"Whenever there's a contraction in the job market and executives lose their jobs, a lot of that money flows into starting businesses," says Robert Purvin, CEO of the Association of Franchisees & Dealers. "Economic downtimes were almost always good blips in the franchising marketplace."
With companies large and small laying off huge chunks of their white- and blue-collar work forces, franchising insiders are hoping for another good blip. "[Laid-off workers'] most pressing interest is being master of their own destiny," says Don DeBolt, president of the International Franchise Association. "[Another] need is to create an asset they can someday either pass on to their children or sell to provide security for their later years."
Ruth Sperring was interested in creating something for herself. After spending 15 years in the customer-service department of a large printing company, Sperring learned her North Carolina division was closing. As the plant finished existing contracts, Sperring began exploring her options.
"I was overqualified for a lot of jobs, and I got very frustrated," Sperring says. "I decided if I was going to have to start over, I would do so building my own business."
Sperring discovered Kitchen Tune-Up, a remodeling franchise she bought in 1998. She used her severance for income while starting the Hickory, North Carolina, franchise. "There's uncertainty with being self-employed," she says. "You have to have guts and faith."
Though a 9-to-5 job sometimes sounds easier, Sperring is completely grateful for the benefits of owning a franchise. "As an employee, you're not privy to what's going on and may not realize your job is in jeopardy," she says. "A job would be easier and doesn't require quite as much work, but it also offers no security."