Want to Go Into Business? Here Are 12 Cheap Franchises to Start
For many aspiring business owners, entrepreneurship is both exciting and daunting. Sometimes it feels like you have to be creative, a maker, an inventor—someone who can turn nothing into something.
But not every successful business owner started from scratch. Franchisees are inspirational entrepreneurs in their own right.
But franchises often come with a hefty price tag. That’s why we rounded up a number of cheap franchises with a variety of business models to open. Not every potential franchisee can afford to open a McDonald’s. Check these low-cost franchise business model opportunities below.
2 Cheap Franchises under $1,000
Commercial cleaning company Buildingstars offers potential franchisees one of the most affordable options out there—it’s an affordable franchise business under $1,000, not to mention $5K. You can start your own for as little as $795. This includes a base of customers to get you started generating $1,000–$5,000 in monthly gross revenue. There are three levels of franchising with Buildingstars:
Technician: Start small with a part-time commitment while you keep your day job. This is among the cheapest franchises to open.
On-site manager: Gain full-time business ownership, manage larger accounts, lead a team of staff, and clean yourself as needed.
Corporate: For experienced Buildingstart franchisees, this level offers the highest average gross revenue.
Dream Vacations allow franchise owners to start and run their own travel agency small business for as low as a $495 initial investment. Depending on your franchise license, you’ll be able to sell travel packages to clients and build your own customer base. Dream Vacations offers training and resources, as well as tools and solutions (like a live booking engine) to enable you to book trips for your clients easily.
Cheap franchises under $1000 are a great way to get started with your own business on a budget.
5 Cheap Franchises under $5,000
JAN-PRO is a commercial cleaning service company with more than 10,000 franchisees in eight countries. There are three franchising options to choose from:
Home-based: JAN-PRO’s most affordable franchising option, you’ll need $1,000–$5,000 for use of the JAN-PRO brand, brand standards certification, uniforms, initial equipment, cleaning accounts, and cleaning supplies. This is their cheapest franchise to open.
Executive: For a slightly higher price of $20,000, you can become a regional master franchisor. This is ideal for individuals with C-level and SVP experience and a minimum $1 million net worth. This investment is still considered a cheap franchise business.
International: Also starting at $20,000, international opportunities are for regional master franchisors with C-level and SVP experience and a minimum $2 million net worth.
Stratus Building Solutions
Stratus Building Solutions is another corporate cleaning franchise option. While franchising fees start as low as $1,000, Stratus notes that its Unit Janitorial Franchise option typically comes in at $2,700–$39,600, with a total investment of $3,450–$53,800. You can run this business in-home and own as many units as you like.
The Executive Master Franchise offering requires at least $75,000 in initial franchise fees. In this model, you operate as the regional franchisor and the sales and support center for your own franchisees.
Aerobic exercise and dance fitness brand Jazzercise offers franchise opportunities all over the world—and the initial franchise fee is just $1,250. Other associated costs include a $120 annual associate fee, annual insurance fees of $185–$275, and up to $250 annually for music downloads. Travel and equipment expenses vary.
There are two franchise options with Jazzercise:
Associate instructor: If you want to teach the classes and not deal with the business side of things.
Owner instructor: If you want to be more hands-on with the business side of things; this also comes with an additional monthly continuing franchise fee (CFF) of 20% of gross revenues (or $250 per month minimum) as well as music licensing fees of $169–$323/year.
With 7,000 company-owned, franchised, and affiliated travel agencies, Travel Leaders is the largest franchise network of travel agencies. Spanning six countries, they offer franchisees a suite of tools—and minimal startup costs. The Franchise Mall reports a $1,500 franchise fee, with $3,600–$15,440 in total startup expenses. Franchise renewal fees are $1,000. Franchisees get training and sales presentations and materials, upfront commissions, marketing, and PR support, and access to their tech stack and support.
Chester’s Chicken is one of the cheap food franchises out there in the franchise industry. According to TopFranchise.com, Chester’s Chicken requires a franchise fee of just $3,500, though that doesn’t include additional startup costs. Total investment depends on the type of franchise you open, of which there are two:
Supermarket: Open in 60 days or less with Minimal Equipment and Product Requirements; includes quarterly digital promo board content, training videos, and marketing support center.
Store-in-store: Takes 30–120 days to open and includes Chester’s Chicken’s affordable equipment package, training videos, marketing support center, quarterly promotional materials, ongoing operations support, and no royalty fees.
6 Cheap Franchises under $25,000
Baby Boot Camp
One of the best cheap franchises for ambitious parents, Baby Boot Camp’s stroller fitness classes combine exercise, parenthood, and entrepreneurship. Franchise fees and tiers are dependent on the local population—expect to pay anywhere between $5,000–$8,000. Franchisees get a comprehensive operations manual and secure exclusivity of their territory to avoid saturation, making this a compelling business opportunity.
No matter how much time you’ve spent behind the camera, TSS Photography makes starting a photography business accessible to all kinds of entrepreneurs. You can look for cheap franchises to buy on their database, or start a new one of your own. Franchise Direct reports a $7,500 franchise fee, though TSS Photography estimates equipment and other costs will require a $40,000–$60,000 total initial investment. There are no royalty fees, and discounts are available for veterans.
An “upscale children’s consignment pop-up event,” Rhea Lana’s offers flexibility for franchisees. To secure your territory, Rhea Lana’s asks for an $11,500–$14,500 franchise fee (the range depends on the size of your market). Expect to pay an additional $20k to launch your first event, as well as a 3% royalty fee (this number decreases as your sales numbers increase).
Though Coverall doesn’t disclose specific figures on their website, it’s been reported by Entrepreneur, Franchise Direct, and Franchise.com that franchise fees are in the $13,500–$52,000 range. Coverall also offers up to 10% off franchise fees for qualified active military and veterans. The commercial cleaning company offers business operations guidance, ongoing preventative maintenance training, 1:1 mentorship, and access to its existing customer base.
SuperGlass Windshield Repair
With more than 300 franchises across the U.S., SuperGlass Windshield Repair is a mobile windshield repair service that provides marketing and technical support to franchisees, among other things. TopFranchise.com estimates a $17,500 franchise fee and a total initial investment of $18,685–$84,205.
You can get into the drywall repair industry with a PatchMaster franchise. It comes with a $19,500 franchise fee and an estimated total startup cost of $28,450–$49,800. PatchMaster offers franchisees marketing collateral and support, a weeklong in-person training, and dedicated ongoing support. Funding options are also available.
How to Choose a Franchise
Choosing the best franchise for yourself depends on your goals and motivations to start your own business. If you have lifestyle goals, choose a franchise like Baby Boot Camp or Rhea Lana’s that offers community and flexibility, respectively. If you have revenue goals, look for metrics in a franchise business review around what franchisees’ typical sales numbers and profit margins are.
Remember, franchise costs aren’t limited to the franchise fee. There are other expenses associated with becoming a franchisee than simply the low startup costs:
Royalty fees: Ongoing fees due to the franchise; these are typically taken as a percentage of your sales.
Initial investment: While you need to pay the franchise fee, you’ll also need to consider other required investments in inventory, marketing and promotion, staffing, storefront, equipment, and other business startup costs.
Some franchises also look at your personal finances. In some cases, they’re just checking for good records and payment history. In others, franchises require a minimum net worth and credit score.
Steps to Take Before Buying a Franchise
Franchise success elsewhere doesn’t guarantee success for your particular franchise. The first step is to do some market research to ensure there’s demand for your offering and a large enough market to sustain that demand over time. It’s also a good idea to make sure there aren’t too many competing businesses or other franchisees of the same brand in your area. This is called saturation—when there are too many of the same kinds of businesses in a location.
If you’ve determined the franchise can be successful in your chosen location and it’s within budget, it’s time to look at the specific legal agreement. The Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) outlines your responsibilities as a franchisee, as well as what you can expect to receive from the franchisor.
Pro tip: Hire a trusted attorney to help you with this. It’s important that someone with legal expertise ensure you’re agreeing to terms that are mutually beneficial and protect your business and personal assets.
It’s also a good idea to do some independent research before you sign your name on any agreements. Look out for scams or negative experiences that others have had with the company. A quick Google search should reveal these red flags. You’ll also want to look at customer reviews on Google and employee reviews on a site like Glassdoor to make sure it’s a reputable company that pleases customers and staff alike.
Finally, when it comes to covering the investment costs of your new business (even if it’s a very low investment), you may need to look at a variety of financing options. For instance, you may need to apply to a lender for one or more business loans in order to obtain the cash required to start a new franchise. Fear not, though, a well-run, profitable franchise should be able to turn a positive ROI in a reasonable timeframe.
Moving Forward With Your Franchise
Congratulations! You’re ready to invest in your next franchise opportunity. With minimal startup costs and an experienced network of industry and business professionals, a franchise is a great way to experiment with entrepreneurism for the first time and become your own boss or expand on what you’ve already built. Which franchises are you considering for your next venture?
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