Бывший сотрудник Burger King не мог найти работу после реструктуризации корпорации в 2008. While at an outplacement center, she stumbled on a webinar about franchising.
“I felt I had to do something,” Hamian said. “It provided an opportunity for me to do something I’ve never done before and never really envisioned myself doing.”
With the help of a franchise broker, she decided to invest in ShelfGenie, a company that installs sliding shelves for kitchen and bathroom cabinets. She didn’t need to buy a storefront — it all can be done from home. There were no fixed costs and her two part-time employees work on commission.
Jobs are still scarce, so the unemployed are reinventing themselves and becoming the majority of new franchise owners, industry sources say.
While banks continue their tight grip on lending, some franchisors are seeing a dip in investors and are responding by lowering fees and offering internal financing deals. And the troubles in commercial real estate are making it easier for franchisees by driving some landlords to negotiate — sometimes offering several months’ free rent or paying for remodeling.
“When the economy slows, people think opportunities become harder to find,” said Jason Mattes, a franchise-development adviser in Coral Gables, Fla. “If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, now could be the best time.”
He’s currently director of franchise development at Cruise Planners, where the fee is about $10,000 to start the home-based travel agency. Cruise Planners added 200 new franchises in 2009.
“I think people just aren’t aware of all the opportunities out there,” Mattes said. “They think of a Subway shop or a hamburger joint, so they feel it’s not a path to look at because it’s just too expensive.”
The lack of funds is what sent Hamian to the services sector. After being denied a business loan, she financed her future career with a home equity loan. The fee to cover one territory — that’s 250,000 households — was $40,000. But when you add up the costs of home show fees and product materials, she invested about $65,000.
“It was the biggest check I’ve ever written in my life,” Hamian said.
MatchPoint franchise consultant Jim Sebastiano is advising people without a nest egg to head for home-based businesses because of the credit crunch. He has seen investors use their 401(k)s or IRAs to help finance stores.
“I get a lot of calls from people that either lost their job already, or they’re scared to death,” Sebastiano said.
When you’re in a service industry, “you’re out there promoting the business more and the costs are substantially less,” Sebastiano said.
There are more than 3,500 different franchises available, but Sebastiano found most people he speaks to can only name 15 from memory.
“Don’t pooh-pooh any business until you do a little bit of research,” Sebastiano advises. “At least know what you said ‘no’ to.”
West Palm Beach resident Lisa Simpson, 47, reached out to a consultant after it became “mind-boggling” trying to sort through every option.
Simpson worked in banking for 26 years, and when her bank was recently acquired, she took a severance package to jump-start her dream of running a business. She filled out a franchise personality profile questionnaire to narrow her search. Her result: the painting business.
“I said, ‘Painting? Really?’ But the more I started looking into it, they had 300 franchises doing this, and they had a lot of training and support,” Simpson said.
After paying $50,000 for the franchisee fee, and an additional $20,000 toward direct mail, software and putting a logo on her truck, she now runs CertaPro Painters with her husband. It all came from her personal savings and that severance package — and she’s hoping she doesn’t have to dip into her home equity.
Hot growth areas getting attention: anything dealing with senior care, being green, and health.