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But with the recession over and capital markets slowly opening up, small businesses with big ideas and bigger growth plans are making their way across the U.S. by franchising their concepts to entrepreneurs, layoff victims or early retirees looking for a second career.
Not every franchise can go national, and Steve Olson, publisher of
Franchise Update, says potential buyers are well advised to look for signs of strength, including:
Good leadership from someone who has embraced their role evolving from, say, pizza maker to CEO.
A compelling concept.
Good brand marketing.
"The relationship is very co-dependent. The franchisor can only succeed if the franchisees are successful," he says.
The largest market for franchises has historically been the food business, but categories such as senior care, nutrition and fitness, children's and pet products and services are also growing, Olson says.
Being recession-proof helps, of course, an example being that in any economy there will be demand for someone to install fencing. Being necessary but not necessarily glamorous is another common trait of growing franchises, like a business that paints the stripes on parking lots. Founders of franchised companies also tend to describe moments when they realized their kind of business was common, but fragmented into thousands of mom and pop operations lacking brand recognition -- like looking back at the time burgers and fries were served at diners across the country and McDonald's was waiting to be born.
Here are seven up-and-coming franchised companies: