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Hello, Tech Computer companies take a byte out of franchising.

By Amanda C. Kooser

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Recent figures from Dataquest Inc. show that half of all U.S.households owned a PC in 1998, up from 27 percent in 1995. Thisrise in computer ownership is helping fuel a new trend infranchising: computer repair and education. Take a look at thefollowing franchises for a peek at where this trend is headed.

Aberdeen, South Dakota-based Computer Doctor Franchise SystemsInc. has 15 stores and 55 more are in the works. Founded in 1992 byLonnie Helgerson and his brother, Phil, Computer Doctor beganfranchising in 1996. With an estimated initial investment of$117,900, it's an affordable hardware retail and repairbusiness for the right candidate. "We're not looking fortechnicians," says Lonnie. "It's easier to trainsomeone to manage technicians than it is to train a technician tobe a good store owner."

Meanwhile, PC Professor, based in West Palm Beach, Florida, ison the verge of taking its franchise system national. There arecurrently two South Florida franchises that combine trainingcenters with full-service retailing, repair and support. Requiring$100,000 in liquid assets and a $40,000 to $60,000 franchise fee,PC Professor is a "one-stop center for computer users,"says Rob Fellman, who with his brother, Steve, helps run thecompany their brother, Howard, founded. At PC Professor, customerscan purchase a computer, take a basic or advanced training courseand have access to unlimited phone support.

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