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Top Franchises You Can Launch for Less Than $50,000

Top Franchises You Can Launch for Less Than $50,000
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Business ownership doesn't have to be super-expensive. Sure, some franchises cost thousands--even millions--of dollars to start. But a growing number of franchisors are coming up with homebased and mobile options, as well as new technologies, to help keep costs down for franchisees. Below, you'll find Entrepreneur 's Top Low-Cost Franchises, 97 businesses that can each be started for less than $50,000.

These companies are listed based on their ranking in Entrepreneur's 2013 Franchise 500®, which is determined using objective, quantifiable criteria, including system size, growth and financial strength and stability. This listing is not intended as a recommendation of any particular company, but merely as a starting point for your own research. Always make sure you know what you're investing in by reading a company's legal documents, consulting with an attorney and an accountant and talking to franchisees.

The Fine Print

The companies on our list with the lowest startup costs:
Cruise Planners-American
Express Travel
starting at $1.6K

BuildingStars International
starting at $2.2K

Jazzercise
starting at $2.98K

Jan-Pro Franchising International
starting at $3.1K

CruiseOne
starting at $4.6K

Baby Boot Camp/Karna Fitness
starting at $4.7K

ProForma
starting at $4.7K

Mint Condition Franchising
starting at $4.9K

System4
starting at $6.2K

DKI
starting at $7.1K

If costs are a priority in your franchise evaluation, pay particular attention to three sections of the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD).

Item 5: Initial Fees
This section outlines what you will owe to the franchisor before your franchise opens--most important, the franchise fee. Typically this is a uniform lump sum, but for some companies it varies based on factors like experience, location and territory size--so make sure you know exactly what you're paying for. A smaller territory may be cheaper, but it will also limit your business.

Item 5 will also tell you whether the franchise fee must be paid in full or whether it can be paid on an installment basis, and what the payment terms are.

Related: How to Read a Franchise Disclosure Document

Item 6: Other Fees
Don't make the mistake of thinking your financial obligation to the franchisor ends when you pay the franchise fee. Item 6 outlines recurring and occasional fees, including royalties, which are required by almost all franchisors in return for their ongoing support. Usually royalty fees are a percentage of sales, but some companies may instead charge a flat fee on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis.

Although royalty fees are not included in startup costs, they are just as important a consideration. A franchise with slightly higher startup costs but low royalties may turn out to be a better deal in the long run than one with low startup costs but high royalties.

Item 7: Estimated Initial Investment
Two words are important to note here: estimated and initial. Item 7 gives a range of how much it likely will cost to start the business: the franchise fee, plus additional costs such as real estate, equipment, supplies, business licenses and working capital. Actual costs will vary depending on your individual circumstances. While all the companies on this list can be started for less than $50,000 (based on their Item 7 estimates), that doesn't mean all their franchisees start their businesses for that little. If keeping startup costs low is a priority, examining the table in Item 7 will help you determine how to do it, whether it's running the business from home, buying used equipment or leasing equipment.

It's also important to recognize that this is just the initial investment. It covers only the money needed to get the business up and running, along with operating expenses for a short period--typically around three months. Don't get into a franchise thinking this is all the money you'll ever have to spend. Like with any business, you will have significant ongoing expenses.

Unlike most independent businesses, though, you can talk to existing franchisees to find out what those ongoing expenses are and whether you'll be able to manage them. Reading the FDD is essential to your decision-making process, but firsthand accounts from the trenches are indispensable when deciding what makes a wise franchise investment.

1. H & R Block
Tax preparation & electronic filing
Startup cost: $31.5K-138.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 5,083/6,588

2. Jan-Pro Franchising International
Commercial cleaning
Startup cost: $3.1K-50.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 11,146/0

3. System4
Commercial cleaning
Startup cost: $6.2K-37.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,392/2

4. Vanguard Cleaning Systems
Commercial cleaning
Startup cost: $9.9K-39.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,696/0

5. Jazzercise
Dance fitness classes, conventions, apparel & accessories
Startup cost: $2.98K-76.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 8,641/2

6. Cruise Planners-American Express Travel
Cruise & tour travel agency
Startup cost: $1.6K-19.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,172/0

7. Anago Cleaning Systems
Commercial cleaning
Startup cost: $8.5K-65.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,432/2

8. Chem-Dry Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning
Carpet, drapery & upholstery cleaning; tile & stone care
Startup cost: $32.7K-127K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 3,500/0

9. CruiseOne
Cruise & travel agency
Startup cost: $4.6K-26.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 884/0

10. Novus Glass
Auto glass repair & replacement
Startup cost: $31.6K-134.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,581/13

11. Heaven's Best Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning
Carpet & upholstery cleaning
Startup cost: $44.9K-65.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,304/0

12. Proforma
Printing & promotional products
Startup cost: $4.7K-44.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 709/0

13. Cellairis Franchise
Cell-phone & wireless-device accessories
Startup cost: $36.8K-182.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 620/0

14. Buildingstars International
Commercial cleaning
Startup cost: $2.2K-52.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 376/0

15. DKI
Insurance restoration services
Startup cost: $7.1K-117.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 265/0

16. American Poolplayers Association
Recreational billiard league
Startup cost: $17.1K-24.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 308/4

17. Coffee News
Weekly newspaper distributed at restaurants
Startup cost: $9.4K-10.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 883/4

18. U.S. Lawns
Commercial landscape maintenance services
Startup cost: $48.5K-75.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 262/0

19. Real Property Management
Property-management services
Startup cost: $35.6K-74.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 198/1

20. Mint Condition Franchising
Janitorial & building-maintenance services
Startup cost: $4.9K-45.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 265/0

21. SuperGlass Windshield Repair
Windshield repair
Startup cost: $9.9K-31K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 285/0

22. N-Hance
Wood floor & cabinet renewal systems
Startup cost: $30.5K-130.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 218/0

23. Club Z! In-Home
Tutoring Services
In-home tutoring services
Startup cost: $27.7K-56.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 404/0

24. Rooter-Man
Plumbing, drain & sewer cleaning
Startup cost: $46.8K-137.6K
Total franchises/
co.-owned: 481/8

25. MaidPro
Housecleaning services
Startup cost: $19.8K-114.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 158/1

26. Caring Transitions
Sales of estates & household goods
Startup cost: $45.5K-73.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 127/0

27. Soccer Shots
Franchising
Soccer programs for children ages 2 to 8
Startup cost: $17.9K-22.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 133/8

28. Mr. Sandless/Dr. DecknFence
Sandless wood refinishing
Startup cost: $12.4K-62.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 254/11

29. HappyFeet Legends International
Soccer programs for children ages 2 to 18
Startup cost: $18.3K-23.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 107/5

30. Guard-A-Kid
Children's identification & safety products
Startup cost: $21.4K-38.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 182/1

31. OpenWorks
Commercial cleaning & facility services
Startup cost: $17K-119.95K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 303/5

32. Bricks 4 Kidz
Lego engineering classes, camps & birthday parties
Startup cost: $33.8K-51.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 231/2

33. Fresh Coat
Interior painting
Startup cost: $44.4K-70.95K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 89/0

34. Just Between Friends Franchise Systems
Children's & maternity consignment-sale events
Startup cost: $25.4K-32.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 132/0

35. Complete Music
Mobile DJ-entertainment service
Startup cost: $30.4K-48.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 180/2

36. ASP-America's Swimming Pool
Swimming pool maintenance, repairs & renovations
Startup cost: $48.8K-89.96K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 124/1

37. City Publications
Publication for affluent homeowners
Startup cost: $45K-150K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 96/0

38. Estrella Insurance
Auto, home & business insurance
Startup cost: $49.95K-84K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 55/0

39. The Glass Guru
Window restoration & replacements
Startup cost: $27.7K-117.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 69/1

40. Pillar To Post Inspection Services
Home inspections
Startup cost: $30.9K-46.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 349/0

41. Plan Ahead Events
Corporate event planning
Startup cost: $38.9K-70.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 99/0

42. Kinderdance International
Children's movement/educational program
Startup cost: $14.95K-46.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 128/2

43. Realty Executives International
Real estate
Startup cost: $20.4K-119K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 521/1

44. Office Pride Commercial Cleaning
Commercial cleaning
Startup cost: $14.9K-59K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 110/1

45. Bevintel
Liquor inventory-control services
Startup cost: $36.9K-50.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 307/2

46. Amazing Athletes
Sports-based fitness & enrichment classes for children
Startup cost: $38.2K-53.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 67/0

47. Sit Means Sit Dog Training
Dog training
Startup cost: $21.1K-93.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 67/1

48. Drama Kids International
After-school drama classes & summer camps
Startup cost: $33.6K-38.95K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 196/0

49. TGA Premier Junior Golf
Youth golf programs
Startup cost: $13.2K-62.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 48/2

50. Izon Global Media & Billboard Connection
Ad agency specializing in outdoor media
Startup cost: $42K-64.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 121/0

51. Young Rembrandts Franchise
Art classes for children ages 3 to 12
Startup cost: $40.4K-48.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 96/0

52. Acti-Kare
Nonmedical in-home senior care
Startup cost: $17K-36K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 35/0

53. Grout Doctor Global Franchise
Grout, tile & stone care
Startup cost:
$15.9K-39.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 71/3

54. The Decor Group
Landscape, outdoor, holiday & event
Startup cost: $16.1K-77.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 291/0

55. Town Money Saver
Direct-mail advertising
Startup cost: $35.6K-44.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 38/0

56. Yellow Van Handyman
Handyman services
Startup cost: $19.5K-32K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 47/0

57. Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System
Commercial cleaning
Startup cost: $10.8K-44.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 9,202/0

58. AmeriSpec Home Inspection Services
Home inspections
Startup cost: $41.4K-72.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 294/0

59. AArrow Advertising
Advertising, sign spinning, guerrilla marketing
Startup cost: $36.9K-80K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 43/0

60. BookKeeping Express
Bookkeeping services
Startup cost: $39.4K-55.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 40/3

61. Squeegee Squad
Residential & high-rise window cleaning & building maintenance
Startup cost: $28.4K-77.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 35/1

62. Window Gang
Window, gutter, house, roof, dryer-vent & chimney cleaning; deck & fence cleaning/sealing
Startup cost: $34.4K-81.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 168/25

63. My Gym Children's Fitness Center
Children's early-learning/fitness program
Startup cost: $34.3K-236.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 291/0

64. Fast-teks On-site Computer Services
On-site computer-repair services
Startup cost: $36.5K-62.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 251/0

65. Kitchen Tune-Up
Residential & commercial kitchen & bath remodeling
Startup cost: $45.8K-55.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 155/0

66. Snaggle Foot Dog Walks & Pet Care
Pet-sitting & dog-walking services
Startup cost: $11.8K-21.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 17/5

67. ERA Franchise Systems
Real estate
Startup cost: $47.7K-209.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,311/11

68. Mainstream Boutique
Women's clothing, accessories & gifts
Startup cost: $43.7K-129.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 22/1

69. National Property Inspections
Home & commercial property inspections
Startup cost: $39.6K-42K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 207/0

70. Cruise Holidays
Cruise travel agency
Startup cost: $10.4K-160.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 221/4

71. Jantize America
Commercial cleaning
Startup cost: $29.7K-171.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 247/0

72. Computer Troubleshooters
Small-business technology consulting
Startup cost: $17.2K-67.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 415/0

73. Baby Boot Camp/Karna Fitness
Prenatal & postnatal fitness; women's private & small-group training
Startup cost: $4.7K-10.4K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 147/1

74. Sunbelt
Business brokerage
Startup cost: $49.95K-112.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 223/1

75. Certified Restoration DryCleaning Network
Textile-restoration services
Startup cost: $45.6K-235.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 151/0

76. Dale Carnegie Training
Workplace training & development
Startup cost: $40K-164.95K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 202/2

77. Summit Learning Services
Tutoring/learning services
Startup cost: $32.99K-46.99K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 20/13

78. WIN Home Inspection
Home inspections
Startup cost: $42.5K-66.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 164/0

79. Aire-Master of America
Restroom deodorizing & maintenance services
Startup cost: $34.7K-126.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 91/4

80. Jet-Black International
Asphalt maintenance services
Startup cost: $38.4K-90.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 75/8

81. 9Round
Kickboxing fitness program
Startup cost: $40K-52K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 50/3

82. HomeVestors of America
Home-buying, repair & selling system
Startup cost: $42.3K-346.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 329/0

83. 360clean
Commercial cleaning
Startup cost: $9.4K-15.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 60/0

84. Oxi Fresh Franchising
Carpet cleaning
Startup cost: $37.7K-60.1K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 229/4

85. Mom Corps
Staffing services
Startup cost: $39.2K-63.7K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 17/0

86. Sports Image
Sports marketing for high schools & organizations
Startup cost: $15.5K-38.97K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 18/1

87. The Senior's Choice
Assisted-living & healthcare-staffing services
Startup cost: $34K-51K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 166/0

88. Tutoring Club
Individualized instruction for K-12 students
Startup cost: $26.3K-127.3K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 120/1

89. Assist-2-Sell
Discount real-estate services
Startup cost: $19.5K-40.99K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 242/1

90. Pressed4Time
Dry-cleaning pickup & delivery, shoe repair
Startup cost: $35.9K-44.8K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 117/0

91. Murphy Business & Financial
Business & franchise brokerage/commercial real estate
Startup cost: $45.8K-113.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 146/1

92. Tax Centers of America
Tax preparation & electronic filing
Startup cost: $20.3K-63.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 117/1

93. The Mad Science Group
Children's science education & entertainment
Startup cost: $49.4K-80.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 159/0

94. Lil' Angels Photography
School & child-care photography
Startup cost: $46.7K-51.2K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 72/0

95. Abrakadoodle
Art-education programs for children
Startup cost: $35.8K-74.5K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 103/2

96. i9 Sports
Youth sports leagues, camps & clinics
Startup cost: $44.9K-72.9K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 115/1

97. CompuChild
Technology education for children
Startup cost: $18.5K-33.6K
Total franchises/co.-owned: 50/2

Tracy Stapp Herold is the special projects editor at Entrepreneur magazine. She works on franchise and business opportunity stories and listings, including the annual Franchise 500.

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This article was originally published in the August 2013 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Here's the Lowdown.

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