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Unsung franchise heroes

McDonald's, Popeyes, Domino's Pizza, and Dunkin' Brands are all part of a growing contingent on Main Street that is poised for growth this year. The franchising industry has become an integral part of the American economy, contributing 3.5 percent of U.S. GDP, or $472 billion. It's expected to create more jobs and grow faster than the rest of the private sector in 2014, according to research conducted by IHS Global Insight for the International Franchise Association Educational Foundation.

Overall, the number of franchise categories is expanding into nearly every nook and cranny in the marketplace. Here we profile entrepreneurs who have reaped millions by carving a toehold in novel market niches where they could leverage their skills and past experiences and capitalize on some big trends in the U.S. economy—from doggie day care and mosquito exterminators to shipping depots. Read on to learn lessons from eight franchise owners who have moved beyond—some well beyond—the million-dollar annual sales mark.

—By Maggie Overfelt, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 17 May 2014

Sources: Getty Imges (TL, TR, BR) | McDonand's (BL)