Small Wonders

Once considered the second-rate alternative to a "real" storefront, today's kiosks offer benefits their full-sized counterparts can't.

Until he learned about kiosks and express locations, Darryl Rockwitt only dreamed about owning a franchise. Although a traditional business was out of his reach financially, an express location (a scaled-down version of a franchise concept in a smaller space) fell within his budget.

"Starting an express location cost me only $25,000, whereas opening a store would have cost $100,000," says Rockwitt, who opened a Heel Quik! shoe-repair franchise in a Merietta, Georgia, grocery store in 1989. "I also appreciated the lower risk starting [small] gave me. I could test the waters, rather than going hog wild and spending my life savings."

The initial investment may have been small, but the profits have been big for Rockwitt, 51. "Over the past 10 years, business has increased by at least 25 percent every year. Gross sales are now about $2,000 a week, with 30 percent of that covering operating expenses," he says. I've done well enough to expand into other areas, including buying a full-scale Heel Quik! shoe-repair shop."

Once viewed as the low-rent alternative to a "real" retail operation, kiosks and express locations are now seen as a good way to get in on business ownership. Due to limited and costly retail space as well as customer demand for faster, more convenient service, some kiosks have even replaced traditional stores. At the very least, kiosks have become effective store complemements.

For entrepreneurs, this boom in kiosks means fewer financial barriers to owning a business. "Kiosks have given just about anyone the chance to be their own boss," says Jeffrey Morris, president of All A Cart Manufacturing Inc., a Columbus, Ohio, kiosk and cart manufacturer. "We make kiosks for people who never in their wildest dreams thought they could own a business. Coupled with franchising and the brand-name recognition it brings, many kiosk operators are experiencing almost instant success."

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