5 best buys in home-based franchises: here are the most promising businesses to own for minority entrepreneurs.

Author:Brown, Carolyn M.
Position:Franchise Opportunities - Always Best Care SeniorServices; CruiseOne; Tutor Doctor; WSI Internet

PARTY PROMOTER DENISE MADISON WAS looking for a complementary business offering for her maturing clientele when she ventured to buy a travel agency in 2008. Disappointed with one franchisor's offering, she set her sights on CruiseOne (www.cruiseone.com), a travel franchise that offers cruise vacations.

"I read their plan from A to Z; I was very impressed. I liked the percentages, the bonuses, the incentives. Your biggest job is to book the client. They provide you with all of the marketing materials and updated information," says Madison, who operates the franchise (www.vivala cruise.com) outside of her day job. Indeed, all CruiseOne franchisees receive five customizable consumer websites to drive online bookings.

Furthermore, "their name carries. So, essentially we brought the brand," adds Madison, who purchased the franchise along with her business partner and life partner Tania Savigne. Their total investment outlay was around $11,000.

Playing off of an existing events database of thousands of clients, the couple initially geared the business toward lesbians of color. "It is something that was lacking. Gay men have a lot of travel companies that cater to them. But when it comes to the lesbian community, you have only a few. Even then you really don't see minorities showcased. Of course, we now promote to anyone and everyone," says Savigne.

The duo books more than 300 group and individual trips a year and generates more than $45,000 annually in commission revenues. "The CruiseOne organization is like a family. Their people are very informative and very supportive," says Savigne. Besides, it is one of the top franchise businesses that can be run from home.

Home-based franchise opportunities exist in various sectors and a wide range of businesses, from pet-sitting and house cleaning to senior care and Internet consulting services. The initial investment for an at-home franchise is often lower than a conventional franchise, anywhere in the $10,000 to $100,000 range. However, some franchises start out for as little as $3,000.

In addition to low startup costs, what makes franchises operated out of the home appealing to would-be entrepreneurs are flexible working schedules and low overhead costs. Since the franchise owner doesn't need commercial space, at-home franchises typically require little to no inventory.

Some of the most promising home-based industries are experiencing high participation rates among minority franchise owners. Take, for...

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