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How Local Franchises Are Becoming International Brands With the support of the Commerce Department, company executives can travel to regions of interest and meet with potential investors, which may be the boost some franchises need to expand their concepts into international brands.

By Jason Daley

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There's a certain cachet to franchises that become international brands. It means the company has the finances, expertise and confidence to translate a franchise concept for a foreign culture. It may give the impression that the company has grown so big that one country can no longer contain it. But many U.S. franchise systems that boast international reach have just a few units in Canada--and that's it. Not that expanding north of the border doesn't take work, but it's not quite as pioneering as exporting your burger brand to Nigeria or your electronics store to Yemen.

Many North American franchises are wary of selling units outside the region, or outside the English-speaking bubble. Doing so means adapting products and services to other cultures, operating in a different business climate, rerouting supply chains and relying on partners who are often unknown entities.

But franchise systems with global ambitions can get a huge advantage through the Franchise Trade Mission, a program under the U.S. Commercial Service (a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce), in partnership with the International Franchise Association (IFA) and Franchise Times. An early franchise trade mission in 2011 saw 15 companies, including Applebee's and RadioShack, travel to Mumbai, Hyderabad and New Delhi to meet with potential partners in the Indian market. Since then, the Commercial Service, which has staff based in most U.S. embassies around the world, and its partners have facilitated missions to China and to countries in Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. This year it plans on returning to India and Southeast Asia.