Franchising isn’t a new concept—after all, most of us have been to a 7-Eleven, McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts at least once. These juggernauts are the top three franchises based on size, growth and other factors, according to Entrepreneur magazine. And there are certainly benefits to owning a franchise versus opening a unique business.
“When you buy into a franchise, you are buying a system of operations and you are buying an accepted brand,” says Michael Williams, director of entrepreneurship activities and director of the business and entrepreneur clinic and faculty associate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship. “Franchising ebbs and flows with the economy; when we have a slowdown or recession and people are laid off, there may be an uptick in franchising as people look to replace their incomes.”
Right before the recession in 2007, Jamie and Tara Osborn decided to open Endurance House in Middleton, a retail store that sells products for endurance sport enthusiasts. The business has done so well that the couple franchised the brand in 2011. Today, they have 16 stores in cities that include Wichita Falls, Texas; Jacksonville, Florida, and Oceanside, California. The Osborns’ concept is poised to ride the wave of growing franchise opportunities. Trends point to “recession-proof” brands (tax preparation, hair cutting, shipping and packaging), “green” businesses (energy-reduction services for homes and more) and fitness, health and personal care businesses.
“[When we founded] Endurance House, the triathlon component at that time was still on the rise, and it still is,” says Jamie, adding that consumers often complained that there wasn’t just one store they could shop at for all their gear. “So that was one of the things that spoke to us that would give us confidence to open the concept and model in new markets.”
Even though franchises aren’t typically thought of as hyper-local, Osborn says their e-commerce platform allows shoppers to pick which location they want their product shipped from, something that can contribute to the storeowner’s bottom line—and the local economy.