From the April 2001 issue of Entrepreneur

Seventeen years after introducing Americans to its residential cleaning franchise, Molly Maid is branching out in the home-service market, acquiring three franchises in four years under its new name, Service Brands International.

Though the company plans to add more franchise concepts, don't expect it to stray far from its original focus. "Our core com-petency is home-service-type businesses," says Marc A. Kiekenapp, Serv-ice Brands' vice president of franchise development. "We're not going to depart into the restaurant business or anything like that."

Service Brands' recent purchases are:

  • 1-800-Dryclean: Acquiring this dry-cleaning pickup and delivery franchise in 1997 was Service Brands' first move.

1-800-Dryclean amassed about 25 franchises in 2000, its first year of franchising, and expects to add another 25 this year. By focusing on steady rather than explosive growth, says Kieke-napp, the company looks out for its franchisees: "We can make sure our franchisees are successful and our system is strong."

  • Mr. Handyman:

After a number of Molly Maid franchisees said cus-tomers wanted someone to provide basic home repair and maintenance services, Service Brands decided to buy Mr. Handyman last year.

"We focus on the nonlicensed portion of that work," explains Kiekenapp. "We don't go behind the walls and do plumbing. We're not trying to do remodels."

Mr. Handyman had about 15 units in 2000 and expects 25 to 30 more this year.

  • Wee Watch: Following its mission to provide timesaving services to cus-tomers, Service Brands recently acquired Wee Watch, an in-home day-care system that originated in Canada.

Wee Watch franchisees provide day care to two to three children in their homes, offering enrichment programs in addition to care. "There's a program put in place," Kiekenapp says. "Children actually learn and interact using educational and developmental programs."

Franchising in the United States since December 2000, Wee Watch currently has no U.S. franchises but is expecting to gain 15 to 20 units this year.

Overall, Service Brands' goal for 2001 is to continue growing each of its brands. The company is also looking into cross-marketing and co-branding. Says Kieke-napp, "We're pretty excited about what they can bring us."