Franchises gaining in popularity

Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich/Luis Tomacruz of Ebensburg chooses between two types of ham shown by sales representatives Sheryl Bradley (center) and Nicole Zeek on Wednesday at the HoneyBaked Ham Co. store in Pleasant Valley Shopping Center.

After his family business was sold, Mike Folcarelli said he was “looking for something to do.”

So in 2014, Folcarelli opened a HoneyBaked Ham Co. and Cafe franchise in the Pleasant Valley Shopping Center.

“I thought at my age (49 at the time), this was the best way to go, instead of starting something from scratch. They have proven marketing and brand recognition,” Folcarelli said. “I looked at others (franchises), not just in the food business. I just decided on this — it just fit my lifestyle.”

Mike Burgmeier worked at the Greenwood Meadows while in high school and college.

“I have an entrepreneurial flair. I knew I always wanted my own franchise,” Burgmeier said.

Burgmeier is the franchise owner of the Chick-fil-A restaurant set to open in March at 106 Sierra Drive, the site of the former Montezuma Mexican Restaurant.

“I started to pursue this in 2013. I looked at several other types of franchises, but I wanted to be in the food retail industry. Chick-fil-A is dedicated to customer service. Their core values and my core values lined up,” Burgmeier said. “I am pleased I have the ability to bring in a franchise like Chick-fil-A, which does tremendous things for the community. It will be a nice place for people to sit down and enjoy a good product. I am excited about that.”

Between 12,000 and 15,000 new franchise businesses open every year in the United States, or between 30 and 40 per day.

There are an estimated 733,000 franchise business establishments in the U.S., meaning about 3 percent of all businesses are franchises, and franchise businesses employ about 7.6 million people directly, said John R. Reynolds, president of the Franchise Education and Research Foundation.

Reynolds said the franchising industry has averaged about 2 percent to 3 percent growth per year in the past few years.

Franchises are very popular these days.

“Franchises are popular because they provide business owners with a systematic approach to owning and operating a business that provides branding, marketing, training and support. It combines the resources of the franchisor and franchisees in the network to get a multiplier effect,” Reynolds said. “Many people buy into a franchise because they want to go into business for themselves, but not by themselves. Being part of a franchise system gives them advantages of not going it alone.”

Judy and Anthony Branda have owned the Greenwood Meadows franchise for about nine years.

“My husband had talked to the people who owned it and told them if they ever wanted to sell it, to let us know. We thought it would be a fun business to get into; when people come in for ice cream, they are happy,” Judy Branda said.

Melvin Milne has owned the Budget Blinds franchise in Altoona for nine years, and the one in State College for five years.

“I was in the construction business. I normally worked for someone else and this was a way to get started; a franchise helps you jump-start a business,” Milne said. “I’ve been in this nine years. The economy was not the greatest when I started. It was difficult at first, but the last couple of years it has been nothing but referrals and repeat business.”

David Rosen is the owner of the Griswold Home Care franchise in Hollidaysburg. He also owns two other Griswold franchises.

“I was a do-it-yourself type of person and I wanted to be more of a franchise person. I liked the idea of partnership. The company was moving in the right direction, and I felt it was a solid company,” Rosen said. “Partnerships bring some expertise and help you achieve success. For me, I really liked the mix and felt it was a good fit.”

Owning a franchise has advantages.

According to the International Franchise Association, owning a franchise allows you to go into business for yourself, but not by yourself. A franchise provides franchisees with a certain level of independence where they can operate their business. A franchise provides an established product or service that might already enjoy widespread brand-name recognition. This gives the franchisee the benefits of a pre-sold customer base that would ordinarily takes years to establish. A franchise can increase the chance of business success because it is associated with proven products and methods. Franchises also offer consumers the attraction of a certain level of quality and consistency because it is mandated by the franchise agreement.

“You have a proven product and the system is in place. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel, just follow the system and try to improve on it in your local market. It comes down to hiring the right people and training them and serving the customers,” Folcarelli said.

But there can be some disadvantages to owning  a franchise.

The franchisee is not completely independent. Franchisees are required to operate their businesses according to the procedures and restrictions set forth by the franchisor in the franchisee agreement. These restrictions usually include the products or services which can be offered, pricing and geographic territory, according to the IFA.

“You have to recognize that you don’t have the luxury to mess with branding and changes,” Rosen said.

Owning a franchise can take a lot of work.

“You do put in a lot of long hours. In this small business, you are the HR guy, the purchasing guy, the sales guy. There is a lot more responsibility than at a larger company. You wear all of the hats,” Folcarelli said.

It is important to do your research before purchasing a franchise.

“Do your homework on any franchise. There are good ones, there are bad ones, there are great ones and horror stories out there,” Milne said.

The first step is to develop a business plan.

“There are many franchise businesses to choose from. What are the types of businesses that appeal to you that also meet your personal and financial goals in your business plan? Lastly, get advice from a qualified franchise attorney before accepting any franchise offers or signing any franchise agreements,” Reynolds said.

“Check out the company as a whole, its financial situation, how long they have been in business, what kind of talent do they have. Talk to other franchise owners to see if they are willing to talk to you about the franchise. Talk to new ones and others who have been in it for three to five years to get their perspective on the franchise,” Rosen said. “I looked at four or five organizations; Griswold emerged for me. I liked its vision and mission of serving people.”

Reynolds said it is not difficult to get a franchise.

“There are franchises available for less than $100,000, and others for more than $1 million. It’s important to consider a franchise business that meets your personal and financial goals and plans,” Reynolds said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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