Soaring. Sky rocketing. Surging. Call it what you want. The companies on our list of this year's fastest-growing franchises -- gleaned from Entrepreneur's 2011 Franchise 500® list -- have exploded in size despite a difficult economic climate.
The rankings are based on growth as measured by the number of open and operating units in the U.S. and Canada during the 12 months ending July 31, 2010. A majority of the franchises on our list of 10 are commercial cleaning companies.
You could say that market is, well, cleaning up.
1. Stratus Building Solutions
U.S./Canada franchise growth: +1,369
Franchising since: 2005
Startup costs: $3,450 - $57,750
2011 Franchise 500 rank: 20
Applying their combined experience of more than two decades as executives in the commercial cleaning industry, Dennis Jarrett and Pete Frese founded Stratus Building Solutions in 2004. Franchisees offer cleaning services -- including the company's environmentally-friendly Stratus GreenClean program -- for office buildings, retail properties, medical facilities, schools and other locations.
2. Jan-Pro Franchising Int'l Inc.
U.S./Canada franchise growth: +1,144
Franchising since: 1992
Startup costs: $3,145 - $50,405
2011 Franchise 500 rank: 11
Jacques Lapointe founded Jan-Pro in Providence, R.I., in 1991. Jan-Pro began franchising the following year, offering both master- and single-unit franchises, and has since grown to more than 10,000 units throughout the U.S. and Canada. Franchisees offer commercial cleaning services to businesses such as car dealerships, gyms, banks, churches, schools and offices.
U.S./Canada franchise growth: +992
Franchising since: 1974
Startup costs: $84,300 - $258,300
2011 Franchise 500 rank: 9
In 1965, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca and family friend Peter Buck opened Pete's Super Submarines in Bridgeport, Conn. With a loan from Buck for $1,000, DeLuca hoped the tiny sandwich shop would earn enough to put him through college. After struggling through the first few years, the founders changed the company's name to Subway and began franchising in 1974. Offering a fresh, healthy alternative to fast-food restaurants, Subway has franchises throughout the U.S. and abroad.
4. CleanNet USA Inc.
U.S./Canada franchise growth: +791
Franchising since: 1988
Startup costs: $6,655 - $92,950
2011 Franchise 500 rank: 25
Mark Salek founded CleanNet USA in 1987 and opened the company's first office the following year in Columbia, Md., providing cleaning services to commercial clients in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area. Today, the business offers a variety of cleaning services for commercial, retail and industrial facilities in financial, hospitality, medical and other industries.
5. Anago Cleaning Systems
U.S./Canada franchise growth: +523
Franchising since: 1991
Startup costs: $8,543 - $65,406
2011 Franchise 500 rank: 110
David Povlitz first began offering cleaning services to commercial customers under the Anago name in 1989. The company, which began franchising in 1991, offers its services to customers throughout the U.S. Franchises provide regularly scheduled office cleanings as well as periodic maintenance, such as carpet shampooing and window powerwashing.
6. Pizza Hut Inc.
U.S./Canada franchise growth: +382
Franchising since: 1959
Startup costs: $302,000 - $2,149,000
2011 Franchise 500 rank: 13
While college students in Wichita, Kan., Frank and Dan Carney were approached by a family friend with the idea of opening a pizza parlor. Inspired, the brothers borrowed $600 from their mother, purchased secondhand equipment and rented a small building on a busy intersection in their hometown. With that, the first Pizza Hut opened its doors in 1958. Just a year later, the company incorporated and the first franchise opened in Topeka. Today, Pizza Hut is owned by Yum! Brands, parent company of A&W Restaurants, KFC, Long John Silver's and Taco Bell.
7. Liberty Tax Services
U.S./Canada franchise growth: +340
Franchising since: 1973
Startup costs: $56,800 - $69,900
2011 Franchise 500 rank: 21
In 1997, John Hewitt, founder of Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, acquired a tax company that had been franchising in Canada since 1973. The company changed its name to Liberty Tax Service, and now the tax preparation company offers franchises throughout the U.S. and Canada.
8. Vanguard Cleaning Systems
U.S./Canada franchise growth: +331
Franchising since: 1984
Startup costs: $8,200 - $38,100
2011 Franchise 500 rank: 7
Vanguard Cleaning Systems was founded in 1984 and began franchising the same year. The private company is based in San Mateo, Calif., and its franchisees serve approximately 1,000 commercial cleaning accounts. Vanguard also offers a "Master Franchise" program for experienced businesspeople and a "Unit Franchise" program for beginning entrepreneurs.
9. Bonus Building Care
U.S./Canada franchise growth: +260
Franchising since: 1996
Startup costs: $9,020 - $41,919
2011 Franchise 500 rank: 36
In 1969, Arleen Cavanaugh and then-husband Jim Cavanaugh founded Jani-King, a commercial cleaning franchise. When the couple divorced in the mid-1990s, Jim maintained control of the business.
Using the experience she gained with Jani-King, Arleen started her own commercial cleaning business, Bonus Building Care. The company currently serves businesses throughout the South and Midwest.
U.S./Canada franchise growth: +242
Franchising since: 2003
Startup costs: $5,460 - $37,750
2011 Franchise 500 rank: 41
Partners Phil Kubec and Ed Hammer had both built $300 million national companies: Phil in the commercial cleaning industry, and Ed in the car rental industry. Their idea was to combine the accumulated knowledge from their previous successes. Kubec's experience is in building a franchise janitorial company from a single location to an organization with 7,000 franchisees and 32,000 customers. Hammer's experience is in growing a rental car business from startup to 435 locations by leveraging proprietary software solutions. Their business, System4, provides cleaning services to all types of commercial facilities.