5 best buys in home-based franchises: here are the most promising businesses to own for minority entrepreneurs.PARTY PROMOTER DENISE MADISON WAS looking for a complementary business offering for her maturing clientele when she ventured to buy a travel agency in 2008. Disappointed with one franchisor's offering, she set her sights on CruiseOne (www.cruiseone.com), a travel franchise that offers cruise vacations.
"I read their plan from A to Z; I was very impressed. I liked the percentages, the bonuses, the incentives. Your biggest job is to book the client. They provide you with all of the marketing materials and updated information," says Madison, who operates the franchise (www.vivala cruise.com) outside of her day job. Indeed, all CruiseOne franchisees receive five customizable consumer websites to drive online bookings.
Furthermore, "their name carries. So, essentially we brought the brand," adds Madison, who purchased the franchise along with her business partner and life partner Tania Savigne. Their total investment outlay was around $11,000.
Playing off of an existing events database of thousands of clients, the couple initially geared the business toward lesbians of color. "It is something that was lacking. Gay men have a lot of travel companies that cater to them. But when it comes to the lesbian community, you have only a few. Even then you really don't see minorities showcased. Of course, we now promote to anyone and everyone," says Savigne.
The duo books more than 300 group and individual trips a year and generates more than $45,000 annually in commission revenues. "The CruiseOne organization is like a family. Their people are very informative and very supportive," says Savigne. Besides, it is one of the top franchise businesses that can be run from home.
Home-based franchise opportunities exist in various sectors and a wide range of businesses, from pet-sitting and house cleaning to senior care and Internet consulting services. The initial investment for an at-home franchise is often lower than a conventional franchise, anywhere in the $10,000 to $100,000 range. However, some franchises start out for as little as $3,000.
In addition to low startup costs, what makes franchises operated out of the home appealing to would-be entrepreneurs are flexible working schedules and low overhead costs. Since the franchise owner doesn't need commercial space, at-home franchises typically require little to no inventory.
Some of the most promising home-based industries are experiencing high participation rates among minority franchise owners. Take, for instance, in-home senior care service, which is among the top franchise sectors thanks to a growing trend toward "aging in place," according to IBISWorld. The $6 billion in-home senior care franchises industry has flourished in the past five years and will continue to rapidly expand through 2017. This is good news for minority franchisees, many of whom are gaining ground in this area through one of the fastest-growing senior care franchise systems in the country, Always Best Care Senior Services.
Minority owners also have a significantly high participation in maintenance and commercial cleaning service franchises operated from home, including JAN-PRO Cleaning Systems. The low cost of entry into the maintenance industry is one contributing factor, reports the National Minority Franchising Initiative (www.minorityfranchising.com).
Before you buy any home-based franchise, get full disclosure. Thoroughly read the Franchise Disclosure Document, or FDD, which is a document that contains information franchisors must provide to franchisees by law, as regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. Of the 23 items in the FDD, pay careful attention to the earnings claim (which franchisors don't have to provide, but that lack of disclosure may raise a red flag). What is the initial investment plus franchise fees? What are both franchisor's and the franchisee's obligations? Does the franchisor offer financing and/or marketing assistance? Also, look at the FDD to find out the number of franchise units, closures, and current and former franchisee names and contact information. Talk to other franchisees to solicit their feedback. To learn more, contact the International Franchise Association (www.franchise.org) and the American Franchisee Association (www.franchisee.org).
B.E. Editors' Choice
Here are five franchises that have relatively low costs, resources, and a high participation rate of minority owners:
1. Always Best Care SeniorServices
(www.alwaysbestcare.com) provides non-medical in-home care, assisted living placement services, and skilled home healthcare. Startup costs: $39,500 to $90,700.
(www.cruiseone.com), as part of World Travel Holdings, is the world's largest distributor of cruise vacations with more than 700 franchise units. Startup costs: $495 to $9,800.
3. JAN-PRO Cleaning Systems (www.jan-pro.com) is an international commercial cleaning and janitorial services franchise with more than 10,000 units. Startup costs: $950 to $36,500.
4. Tutor Doctor
(www.tutordoctor.com) provides one-on-one tutoring and supplementary educational support programs to students from kindergartners to adults. Startup costs: $39,700 to $127,000.
5. WSI Internet
(www.wsicorporate.com) is a leader in providing consulting services to businesses. including online marketing strategies, Web design, and Web development. Startup costs: $49,000.
CAROLYN M. BROWN'S TIP OF THE MONTH
Exhibiting at Trade Shows
Participating in industry trade shows can help drum up sales and sales leads. But if you think of it as simply a place to hand out business cards and marketing materials, then you would be better off staying home. At a trade show, you want to be able to connect with potential buyers and to get direct feedback about your product, as well as check out or even network with your competitors. Before you invest money in a booth, attend that trade show first. Find out from organizers about foot traffic, buyer attendance, and press coverage. Just walking a trade show for a couple of hours will provide some insight and give you a good idea if that show is really a good fit for your brand. Visit the Tradeshow News Network database at www.tsnn.com
CONTACT CAROLYN M. BROWN AT email@example.com or @CMBROWN_7.