is primarily expanding in large cities. The number of franchises has increased 55% since 2010.
Product/service: Cruise/vacation marketing and sales
Franchises in the U.S.: 32
Net worth requirement: $250,000 (for retail location only)
Royalty: 9% of profit
Franchise fee: $29,000 (retail center); $9,500 (sales center)
Many of the company's franchisees have said bon voyage to the workaday world, and have launched second careers in retirement that revolve around their passion for travel aboard cruise ships. Franchisees can run sales centers from their homes or start their business in a storefront retail location. The number of franchises has grown 85% since 2006.
Product/service: Residential cleaning
Franchises in the U.S.: 143
Net worth requirement: $50,000
Royalty: 3.5%-6.5% of gross revenue
Franchise fee: $7,900-$21,500
MaidPro offers a special software program that it says helps franchisees better manage their clientele by cutting down on costs and time spent commuting to jobs. Most franchisees don't have prior cleaning experience, but almost all have a management background. The number of franchises has grown 126% since 2006.
Product/service: Commercial lawn care
Franchises in the U.S.: 256
Net worth requirement: $50,000-$100,000
Royalty: 1.5%-4% of gross revenue
Franchise fee: $29,000 ($15,000 if you convert an existing landscape business into a franchise)
During hard times, commercial lawn care services are more likely to keep their customers -- office parks, shopping centers and municipal centers -- than residential services. Businesses and governments regard lawn care as a business expense, while homeowners tightening their belts regard it as more discretionary. U.S. Lawns doesn't require potential franchisees to have previous landscaping experience. Franchise growth has been impressive: 77% since 2006.
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