Top Franchises You Can Launch for Less Than $50,000

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This story appears in the August 2013 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Business ownership doesn't have to be super-expensive. Sure, some franchises cost thousands--even millions--of dollars to start. But a growing number of franchisors are coming up with homebased and mobile options, as well as new technologies, to help keep costs down for franchisees. Below, you'll find Entrepreneur 's Top Low-Cost Franchises, 97 businesses that can each be started for less than $50,000.

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These companies are listed based on their ranking in Entrepreneur's 2013 Franchise 500®, which is determined using objective, quantifiable criteria, including system size, growth and financial strength and stability. This listing is not intended as a recommendation of any particular company, but merely as a starting point for your own research. Always make sure you know what you're investing in by reading a company's legal documents, consulting with an attorney and an accountant and talking to franchisees.

The Fine Print

The companies on our list with the lowest startup costs:
Cruise Planners-American

Express Travel

starting at $1.6K



BuildingStars International

starting at $2.2K



Jazzercise

starting at $2.98K



Jan-Pro Franchising International

starting at $3.1K



CruiseOne

starting at $4.6K



Baby Boot Camp/Karna Fitness

starting at $4.7K



ProForma

starting at $4.7K



Mint Condition Franchising

starting at $4.9K



System4

starting at $6.2K



DKI

starting at $7.1K

If costs are a priority in your franchise evaluation, pay particular attention to three sections of the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD).

Item 5: Initial Fees

This section outlines what you will owe to the franchisor before your franchise opens--most important, the franchise fee. Typically this is a uniform lump sum, but for some companies it varies based on factors like experience, location and territory size--so make sure you know exactly what you're paying for. A smaller territory may be cheaper, but it will also limit your business.

Item 5 will also tell you whether the franchise fee must be paid in full or whether it can be paid on an installment basis, and what the payment terms are.

Related: How to Read a Franchise Disclosure Document

Item 6: Other Fees

Don't make the mistake of thinking your financial obligation to the franchisor ends when you pay the franchise fee. Item 6 outlines recurring and occasional fees, including royalties, which are required by almost all franchisors in return for their ongoing support. Usually royalty fees are a percentage of sales, but some companies may instead charge a flat fee on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis.

Although royalty fees are not included in startup costs, they are just as important a consideration. A franchise with slightly higher startup costs but low royalties may turn out to be a better deal in the long run than one with low startup costs but high royalties.

Item 7: Estimated Initial Investment

Two words are important to note here: estimated and initial. Item 7 gives a range of how much it likely will cost to start the business: the franchise fee, plus additional costs such as real estate, equipment, supplies, business licenses and working capital. Actual costs will vary depending on your individual circumstances. While all the companies on this list can be started for less than $50,000 (based on their Item 7 estimates), that doesn't mean all their franchisees start their businesses for that little. If keeping startup costs low is a priority, examining the table in Item 7 will help you determine how to do it, whether it's running the business from home, buying used equipment or leasing equipment.

It's also important to recognize that this is just the initial investment. It covers only the money needed to get the business up and running, along with operating expenses for a short period--typically around three months. Don't get into a franchise thinking this is all the money you'll ever have to spend. Like with any business, you will have significant ongoing expenses.

Unlike most independent businesses, though, you can talk to existing franchisees to find out what those ongoing expenses are and whether you'll be able to manage them. Reading the FDD is essential to your decision-making process, but firsthand accounts from the trenches are indispensable when deciding what makes a wise franchise investment.

1. H & R Block

Tax preparation & electronic filing

Startup cost: $31.5K-138.7K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 5,083/6,588

2. Jan-Pro Franchising International

Commercial cleaning

Startup cost: $3.1K-50.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 11,146/0

3. System4

Commercial cleaning

Startup cost: $6.2K-37.8K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,392/2

4. Vanguard Cleaning Systems

Commercial cleaning

Startup cost: $9.9K-39.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,696/0

5. Jazzercise

Dance fitness classes, conventions, apparel & accessories

Startup cost: $2.98K-76.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 8,641/2

6. Cruise Planners-American Express Travel

Cruise & tour travel agency

Startup cost: $1.6K-19.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,172/0

7. Anago Cleaning Systems

Commercial cleaning

Startup cost: $8.5K-65.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,432/2

8. Chem-Dry Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning

Carpet, drapery & upholstery cleaning; tile & stone care

Startup cost: $32.7K-127K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 3,500/0

9. CruiseOne

Cruise & travel agency

Startup cost: $4.6K-26.3K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 884/0

10. Novus Glass

Auto glass repair & replacement

Startup cost: $31.6K-134.8K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,581/13

11. Heaven's Best Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning

Carpet & upholstery cleaning

Startup cost: $44.9K-65.9K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 1,304/0

12. Proforma

Printing & promotional products

Startup cost: $4.7K-44.7K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 709/0

13. Cellairis Franchise

Cell-phone & wireless-device accessories

Startup cost: $36.8K-182.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 620/0

14. Buildingstars International

Commercial cleaning

Startup cost: $2.2K-52.8K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 376/0

15. DKI

Insurance restoration services

Startup cost: $7.1K-117.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 265/0

16. American Poolplayers Association

Recreational billiard league

Startup cost: $17.1K-24.2K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 308/4

17. Coffee News

Weekly newspaper distributed at restaurants

Startup cost: $9.4K-10.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 883/4

18. U.S. Lawns

Commercial landscape maintenance services

Startup cost: $48.5K-75.3K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 262/0

19. Real Property Management

Property-management services

Startup cost: $35.6K-74.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 198/1

20. Mint Condition Franchising

Janitorial & building-maintenance services

Startup cost: $4.9K-45.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 265/0

21. SuperGlass Windshield Repair

Windshield repair

Startup cost: $9.9K-31K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 285/0

22. N-Hance

Wood floor & cabinet renewal systems

Startup cost: $30.5K-130.9K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 218/0

23. Club Z! In-Home

Tutoring Services

In-home tutoring services

Startup cost: $27.7K-56.6K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 404/0

24. Rooter-Man

Plumbing, drain & sewer cleaning

Startup cost: $46.8K-137.6K

Total franchises/

co.-owned: 481/8

25. MaidPro

Housecleaning services

Startup cost: $19.8K-114.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 158/1

26. Caring Transitions

Sales of estates & household goods

Startup cost: $45.5K-73.7K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 127/0

27. Soccer Shots

Franchising

Soccer programs for children ages 2 to 8

Startup cost: $17.9K-22.6K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 133/8

28. Mr. Sandless/Dr. DecknFence

Sandless wood refinishing

Startup cost: $12.4K-62.6K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 254/11

29. HappyFeet Legends International

Soccer programs for children ages 2 to 18

Startup cost: $18.3K-23.2K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 107/5

30. Guard-A-Kid

Children's identification & safety products

Startup cost: $21.4K-38.7K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 182/1

31. OpenWorks

Commercial cleaning & facility services

Startup cost: $17K-119.95K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 303/5

32. Bricks 4 Kidz

Lego engineering classes, camps & birthday parties

Startup cost: $33.8K-51.1K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 231/2

33. Fresh Coat

Interior painting

Startup cost: $44.4K-70.95K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 89/0

34. Just Between Friends Franchise Systems

Children's & maternity consignment-sale events

Startup cost: $25.4K-32.8K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 132/0

35. Complete Music

Mobile DJ-entertainment service

Startup cost: $30.4K-48.7K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 180/2

36. ASP-America's Swimming Pool

Swimming pool maintenance, repairs & renovations

Startup cost: $48.8K-89.96K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 124/1

37. City Publications

Publication for affluent homeowners

Startup cost: $45K-150K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 96/0

38. Estrella Insurance

Auto, home & business insurance

Startup cost: $49.95K-84K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 55/0

39. The Glass Guru

Window restoration & replacements

Startup cost: $27.7K-117.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 69/1

40. Pillar To Post Inspection Services

Home inspections

Startup cost: $30.9K-46.9K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 349/0

41. Plan Ahead Events

Corporate event planning

Startup cost: $38.9K-70.2K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 99/0

42. Kinderdance International

Children's movement/educational program

Startup cost: $14.95K-46.1K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 128/2

43. Realty Executives International

Real estate

Startup cost: $20.4K-119K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 521/1

44. Office Pride Commercial Cleaning

Commercial cleaning

Startup cost: $14.9K-59K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 110/1

45. Bevintel

Liquor inventory-control services

Startup cost: $36.9K-50.6K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 307/2

46. Amazing Athletes

Sports-based fitness & enrichment classes for children

Startup cost: $38.2K-53.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 67/0

47. Sit Means Sit Dog Training

Dog training

Startup cost: $21.1K-93.9K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 67/1

48. Drama Kids International

After-school drama classes & summer camps

Startup cost: $33.6K-38.95K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 196/0

49. TGA Premier Junior Golf

Youth golf programs

Startup cost: $13.2K-62.2K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 48/2

50. Izon Global Media & Billboard Connection

Ad agency specializing in outdoor media

Startup cost: $42K-64.3K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 121/0

51. Young Rembrandts Franchise

Art classes for children ages 3 to 12

Startup cost: $40.4K-48.6K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 96/0

52. Acti-Kare

Nonmedical in-home senior care

Startup cost: $17K-36K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 35/0

53. Grout Doctor Global Franchise

Grout, tile & stone care

Startup cost:

$15.9K-39.9K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 71/3

54. The Decor Group

Landscape, outdoor, holiday & event

Startup cost: $16.1K-77.3K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 291/0

55. Town Money Saver

Direct-mail advertising

Startup cost: $35.6K-44.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 38/0

56. Yellow Van Handyman

Handyman services

Startup cost: $19.5K-32K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 47/0

57. Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System

Commercial cleaning

Startup cost: $10.8K-44.3K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 9,202/0

58. AmeriSpec Home Inspection Services

Home inspections

Startup cost: $41.4K-72.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 294/0

59. AArrow Advertising

Advertising, sign spinning, guerrilla marketing

Startup cost: $36.9K-80K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 43/0

60. BookKeeping Express

Bookkeeping services

Startup cost: $39.4K-55.1K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 40/3

61. Squeegee Squad

Residential & high-rise window cleaning & building maintenance

Startup cost: $28.4K-77.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 35/1

62. Window Gang

Window, gutter, house, roof, dryer-vent & chimney cleaning; deck & fence cleaning/sealing

Startup cost: $34.4K-81.1K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 168/25

63. My Gym Children's Fitness Center

Children's early-learning/fitness program

Startup cost: $34.3K-236.3K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 291/0

64. Fast-teks On-site Computer Services

On-site computer-repair services

Startup cost: $36.5K-62.3K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 251/0

65. Kitchen Tune-Up

Residential & commercial kitchen & bath remodeling

Startup cost: $45.8K-55.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 155/0

66. Snaggle Foot Dog Walks & Pet Care

Pet-sitting & dog-walking services

Startup cost: $11.8K-21.8K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 17/5

67. ERA Franchise Systems

Real estate

Startup cost: $47.7K-209.9K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 2,311/11

68. Mainstream Boutique

Women's clothing, accessories & gifts

Startup cost: $43.7K-129.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 22/1

69. National Property Inspections

Home & commercial property inspections

Startup cost: $39.6K-42K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 207/0

70. Cruise Holidays

Cruise travel agency

Startup cost: $10.4K-160.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 221/4

71. Jantize America

Commercial cleaning

Startup cost: $29.7K-171.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 247/0

72. Computer Troubleshooters

Small-business technology consulting

Startup cost: $17.2K-67.9K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 415/0

73. Baby Boot Camp/Karna Fitness

Prenatal & postnatal fitness; women's private & small-group training

Startup cost: $4.7K-10.4K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 147/1

74. Sunbelt

Business brokerage

Startup cost: $49.95K-112.3K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 223/1

75. Certified Restoration DryCleaning Network

Textile-restoration services

Startup cost: $45.6K-235.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 151/0

76. Dale Carnegie Training

Workplace training & development

Startup cost: $40K-164.95K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 202/2

77. Summit Learning Services

Tutoring/learning services

Startup cost: $32.99K-46.99K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 20/13

78. WIN Home Inspection

Home inspections

Startup cost: $42.5K-66.7K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 164/0

79. Aire-Master of America

Restroom deodorizing & maintenance services

Startup cost: $34.7K-126.9K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 91/4

80. Jet-Black International

Asphalt maintenance services

Startup cost: $38.4K-90.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 75/8

81. 9Round

Kickboxing fitness program

Startup cost: $40K-52K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 50/3

82. HomeVestors of America

Home-buying, repair & selling system

Startup cost: $42.3K-346.3K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 329/0

83. 360clean

Commercial cleaning

Startup cost: $9.4K-15.6K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 60/0

84. Oxi Fresh Franchising

Carpet cleaning

Startup cost: $37.7K-60.1K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 229/4

85. Mom Corps

Staffing services

Startup cost: $39.2K-63.7K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 17/0

86. Sports Image

Sports marketing for high schools & organizations

Startup cost: $15.5K-38.97K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 18/1

87. The Senior's Choice

Assisted-living & healthcare-staffing services

Startup cost: $34K-51K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 166/0

88. Tutoring Club

Individualized instruction for K-12 students

Startup cost: $26.3K-127.3K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 120/1

89. Assist-2-Sell

Discount real-estate services

Startup cost: $19.5K-40.99K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 242/1

90. Pressed4Time

Dry-cleaning pickup & delivery, shoe repair

Startup cost: $35.9K-44.8K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 117/0

91. Murphy Business & Financial

Business & franchise brokerage/commercial real estate

Startup cost: $45.8K-113.6K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 146/1

92. Tax Centers of America

Tax preparation & electronic filing

Startup cost: $20.3K-63.6K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 117/1

93. The Mad Science Group

Children's science education & entertainment

Startup cost: $49.4K-80.2K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 159/0

94. Lil' Angels Photography

School & child-care photography

Startup cost: $46.7K-51.2K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 72/0

95. Abrakadoodle

Art-education programs for children

Startup cost: $35.8K-74.5K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 103/2

96. i9 Sports

Youth sports leagues, camps & clinics

Startup cost: $44.9K-72.9K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 115/1

97. CompuChild

Technology education for children

Startup cost: $18.5K-33.6K

Total franchises/co.-owned: 50/2

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