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There are those who view the summer as the best time of year to do business. The kids are out of school, the bugs are out in force, and the heat is off the charts, so the savvy entrepreneur knows there's consumer demand for one thing: relief.
These enterprising souls have found ways to address market forces that the rest of us are too dehydrated to consider during June, July and August. Some have even displayed instincts so keen that their businesses have not only worked year-round but meet more consumer demand than just one location can handle.
When they've played their cards right, these people have managed to turn single, seasonal businesses into successful franchises. And while they may be best suited to the summer months, aspiring franchisees can buy in any time of year.
CNBC.com presents a roundup of low-cost summer-themed franchise businesses that offer unique opportunities in a variety of fields.
—By Daniel Bukszpan, special to CNBC.com
Posted 7 July 2016
Few summer rituals are as beloved as the barbecue, and few are as hated as the cleanup. Bryan Weinstein, owner and founder of Bar-B-Clean Franchising, was inspired to start his own barbecue cleaning service in 2011 when he was about to use his for the first time that year and was too put off by the caked-on black filth to even consider cooking food on it.
"I didn't want to touch it with a 10-foot pole," he said. "I searched online to find someone in my area in southern California who could professionally do this and realized there was only one company offering grill cleaning as a service. The lightbulb went off in my head, and I saw a huge untapped market of people who needed a professional grill-clean."
Bar-B-Clean currently has 11 franchisees in 21 territories, and Weinstein said that he plans to keep expanding. He added that several franchisees are military veterans, and Bar-B-Clean offers a 30 percent discount to veterans entering its franchise system.
Cost to buy: $19,500
Fees: 8 percent of gross revenues
During the summer, keeping the kids active and occupied is of paramount importance. Kevin Odekirk, president of Big Air Franchising, said that Big Air Trampoline Park offers families a lot of bounce for their buck and does it in an environment that's less like a high school gym and more like a theme park.
"Guests can enjoy our wall-to-wall trampolines or conquer some of our trademark attractions, including the Big Air Battlebeam, mechanical bull, climbing wall and more," he said. "We prioritize kids' thirst for adventure while accommodating parents' desires for comfort, ambiance and family-friendly entertainment. ... There isn't a business out there friendlier to families than ours."
Cost to buy: $50,000
Fees: 6 percent of gross revenues per month
Driven Landscapes is a lawn-care and landscape management franchise for residential and commercial clients. Founder Jonathan Orcutt said that what sets Driven Landscapes apart is their "professional approach to an all-too-often less-than-professional industry."
Based in the Boston area, Driven Landscapes has only been in business for a few years, but Orcutt said the company is now looking to actively expand across the Northeast. He added that franchisees should expect him to be an active participant in their success.
"What drives me the most is the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge with individuals and give them all the advantages I wish I had when I started Driven Landscapes five years ago," he said. "I believe support is one of the most important resources you can have when starting any business."
Cost to buy: $25,000
Fees: 7 percent of gross sales revenues, with a minimum flat fee required royalty payment, plus about $300 monthly in software access and maintenance fees
If you drop your mobile device on the sidewalk, you're looking at a cracked screen at worst. If you drop it in the pool, it's time to panic. Or is it? Fix It Fast is a repair business for customers whose mobile devices have suffered damage from water, sand, heat or any other summertime hazard.
It seems like an obvious concept today, but founder and CEO Jeff Huhtanen said that when he founded the business, people were skeptical.
"In August of 2009, I took a chance and opened the first Fix It Fast location in Fort Worth, Texas," he said. "At the time, the landlord was so convinced that this business would fail that he wrote in a 12-month walkaway clause to allow me to lick my wounds after failing. Fix It Fast has been in that location for seven years now and has since opened stores in Arlington and Southlake, Texas; and Omaha, Nebraska."
Cost to buy: $25,000
Fees: 8 percent of weekly gross sales or weekly minimum of $200, whichever is greater
Kona Ice is a shaved-ice franchise founded by Tony Lamb. He founded the business in 2007 out of his basement and drove the first and only Kona Ice truck around Florence, Kentucky, for a year. The truck affords the customer an exposed view of the different flavors on its side, and it wasn't long before they were a hit. This afforded Lamb the opportunity to leave the fascinating world of a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman behind and focus on his concept full-time.
Kona Ice eventually expanded to more than 750 locations in 46 states. It's been a comfortable fit for such people as Pam and Gary Sample, 15-year veterans of the mobile catering business, who bought a Kona truck — or "Kona Entertainment Vehicle" — in 2009. It would be a natural transition for anyone who wants to be in the business of updating the time-honored ice-cream truck concept for the calorie-conscious 21st century.
Cost to buy: $15,000
Fees: $3,000 per year for first five years; $4,000 per year from year 8 onward
The Little Gym was founded in Bellevue, Washington, in 1976 and became a franchise business in 1992. A facility for children ages 4 months to 12 years, it offers gymnastics, karate, dance and music classes, as well as summer camps, Lego events and birthday parties.
The Little Gym also offers "Parents' Night Out," a three-and-a-half-hour drop-off program that sets Mom and Dad back only $40. The same amount of time with a surly teenaged babysitter will set parents back twice that amount, making this a veritable bargain.
According to Ruk Adams, president and CEO of The Little Gym International, the company has more than 300 locations in 37 states and in more than 30 countries.
Cost to buy: From $19,500 to $49,500
Fees: 8 percent monthly royalty fee
Getting eaten alive by mosquitoes is a regular feature of the summer, but with the emergence of the Zika virus, the insects are more than just a nuisance — they can be a serious health risk. Mosquito Shield, a mosquito-and-tick-control franchise company, uses a professionally applied and naturally sourced mosquito spray to kill and repel these critters.
Michael Moorhouse, vice president and director of operations for Mosquito Shield, said the business currently boasts more than 40 franchise locations across the United States and continues to expand. But while fears about Zika keep Mosquito Shield's phones ringing, it isn't something he wants to exploit.
"We're not in the business of taking advantage of people's fears to turn a profit," he said. "The Zika threat aside, we provide a quality-of-life service, and that's really resonating with our customers and our franchise prospects."
Cost to buy: From $73,100 to $106,800
Fees: 6 percent to 9 percent of gross sales on weekly basis
If you're a homeowner who's lucky enough to have a swimming pool, you have the luxury of taking a cool dip when the heat becomes oppressive. Unfortunately, you also have to clean the thing. Luckily, there's Pool Scouts, which offers residential swimming pool cleaning and maintenance.
The company is not even a year old, but its president, Michael Wagner, said that it has already sold its first two franchises, both in Raleigh, North Carolina. He also said that he sees ample opportunity for aspiring franchisees across the nation.
"There are over 800 potential Pool Scouts territories available around the United States," he said. "With a very fragmented market of over 56,000 pool service companies in America and no national brand leader, Pool Scouts is in a perfect position to raise the bar in the pool service industry."
Cost to buy: $7,500
Fees: 10 percent ongoing royalties
Candy is popular all year, but during the school-free summertime, parents can ply their kids with as much as they want without worrying about getting them too sugared up for bedtime. Those who wish to be part of this noble effort, rejoice! River Street Sweets: Savannah's Candy Kitchen is selling franchises.
Co-president Jennifer Strickland said that River Street Sweets was founded in 1973 in Savannah, Georgia, and is the city's oldest candy store. Her father, Stan, operates Savannah's Candy Kitchen. Established in 1991, it's one of the largest candy stores in the South, and it's just down the street.
Last year the family combined both companies under one unified brand. She said the company has one store in Pooler, Georgia, with future expansions planned across the state, as well as in South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee.
Cost to buy: $40,000
Fees: 5 percent of gross sales for the preceding week, paid weekly
Soccer Shots is a children's soccer program. Matt Kurowski, vice president of marketing and franchise development, said the company was founded in response to a lack of quality soccer programs for children under the age of eight. It currently has 170 franchises in 33 states and Canada.
"Our founding partners, Jeremy Sorzano and Jason Webb, were soccer teammates both in college and professionally," he said. "They shared an entrepreneurial spirit, a deep love of soccer and a passion to inspire children to live fit and healthy lives."
Sorzano and Webb launched their businesses in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and it wasn't long before friends and former teammates wanted in. Soccer Shots began franchising in 2005, opening its first four franchises in Delaware, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Cost to buy: $29,500
Fees: 7 percent of total gross revenue per month
Synthetic turf isn't just for stadiums anymore, and Turfscape knows it. The product is an attractive option in the summertime, as people struggle with maintaining ordinary grass. But anyone who's watched the news recently will see other applications for it.
"States like California … are having to find creative ways to conserve water due to the current drought," said Joe Vrankin, Turfscape president and CEO. "This landscaping alternative can help to cut costs of lawn maintenance while decreasing the amount of water that would normally have been consumed by ordinary grass."
Turfscape currently has only two franchises — one in Beverly Hills and one in Somis, California. Besides the Golden State, it's also offering franchise opportunities in such markets as Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Texas, all states with dry weather that makes natural grass a challenge to maintain.
Cost to buy: From $87,500 to $152,500
Fees: $0.25 per sq. ft. of turf purchased by franchisee's Turfscape business