Selling health tips to globe trotters

Dispensing advice and vaccines for world travelers is paying off for this growing franchise business.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all RSS FEEDS (close)

New visions for fixing health care
America's health care system is expensive, inefficient, and leaves many citizens without coverage. Here's what 6 entrepreneurial companies are doing about it.

(Fortune Small Business) -- While running health services at the University of Baltimore in the early 1990s, Fran Lessans met a law student who was petrified about the prospect of attending her mother-in-law's funeral in Ghana. The young woman had visited the country once before but ended up getting sick and spending two weeks in the hospital. For the funeral trip, she'd done her homework and gotten the right shots, Lessans recalls. But no one had counseled her about water purification and what foods to avoid.

In 1994, Lessans founded Passport Health to provide counseling and vaccines for travelers headed overseas. "I noticed that when people got good counseling they stayed healthy, so we spend about an hour with each of our travelers," says Lessans, 61.

In 1997, she started franchising the company, which has since grown to more than 160 locations nationwide. Franchisees pay a onetime $35,000 franchise fee, as well as 7% of all revenues. Altogether they deliver 30,000 to 40,000 injections a month.

The franchise network has landed contracts with such national corporations as Macy's (M, Fortune 500) and PNC Bank (PNC, Fortune 500), driving revenues from $5 million in 2003 to $37 million last year. About 60% of the company's sales come from providing vaccines to travelers, and the rest from flu vaccines delivered during the fall.

"Doing both was an intentional way to balance revenue streams," says Lessans. "I didn't think travel would be enough to sustain the revenue model."

That turned out to be a canny choice this year. An international travel slump provoked a 10% slump in Passport's travel vaccine sales, Lessans says. But franchisees have seen a 10% increase in flu shot bookings because the swine flu scare has reminded people to get their regular flu shots as well. She expects 2009 revenues to be about level with last year's.

Before swine flu arrived, the influenza vaccine market "was already growing pretty consistently," says Bruce Carlson, publisher at Kalorama Information, a medical industry research firm. He attributes some of that growth to America's aging population. According to Kalorama, flu vaccine sales hit $3.2 billion in 2008, up 15.1% from 2007, and should rise 16.6% annually through 2013. To top of page

To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.

QMy dream is to launch my own business someday. Now that it's time to choose a major, I'm debating if I should major in entrepreneurial studies or major in engineering to acquire a set of skills first. Is majoring in entrepreneurship a good choice? More
Get Answer
- Spate, Orange, Calif.
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.