20 Best Low-Cost Franchises: Opportunities to Start Your Own Business

These popular franchises have the fewest barriers to entry.

In today’s marketplace, franchise opportunities are abundant and extremely diverse, going far beyond the traditional food-service model. Insurance, cleaning service, realty service, gym and child education models are available to own as franchise businesses.

What’s more, many of these models are low-cost franchises that have the capacity for excellent growth and return. Indeed, some of the best low-cost franchises can be started for only a few thousand dollars, which is unheard of with big-name franchises like McDonald’s.

To help you find the best franchise opportunities, Seek Capital assembled a list of the top low-cost franchises. This list was generated based on several criteria. Factors include the minimum franchise fee, minimum initial investment, minimum net worth requirement and one-year and three-year change in the number of franchise units or establishments.

Other considerations include ongoing royalty fees and liquid cash requirements. To make the list, franchises had to have no negative one-year growth in number of units. Franchise data was sourced from Entrepreneur Franchise Hub and individual franchise websites when data was available.

Here are the 20 best low-cost franchises for aspiring business owners:

  1. Destination Athlete
  2. GYMGUYZ
  3. 911 Restoration
  4. Realty One Group
  5. Stratus Building Solutions
  6. Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Services Representative
  7. Dream Vacations
  8. CPR Cell Phone Repair
  9. BirthdayPak
  10. Chester’s Chicken
  11. Anago Cleaning Systems
  12. Skyhawks Sports and SuperTots Sports Academy
  13. N-Hance Wood Refinishing
  14. JAN-PRO
  15. Restoration 1
  16. My Gym Children’s Fitness Center
  17. Fiesta Auto Insurance and Tax Service
  18. Rooter-Man
  19. Kumon Math and Reading Centers
  20. The Maids

Keep reading to get information on franchise fees, net worth requirements and initial investment requirements for the 20 best low-cost franchises you can start.

1. Destination Athlete

  • Franchise fee: $20,000-$50,000
  • Initial investment: $28,300-$120,110
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $100,000

Destination Athlete was founded in 2008 with the aim of providing a one-stop place to get everything you need for your athletic team. Examples include sports and field equipment, uniforms, spirit wear, varsity jackets and fundraising solutions.

Destination Athlete builds you a custom store online from which you can sell team uniforms, fan wear, player packs and equipment. You then promote your store through friends, family, email, social media and other marketing to drive sales. Meanwhile, Destination Athlete processes the orders, decorates and delivers to you for distribution.

What’s interesting about the Destination Athlete model is that you can run your business from your own home, since they handle everything on the back end while you distribute the products to teams or organizations who purchase through you. As a result, having a retail storefront is merely optional, which helps keep overhead, initial investment and other fees comparatively low.

Also, when you franchise with Destination athlete, you get exclusive marketing rights to the county in your state. As the sole representative for Destination Athlete in your area, you’ll be able to provide products to multiple teams, leagues and organizations.

But perhaps the most impressive feature of Destination Athlete is the growth of the franchise: The number of Destination Athlete franchise units increased by 40% over the last year and a whopping 226.7% over the last three years. This is part of the reason it is one of the best franchise opportunities around.

2. GYMGUYZ

  • Franchise fee: $35,000-$45,000
  • Initial investment: $56,072-$121,673
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $100,000

GYMGUYZ is a fitness franchise based on the novel concept of bringing the gym directly to its customers. In essence, it is a mobile gym with vans, packed with state-of-the-art equipment, that trainers bring to clients’ homes to provide one-on-one or group workout sessions.

Removing the need for a brick-and-mortar establishment keeps franchise fees and other costs lower when compared to many other franchising opportunities. Owning a GYMGUYZ is very much a project management business with strong networking skills being key to success.

See: 10 Business Plan Tips for Your Startup

3. 911 Restoration

  • Franchise fee: $29,000-$49,000
  • Initial investment: $70,100-$226,900
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $150,000

Home restoration after water, mold or fire damage is the name of the game for 911 Restoration. This restoration franchise provides its services for both residential and commercial clients. 911 Restoration touts itself as recession-proof since man-made and natural disasters occur no matter the season.

The growth of 911 Restoration franchises is quite impressive. Over the last three years, 911 Restoration increased its number of establishments by 240%, adding 144 units over the last three years. 911 Restoration also offers in-house financing to help you cover the franchise fee, startup costs, equipment and inventory.

4. Realty One Group

  • Franchise fee: $20,000
  • Initial investment: $49,250-$222,500
  • Minimum net worth requirement: N/A

Realty ONE Group was founded in 2005 and began franchising in 2012. It’s a full-service residential real estate brokerage that has ranked on Inc. 500’s Fastest Growing Companies for seven years straight. Over the last three years, the number of Realty ONE Group franchise units nearly doubled, rising by 93.7%.

Realty ONE Group’s franchise process involves extensive training, personalized on-boarding and ongoing support that helps recruit real estate agents and market the brand effectively.

See: Top 15 Free Resources for Small Businesses

5. Stratus Building Solutions

  • Franchise fee: $3,600-$62,100
  • Initial investment: $4,450-$72,850
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $5,000

Stratus Building Solutions is a franchise involved in the commercial cleaning industry — a fast-growing service industry sector. The franchise has experienced robust growth, increasing its number of locations by almost 45% over the last three years.

Considering that businesses are always going to need to clean their offices, this industry is fairly promising for starting a franchise. As with several other franchises on this list, Stratus Building Solutions can be operated from home, which helps keep costs down.

Find Out: What Sort of Business Should I Start?

6. Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Services Representative

  • Franchise fee: $695-$10,995
  • Initial investment: $2,295-$23,617
  • Minimum net worth requirement: N/A

Cruise Planners is the only travel franchise with an American Express Travel Affiliation. This carries some significant advantages compared to other travel franchises. The credibility and brand recognition alone that American Express brings to the table is huge for Cruise Planners franchisees.

You also get access to exclusive American Express Travel benefits, whether your customers are American Express cardmembers or not. As a result, the franchise fee range and initial investment range for Cruise Planners are somewhat higher than for other travel franchises, but it still remains very affordable, especially for the added value supplied by American Express.

7. Dream Vacations

  • Franchise fee: $495-$9,800
  • Initial investment: $2,295-$23,617
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $9,800

Dream Vacations is a franchise in which you can create and lead your own travel agency. No travel agency experience is required — just a passion for travel and entrepreneurial spirit.

Dream Vacations has some of the cheapest franchise fees of the franchises on our list, ranging from just $495 to $9,800. The franchise fees are tiered, based on your level of experience in the travel industry. So, while you don’t need a background in travel, you’d pay $9,800 for being New to the Industry, whereas Intermediate level has a fee of $3,195 and Experienced level has a fee of $495.

With very little overhead and no inventory, Dream Vacation franchises are markedly affordable. Another source of affordability is that Dream Vacations is a home-based opportunity, based on consumer-facing and mobile-friendly websites that are customized for your business. Plus, the franchise is growing, increasing its number of establishments by over 31% in the last three years.

8. CPR Cell Phone Repair

  • Franchise fee: $25,000
  • Initial investment: $55,650-$170,500
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $150,000

CPR Cell Phone Repair is a franchise that offers much more than just fixing cell phones. With the explosion in mobile gadgets, tablets, gaming systems and computer systems, CPR Cell Phone Repair provides repair services for all types of devices.

It offers substantial support to new franchisees, such as providing a technician and store manager in your CPR franchise for the first month after opening. You can also get operational and technical certification, aggressive lead generation programs and national account relationships.

The main device repair services they cover, according to its website, include smartphone repair, computer repair, iPhone repair, iPad/tablet repair, MacBook repair, game system repair, iPod3 and MP3 repair and gadget repair.

See: 6 Small Business Trends for 2020

9. BirthdayPak

  • Franchise fee: $24,000-$49,000
  • Initial investment: $29,500-$144,700
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $250,000

BirthdayPak is a rather unusual franchise, but that hasn’t stopped it from tremendous growth. Founded in 2009, BirthdayPak began franchising in 2014. Over the last three years, BirthdayPak franchise units increased by an impressive 81.3%, and by 16% in just the last year.

BirthdayPak, like so many low-cost franchise opportunities, is home-based and boasts low startup costs, no equipment necessary, no employees needed and ongoing training and support.

BirthdayPak is essentially a marketing franchise in which BirthdayPak franchisees connect business owners to customers through gifting. In this case, it’s a pack of gift cards to retailers and restaurants sent to them on their birthday.

Recipients of these birthday packs of gift cards gain exposure to the brands and, ideally, become new customers or repeat customers. Since these gift cards have to be activated, their redemption is trackable to you as a franchisee.

10. Chester’s Chicken

  • Franchise fee: $3,500
  • Initial investment: $12,385-$287,572
  • Minimum net worth requirement: N/A

Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama and founded in 1952, Chester’s International, commonly called Chester’s Chicken, is a fried-chicken franchise that has experienced solid growth over the years and affordable franchising costs.

What’s particularly brilliant with Chester’s franchise model is that the vast majority of units are not standalone, brick-and-mortar restaurants. Instead, they operate out of convenience stores, travel plazas, supermarkets, food courts, colleges, airports and similar. Forgoing the need for physical restaurants allows starting and operating a Chester’s Chicken franchise to be one of the most affordable food franchises you can own.

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11. Anago Cleaning Systems

  • Franchise fee: $5,015-$31,000
  • Initial investment: $11,265-$68,250
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $5,015

Like Stratus Building Solutions, Anago Cleaning Systems is a franchise that specializes in providing commercial cleaning services to businesses. And also, like that company, Anago Cleaning Systems carries certain advantages for its franchisees, such as the ability to run the cleaning business from your home and use your vehicle to transport cleaning supplies.

If you have no background in cleaning services, it’s no problem, since a master franchisee provides a full orientation program for new unit franchisees, including manuals and training on different methods of cleaning and sales tools. You can either pay for your Anago franchise in full or finance it.

12. Skyhawks Sports and SuperTots Sports Academy

  • Franchise fee: $15,500-$32,500
  • Initial investment: $30,800-$71,750
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $100,000

Skyhawks Sports and SuperTots Sports Academy is a leading business in providing sports programs for children. The franchise breaks down into two overall verticals: Skyhawks, which offers camps, after-school programs, classes and leagues for children ages 4 to 12 years old; and SuperTots Sports Academy, which offers classes and enrichment programs for 18 month-olds to 5-year-olds.

Franchisees go through two days of training at Skyhawks University, learning all the important aspects of running a camp and about Skyhawks as a business.

Skyhawks has seen excellent growth in the number of franchise locations, rising by 63.7% over the last three years. New franchises are popping up nationwide, and the types of programs offered have grown as well. The youth sports programs conducted by Skyhawks include baseball, basketball, cheerleading, flag football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, track and field and volleyball.

Learn: How To Write a Business Proposal

13. N-Hance Wood Refinishing

  • Franchise fee: $11,270-$46,208
  • Initial investment: $51,970-$167,023
  • Minimum net worth requirement: N/A

N-Hance Wood Refinishing operates on the simple premise that the U.S.’s hundreds of millions of homes likely need some form of wood refinishing service at some point. N-Hance Wood Refinishing not only handles wood flooring, but it also offers refinishing for cabinets, furniture and many other wood surfaces. This enables franchisees not to be limited to just homes with hardwood floors.

Like with other franchises, no background experience is required to become a franchise owner. Extensive training and support are offered to bring all franchisees up to standard in terms of trade knowledge and service. Besides being affordable, owning an N-Hance franchise is very scalable as you build up customer-bases in the various communities you conduct business.

Read Next: The Top 12 Traits of Successful Business Owners

14. JAN-PRO

  • Franchise fee: $2,520-$44,000
  • Initial investment: $4,170-$54,700
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $1,000

JAN-PRO is another fast-growing commercial cleaning franchise, and like the others on this list, it shares some notable traits. For one, it’s a commercial cleaning business that is once again home-based. JAN-PRO provides franchisees with a startup package that includes your own cleaning accounts, initial equipment, education on JAN-PRO cleaning standards and constant support.

What’s convenient about a JAN-PRO franchise is that you aren’t responsible for selling the service and are instead focused on providing great cleaning service for your customers. JAN-PRO finds your customers for you, which saves you a lot of time and resources.

As a JAN-PRO unit franchisee, you’ll receive ongoing support from a Regional Master Franchisee. Plus, there’s no experience needed since they provide training on the whole cleaning service and business model.

15. Restoration 1

  • Franchise fee: $49,500
  • Initial investment: $79,100-$183,350
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $150,000

Restoration 1 is a franchise that specializes in water, mold, smoke and fire damage services — not too dissimilar from 911 Restoration. Founded in 2008, Restoration 1 has since become the fastest-growing restoration franchise in the country. Restoration 1 franchises have seen excellent growth in location numbers, increasing by over 21% over the last year and nearly 150% over the last three years.

Restoration 1 franchises serve both residential and commercial properties. All of its property restoration experts are certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification and the Indoor Air Quality Association.

Restoration 1 franchise training includes strategies on how to sell its services, but also on how to build up and maintain a large referral base of professionals such as plumbers, home inspectors, home adjusters, insurance agents and other third-party tradesmen.

Good To Know: 4 Signs It’s Time To Get a Line of Business Credit

16. My Gym Children’s Fitness Center

  • Franchise fee: $25,000-$55,000
  • Initial investment: $36,760-$277,200
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $100,000

My Gym Children’s Fitness Center is a franchise focused on providing award-winning programs to help children develop a positive self-image and become healthy adults. Classes offer a non-competitive environment to promote physical and emotional development, with programs broken up based on the ages of children.

A notable advantage for running a My Gym franchise is the fact that the business model is membership-based, so revenue is recurring. You can also earn additional revenue through party, camp and event offerings.

Like other child-oriented franchises, My Gym Children’s Fitness Center has experienced robust growth in recent years. The number of franchise locations increased by a strong 63.3% over the last three years and just about 15% over the last year.

17. Fiesta Auto Insurance and Tax Service

  • Franchise fee: $10,000
  • Initial investment: $67,052-$120,599
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $100,000

Fiesta Auto Insurance and Tax Service was founded in 1999 as an independent brokerage catering to the insurance and tax service needs of Southern California’s Latino community. Since then, the company expanded and began franchising in 2006. Now there are franchise locations nationwide, the number of which grew by over 33% in the last three years.

Fiesta’s business model is fairly straightforward, focusing on two of the most resilient industries in the U.S. — auto insurance and tax preparation. The Latino population is continuing to grow, and providing these two services to their community is only going to grow as well.

18. Rooter-Man

  • Franchise fee: $3,975-$39,750
  • Initial investment: $46,750-$137,600
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $25,000

Rooter-Man was launched in 1970 and began franchising in 1981. Its main focus is providing sewer and drain cleaning services, such as maintenance and cleaning of sewer pipes, emergency plumbing repairs and other related services and products.

What’s nice about Rooter-Man’s franchising is that the royalty fees you pay the franchisor are flat rate, rather than a percentage, so they don’t escalate as your sales increase. No plumbing license is required, training is included and tools can be purchased from Rooter-Man’s vendor program.

Find Out: How Much Insurance Does Your Business Really Need?

19. Kumon Math and Reading Centers

  • Franchise fee: $1,000
  • Initial investment: $73,373-$154,825
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $150,000

The appeal of running a Kumon Math and Reading Center franchise is that you get to own a business that makes children smarter. Operating a Kumon Math and Reading Center is also financially appealing, with a franchise fee of only $1,000. Kumon can also cover up to $36,000 of franchise expenses.

Unlike many of the other great low-cost franchises on this list, Kumon Math and Reading Centers do require a retail location of at least 1,000 usable square feet, with a minimum lease term of five years.

There’s also an additional fee of $1,000 to purchase the materials necessary to operate a Kumon center, but these fees tend to be more affordable compared to other learning center franchises.

Learn About: 13 Entrepreneurs and the Moment They Made It

20. The Maids

  • Franchise fee: $12,500
  • Initial investment: $63,300-$141,200
  • Minimum net worth requirement: $150,000

The Maids is the final cleaning-service franchise to make the list of the best low-cost franchises to own and operate. No franchise fee range or tiers apply — just a flat fee of $12,500. And the prospects are good for a franchisee, where on average, they produce approximately $1.14 million in gross revenue.

Becoming a franchisee with The Maids involves an extensive course of training. This includes SMART Start Training, in which you get several days of administrative and technical training at The Maids corporate training facility; Power Training, which is on-site training at your location where your first team will get trained up; sales and customer service training; and employee training, both web-based and hands-on.

The Maids also provides marketing support for you as the franchisee, engaging in multichannel marketing strategies and giving you access to experts and the right tools.

Read Next: Starting a Business Checklist — 20 Things You Must Do

Franchise Financing Options

A crucial step to take before you sign any franchise agreement is to make sure you have the proper and sufficient funding to cover the franchise cost and other associated expenses. Fortunately, many franchises that made this list — and many in general — offer some form of in-house franchise financing. For instance, Cruise Planners offer franchisees an in-house financing program to finance 50% of the franchise license fee over the first 12 months in business.

One of the key things to note, however, is that these in-house franchise financing options tend to focus their scope on helping with the franchise fee — not with overhead, inventory and other expenses that comprise the total initial investment. In-house franchise financing is undoubtedly helpful, but keep in mind there are still many other costs you’ll need to take on to get your franchise up and running.

If in-house franchise financing is not an option, or if you need financing beyond what they offer, there are other avenues to get funding. Here are some of the most common financing options to open your franchise:

The Bottom Line

Affordable franchises can be found all over, whether online or in person. While some of the names on this list may be unknown to you, they still offer great opportunities to scale and earn revenue, while at the same time, remaining far more affordable than the bigger name brands in franchising, such as McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.

A common element of some of the best low-cost franchises is the ability to be home-based. This is what makes cleaning service and travel agent franchises especially so affordable compared to franchises in which you need a physical storefront.

When it comes to choosing a franchise to buy, ask if franchise financing is available. On top of that, always make sure to line up additional means of funding because franchise financing doesn’t usually cover the whole cost of initial investment.

Either way, franchising can be a great way to fulfill your entrepreneurial spirit while reducing the risk by adopting a proven business model.

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