Franchise Buying Guide

Bargain Hunters

In search of the ridiculously inexpensive franchise
Presented by Guidant Financial
Guidant Financial specializes in helping entrepreneurs purchase new franchises using their retirement funds.

You've weighed the pros and cons, looked at all the numbers, and now your mind is made up: You're going into business for yourself and purchasing a franchise to do it. But there's just one tiny hitch: You can't afford to spend a lot of money.

Well, you don't necessarily have to.

In fact, it might surprise you to find out what franchises you can get for a few thousand dollars. Would you be interested in purchasing a rental car franchise for $2,500? How about a 7-Eleven for $3,500? Hard to believe?

That was Gayla Ables' initial reaction as well. The Adrian, Michigan, entrepreneur purchased her 7-Eleven with only $3,500 from her savings. She took over the store in 1998.

Ables, 43, had worked with 7-Eleven for almost eight years-first as a sales associate and then for two-and-a-half years as a corporate store manager-before the franchise began offering its work-to-own program. "It sounded interesting, and with the low down payment, [a franchise] was something I could afford," says Ables. 7-Eleven helped by financing the $52,500 franchise fee and the $41,000 inventory cost.

Jack Wilkie, 7-Eleven's national franchise and corporate communications director, explains: "You can come into the [corporate] store as a sales associate, train on the basic 7-Eleven operations and, if you demonstrate proficiency, move into the store manager rank [and eventually into the] work-to-own program." The convenience-store chain also has a turnkey opportunity in which qualified applicants can get into the system for as little as $25,000. Wilkie says this route includes six weeks of intensive training, plus the expenses of business licenses, opening inventory and the cash register fund.

How is Ables doing now? In addition to bringing her husband and three children on board, she employs seven workers. Her 2000 sales were $1.5 million, and she projects a 5 percent increase for 2001. Since she took over, the store's sales have increased overall by 20 percent.

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