Franchises That Don’t Cost a Lot

A lot of great franchise opportunities are beyond the financial reach of most people. The initial investment to open a McDonald’s franchise ranges from $1 million to $2.2 million…a UPS Store, $159,000 to $434,000…and a Planet Fitness gym, $700,000 to $3.8 million. But you still can find franchises that allow you to be your own boss and give you a good chance for financial success for a far smaller up-front cost. Many of these franchises can be managed from home, eliminating the need for office space and staff, and many don’t require a strong business background.

Based on a survey of 13,000 franchise owners, here are 16 of the top-ranked franchises that many people can buy into for less than $20,000, starting with the lowest start-up investment (survey details are below). All are service businesses—they provide services ranging from fitness classes for new moms to cruise-vacation planning to running amateur pool leagues. Franchisors typically provide extensive training to operate the franchise, but depending on your state and locality, you may need additional certification or licensing.

CruiseOne/Dream Vacations. Travel agents are making a comeback because the volume and variety of information on websites have overwhelmed many people planning vacations. ­CruiseOne franchises sell vacation packages to individuals, families and groups. The franchisor, World Travel Holdings, is one of the world’s largest cruise-travel agencies. Start-up investment: $3,245 to $21,850. Number of US franchises: 1,090.

Baby Boot Camp. Four million women a year give birth in the US. This business offers workout programs for new moms looking to balance their fitness needs and spending time with their young children. Classes take place in ­clients’ homes or local parks. Many of the franchisees have expanded beyond exercise to include classes on nutrition and emotional support. Start-up investment: $4,570 to $10,800. Number of US franchises: 107.

Proforma. Franchisees handle printing and marketing for companies. Services range from designing business forms to overseeing production of promotional giveaways. Start-up investment: $4,730 to $50,195. Number of US franchises: 700.

Town Money Saver(TMS). Small local businesses need affordable advertising to attract customers. TMS franchises produce direct-mail publications filled with coupons and offers from these businesses and collect revenue by selling ad space in the publications. More than 25 million of these publications are sent out monthly throughout the country. Start-up investment: $5,700 to $17,000. Number of US franchises: 44.

In Home Pet Services. About 44% of US households have a dog and 35% have a cat. These franchises offer ­services such as dog walking, pet sitting and boarding for a variety of animals at each franchisee’s home. Start-up investment: $9,100 to $31,200. Number of US franchises: 13.

Cruise Planners. Franchisees, who have an alliance with American Express Travel, sell travel packages including all-inclusive resorts, Disney vacations and destination weddings. Start-up investment: $10,500. Number of US franchises: 2,432.

TSS Photography. The franchise provides photography for schools and youth sporting leagues. Leads are generated through the franchisor’s ­alliance with national organizations such as the YMCA and the Babe Ruth League. Start-up investment: $10,500 to $74,000. Number of US franchises: 185.

A All Animal Control. Wildlife in the home or office can do serious structural damage, transmit disease and cause physical harm. This franchise offers professional control and removal of bees, mice, raccoons, squirrels and other animals. The franchisor provides training and helps franchisees obtain required licenses. Start-up investment: $10,750 to $50,000. Number of US franchises: 44.

Auto Appraisal Network. This franchise works for insurance companies, providing them with appraisals of the value of automobiles, especially classic and collectible cars. It is best for individuals with previous experience in the automotive field. Start-up investment: $12,000 to $30,000. Number of US franchises: 25.

Executive Image Building ­Services. Local businesses and organizations such as churches, schools and health-care ­facilities need basic maintenance services. This franchise offers cleaning, window-washing, carpet care and landscaping. Start-up investment: $12,000 to $73,000. Number of US franchises: 27.

The Grout Doctor. This franchise provides kitchen and bathroom tile and stone care, including regrouting, cleaning and repair, for home owners. Start-up investment: $12,000 to $40,000. Number of US franchises: 74.

American Poolplayers Association(APA). More than 250,000 players participate in the APA’s amateur pool league at all skill levels. Each franchise operates in a given territory, setting up and conducting league tournaments and offering merchandise for sale such as pool cues and apparel. Start-up investment: $16,704 to $19,874. Number of US franchises: 322.

TGA Premier Golf & Tennis. This franchise provides tennis and golf ­enrichment programs that focus not just on skills but also on discipline and character development at elementary and middle schools and community centers. Start-up investment: $16,300 to $67,350. Number of US franchises: 92.

United Country Real Estate. This franchise sells houses in rural America, as well as ranches, farms and vacation homes. Start-up investment: $16,690 to $44,435. Number of US franchises: 420.

Rhea Lana’s. Kids quickly outgrow new clothes. These franchises run children’s clothing consignment sales and events in local communities. Start-up investment: $18,050 to $36,050. Number of US franchises: 90.

PortraitEFX. The franchises provide training, marketing and business development for full- or part-time photographers. Start-up investment: $19,995 to $39,995. Number of US franchises: 55.

How the Franchises Were Chosen

This franchise article is based on a study by the market ­research firm Franchise Business Review, which surveyed 13,000 franchise owners to come up with a list of the highest-rated franchises based on 33 benchmarks of satisfaction, as well as affordable start-up costs.

Those costs typically include the initial fee to the franchisor (the company selling franchises), which can vary based on the size of the territory…plus costs such as equipment, marketing and working capital.

To see the entire list, go to ­

Source:Eric Stites, CEO and managing director of Franchise Business Review, an independent market research firm that specializes in the franchise industry, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Date: November 15, 2017 Publication: Bottom Line Personal