Franchising continues to evolve with new concepts

International Franchise Expo

Emerging franchise brands added excitement to the recent International Franchise Expo

I recently attended the International Franchise Exp (IFE) held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. It was so great to walk those hallowed halls again and meet with people in person. Upon viewing the map of over 150 exhibitors, I made a beeline for the emerging franchises section. This sector is near and dear to my heart. I was one of the first franchisees of an emerging franchise years ago.

I went booth to booth and met with founders and representatives from all of the newly-franchised brands. I listened as they told me about their concepts and how they came to be. As I talked with them, I couldn’t help but wonder which ones will be the “next big thing.” I find emerging franchise brands so exciting. When you think about it, every big-name franchise concept started somewhere — as an emerging franchise brand.

There are varying classifications for how an emerging franchise is determined. Typically, if a franchise has fewer than 100 units and/or is less than five years old, it’s considered an emerging franchise brand. In other words, emerging franchises are not yet established in the marketplace, nor are they mature. These young concepts can also be very exciting, especially when it is a unique concept but has not boxed itself in as being too niche. Here are a few of the emerging franchise brands I encountered at IFE: 

Orthotic & Prosthetic Clinics of America: Based in New Haven, CT, this emerging franchise provides a much-needed service for those with disabilities. They take care of accreditation, insurance billing, cost of goods sold, and the business set-up so clinicians can focus on superior patient care and satisfaction. 

Birdie’s Auto Spa is a mobile car detailing service. Named after the Founder/CEO, Eric Birdsall, this concept has a low startup cost and is a certified green business. Using steam to sanitize vehicles inside and out, they have saved millions of gallons of water. In fact, they only use one gallon of water per vehicle. Even better, there is no soap or harsh chemicals needed. Since it is a mobile concept, this service can be brought to the customer’s driveway or office parking lot. 

Another green emerging franchise is Movers, Not Shakers! This Brooklyn-based franchise was founded by Mark Ehrhardt, who prides himself on being the first green New York moving company. Movers, Not Shakers! trucks run on bio-diesel and reduce waste with reusable bins instead of cardboard.

In the fitness space, real hot yoga offers state-of-the-art hot yoga studios. Their 1,000+ square foot yoga rooms feature a heating system designed specifically for hot yoga. The system offers precise temperature and humidity control and a UV air filtration system, which removes germs, bacteria, viruses, and odors from the air.

Emerging franchise brands have their risks and rewards 

There are several advantages to investing in an emerging franchise. Most notably, prime territory locations are available. There is also an opportunity to develop a close working relationship with the executive team, the potential to have a seat at the management table, and the opportunity to have input on the brand’s development. Many early franchisees are called upon for input on the business model. They can weigh in on what is working and what needs improvement. Also, there may be more room for negotiations. With the help of a franchise attorney, early franchisees have a better chance of receiving modifications to the franchise agreement.

Investors with high-risk aversion tend to avoid the emerging market segment. They may prefer something that has more of a solid foundation and a proven history. An emerging franchise may not be SBA-registered which will make funding more challenging. There also may not be enough financial information to support an Item 19, which contains earnings potential. In addition, an emerging franchise may not have replicated its model in enough areas around the country to prove that it truly can work anywhere. 

Only time will tell if these fledgling franchisees have what it takes to survive and grow. I’m already looking forward to IFE 2022 to see what new concepts will be exhibiting next year!

“This world is clearly emerging before our eyes. The shifts ahead, the opportunities ahead are massive.”

—Carly Fiorina 

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Lisa Linkowsky is the CEO of Milestone Franchising. She is a Certified Franchise Consultant and member of the The International Franchise Professionals Group (IFPG). She is also the host of Franchise Focus on RVN Television. Lisa has more than thirty years of extensive experience in consumer marketing, sales, project management, and strategic planning. After working at various Fortune 500 and mid-sized companies, Lisa followed her entrepreneurial spirit and became a franchise owner in 2014.
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