Why would you opt to buy into an Internet franchise system instead of starting your own independent Internet business? One reason is that joining a franchise system makes it easy for technophobes to start high-tech ventures.
Worldsites, an Internet consulting franchise that provides Web site development and Internet solutions such as e-commerce and Internet telephony, actually prefers newbies over techies. "Technical knowledge can actually work against the franchisee, because when someone goes in and talks to [potential clients] about Java and HTML, it goes over their heads and scares them off," says Nigel Mayne, co-founder of the Toronto, Ontario, franchisor.
Worldsites franchisees (called consultants) don't need any background in computing or Web site design. The company provides the necessary know-how through its extensive training classes.
Or consider Quik Internet International, a Carson City, Nevada, company that sells ISP franchises. Most franchisees join the company with little more than a working knowledge of Windows 95. Tech expertise isn't needed because Quik Internet offers its franchisees an intensive five-day training program that covers every aspect of running an ISP business.
Another plus: Buying a franchise is often a less expensive way to get into the Internet industry than flying solo. For most entrepreneurs, the investment in host servers, high-speed T1 lines and other computer equipment required to start their own ISP is too daunting to even consider. Franchisors like Quik Internet provide a way to get into the ISP business without going into hock.
Quik Internet began as a small, homebased ISP run by Jack Reynolds, 39, a veteran Net surfer. With so many customers clamoring for Internet connections, Reynolds knew he was onto something big. So he called on longtime friend Murray Mead, 64, a franchise expert (and Internet newbie).
Mead was excited by the idea of duplicating Reynolds' ISP setup with a franchise system, and Quik Internet began franchising in 1996. The company sells space on a large server and network system to franchisees worldwide. Franchisees sign up customers for Internet access and offer customer support services in their exclusive territory. Quik Internet's central office handles billing and administrative matters.
Reynolds is enthusiastic about the benefits of franchising ISPs. "Part of what we're able to do is take the franchise fees and pool them in order to put into place more solid servers and networks than independent ISPs have," he explains. "Coming into this business as a new operator, you haven't got the resources to start that kind of network."
A franchise can also offer a way to test the waters as an Internet entrepreneur. According to Worldsites co-founder Dan Monaghan, 31, about half the company's franchisees sell Worldsites' Internet solutions on a part-time basis.