NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Something that works locally should work elsewhere too: Today, Peoria. Tomorrow, the world.
But with the profusion of franchise businesses, 2,000 and counting in the United States alone, most of the obvious ideas are spoken for.
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Franchise broker Steve Hockett of FranChoice has been in the business so long that "no new franchise business surprises him."
Still, some are more surprising than others.
The Crack Team
No, it's not a rock-cocaine supplier. The Crack Team's franchise units fix cracks in basement walls. Started by Mike Kodner -- son Bob calls him "the Ray Kroc of Crack" -- in 1985, it first sold franchises in 2001 and has grown to eight units.
The Crack Team charges a $15,000 franchise fee, which gets you training, access to "proprietary" crack repair products, and marketing help. Bob Kodner claims his franchisees hit the ground running: With its Web site and 800-number, The Crack Team "can support a franchise and really make their phones ring," he says.
A profitable catalogue line of apparel and novelty items featuring a SpongeBob-like mascot – Mr. Happy Crack – has "spearheaded name recognition," according to Bob Kodner. You can order tee shirts, sweats, even thongs, complete with Mr. Happy Crack spouting the company slogan, "A dry crack is a happy crack."
Kodner says the company does not offer any claims on how much franchisees can earn, but noted that franchises have low overhead and that an operation can generate sales in the low to mid six figures a year.
CSI, watch out
Crime Scene Cleaners has 18 different branches that founder Neal Smithers says he runs on a franchise model but which are all company owned to this point. Smithers got the idea for his service while watching Harvey Keitel direct a gory cleanup in the 1994 movie "Pulp Fiction," and says he will either begin selling franchises in the near future or sell the company outright.
Clients for his service include law enforcement agencies as well as private home owners and landlords, and includes sanitizing biohazrd sites such as meth labs.
Another franchise coming down the pike is 1-800-AUTOPSY, which has been running for more than 15 years now. Founded by Vidal Herrera, a former Field Deputy Coroner-Investigator for the Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner Coroner in California, 1-800-autopsy arranges private post mortems, starting at about $2,000.
As hospitals have cut back on autopsies many people order private autopsies to pin down causes of death of relatives. The company also does many forensic procedures that attorneys use to reinforce their cases.
The company has been successful enough in their Los Angeles base that it's launching a franchise network. Herrera plans 27 franchises in the United States, and thinks the first ones will open by year's end.
Man's best friend
Colorado-based Bark Busters has as its mission to promote clear and open (preferably non-vocal) communication between man and dog using simple and effective training methods that reflect the canine psyche.
Basically, trainers come to your house and gently persuade Fido to put a sock in it.
|Nice doggie. Bark Busters makes that lie come true.
The company was christened Bark Busters in 1989 after Australian founder Sylvia Wilson solved a friend's dog barking. Most dog owners use screaming or punishment, but that, arugues Wilson, leaves the dog anxious and more likely to act badly.
Animal behaviorist and company treasurer Liam Crowe explains that the Bark Busters regimen capitalizes on dogs' eagerness to please; they respond better to rewards and praise than to pain and intimidation
In 2000, Wilson expanded into the United States, and Bark Busters now has 57 units.
A franchise costs $22,500, plus $15,000 for the four-week training course. Crowe says, nationwide, trainers charge an average of $404 per session of 2 to 21/2 hours. That's nothing to sniff at.
Another pet-centric, Australian-bred franchise business is Aussie Pet Mobile, which offers a pet grooming service a phone call away.
For a franchise fee of $32,500, plus the cost of a fully equipped mobile unit (total investment about $60,000), franchisees get training in grooming and an exclusive territory.
Director of franchise sales, David Louy, says his company's client base consists of middle class, two income families – people with no time. The mobile grooming center comes to them and Bowser gets his shampoo and pedicure done in a familiar, comforting surrounding. Treatment includes massage and aromatherapy.
|Interquest Detection Canines: Hot on the scent
Says Louy, "The owners love it and the dogs love it." (That last claim cannot be substantiated.)
Another niche franchisor is Interquest Detection Canines, a provider of drug sniffing dogs to schools and workplaces. In addition to training, the $30,000 franchise fee buys ongoing expertise to help navigate the rocky legal landscape.
Interquest began franchising in 1999, according to spokesman Michael Ferdinand, and is already up to nearly 40 units.
1-800-GOT-JUNK?, has been around since 1989. Franchisees of this Vancouver-based company remove old furniture, appliances, office stuff, and household junk for disposal or recycling, sort of an alternative to eBay.
Junk removal is actually one of the hottest franchise industries and 1-800-got-junk? has already set up 96 partners, which cost $18k. Founder Brian Scudomore says the biggest tangible benefit to joining his operation is the junknet operation he set up, which enables collectors in the field to access pickup information via PDA or computer as it comes in. "It's a high tech spin on an extremely low tech business," he says.
Finally, if you need any help buying a franchise you might want to contact The Business Alliance, a broker devoted to putting together franchisors with potential franchisees. Fittingly, The Business Alliance is itself, a franchise operation.