The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Small Business Saturday (Why and How Your Small Business Should Be Involved)

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Zoho Sites Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Zoho Website Builder

Zoho is a software company that has a suite of products designed to help business owners get their businesses up and running online. Their website builder, Zoho Sites, is an all-inclusive website builder, which means it includes everything you need to create your site (from the builder itself to the hosting).

See Zoho’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Zoho’s website builder a try for a full Zoho Sites Website Builder review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is Zoho Sites?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Zoho Sites lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.

Using Zoho is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Zoho, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Zoho Sites competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, Yahoo!, Strikingly, and WordPress.com.

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on ease of use and integration with their plethora of Zoho products. Zoho offers several website templates you can customize with no coding or design experience required, and also gives you the opportunity to integrate with their marketing and optimization tools.

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Zoho Sites Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using the Zoho Sites website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Easy Sign Up Process, Onboarding, + Free Trial

One of the biggest pros of using Zoho Sites is how easy it is to get up and running on the platform. It’s a few basic steps of entering your information, picking a theme, and then you’re in.

Zoho also makes it incredibly easy once you’re inside the platform. Their onboarding process (AKA the information they give you to get you up and running and actually using the software) is very straightforward.

They walk you through a step-by-step tutorial of how to customize your website as soon as you choose a theme.

The entire process makes it easy to get your website up and customized in a matter of minutes, even if you have no online experience.

Zoho also offers a 15-day free trial when you sign up, and they don’t require a credit card to use it. Most software providers offer a “test run” of their products, but it comes with caveats. You either have to choose a plan upfront and enter your card info to be automatically charged when the trail is over, or have limitations on your features, or both. 

Zoho allows you to truly test out their platform for 15 days before you make a decision — no strings attached.*

*Note – so technically, you’d have to sign up for some of their product integrations if you want to implement them in the free plan. I still consider it no strings attached, because you get all of the basic functionality / inclusions in the free trial.

Template Design / Functionality

When I’m looking at all inclusive website builders, I want to be sure I look at both the templates’ design and functionality to get an accurate picture of what the builder can do.

Zoho also offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer). They have a lot of variable designs that you can use as the foundation of your website.

Once you choose a template, you can customize it to your brand. Zoho is what’s known as a “drag and drop” editor, where you can “drag” premade sections and “drop” them on your page. It makes customizing your site simple, straightforward, and fast.

With Zoho, can customize the styles on the page (like fonts and colors), as well as the individual sections, and you can add new elements to a section layout. However, you can’t create a new section from scratch using the drag and drop editor.

You can, however, customize your template using the CSS and HTML editor, which is a big benefit if you have coding experience but want to use a template as a starting point.

All in all, Zoho’s Website Builder has a great balance of convenience and control in terms of template design, which is a big plus for an all-inclusive website builder.

Some Product Integration

Another thing that makes Zoho’s Website Builder unique is their product integrations. Zoho has their own CRM, Marketing, and Analytics products, and these integrations are easily accessible in the site builder.

Zoho-Integration-CRM

One thing to note — these additional integrations / functionality are all part of paid plans (more on that in a bit).

This isn’t necessarily a con, but it is something to pay attention to… especially because you can find a lot of this functionality for less with other website builders (particularly if you went the self-hosted WordPress route).

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using Zoho Sites as your website builder.

Pricing + Plans

While Zoho is fairly easy and convenient for DIYers and business owners, they do leave a lot to be desired when it comes to pricing. All of their plans come with some sort of limitation, whether it be pages, storage, or even the number of forms you can have on a site.

zoho pricing and limits

It’s also worth noting that Zoho doesn’t offer a free plan. There’s a free trial, which lasts for 15 days, but if you want to continue on with their service, you have to choose from one of the paid plans.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a “con”, but if you’re looking for a website builder for a short-term project, you can probably find a builder with similar features who offers a standard free plan (ie, Wix or Weebly).

Limited Feature Set – Technical

Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.

These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet.

Now, as I mentioned above, Zoho does include some product integration that’s built-in (like their CRM) or can be added on (like their MarketingHub). But when it comes to outside integrations, Zoho is fairly limited.

For example, let’s take a look at their apps:

There isn’t much to built-in from an integration perspective outside of what Zoho offers in their product suite, and even then, there’s not a ton of clarity around what these features actually are or do.

Now, you could add your own integrations through code snippets. However, if you want something that you can easily “plug in” to your site and have it just work without you messing with code, then Zoho leaves a lot to be desired.

Zoho Review Conclusion

Zoho makes getting your website up and running simple and fast, and they also offer substantial customization options for more experienced website builders through their HTML and CSS editing.

See Zoho’s current pricing plans here.

However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control, especially when you factor in price. Zoho’s pricing leaves something to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans and take into account the technical limitations, even with the higher priced options. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability, you’re better off elsewhere.

Not sure Zoho fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Zoho Sites Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Homestead Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Homestead Website Builder Review_ Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Homestead is an all-inclusive website builder that’s tailored to helping businesses build their websites quickly, so they can have an online presence. Their platform includes “ready-to-use” templates that DIYers can customize to meet their needs, or simply “plug in” their content and hit publish.

See Homestead’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Homestead a try for a full Homestead Website Builder review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is Homestead Website Builder?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Homestead lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.

Using Homestead is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Homestead, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Homestead competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, Yahoo!, and WordPress.com  (and Shopify for online stores).

Compared to their direct competition, they focus more on getting businesses up and running not just with an easy-to-create website, but also through traffic driving strategies and consultations.

In fact – Homestead was one of the original website builders with a positively ancient history going back to the early 2000s. They, along with Blogger, helped make websites accessible to everyone regardless of HTML knowledge. Their product has evolved over time, but they are still ticking.

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Homestead Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Homestead website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Template Design / Functionality

Homestead offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer), which makes the website builder a solid option for a variety of niches.

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised with just how many templates Homestead offers and how well designed they are. When I was first doing research, I checked out their sample templates. These looked… outdated… to say the least.

Once you actually get inside the platform, the template selections are great.

Speaking of being inside the platform, let’s talk about functionality. The Homestead Website Builder is incredibly easy to use. When you first log into the platform, they offer a quick tutorial of how to use the features.

The whole set up is incredibly intuitive. You can add new sections (pre-made or blank), drag and drop different elements like photos, buttons, text, etc, and customize the existing template to match your branding.

There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having accessible design options.

It makes Homestead a great option for entrepreneurs/ DIY-ers who want a website that looks professionally designed without having to hire someone to build something custom or spend hours trying to figure out how to tweak the design themselves.

Free 30-Day Trial

Another benefit Homestead is their 30-day free trial.

Homestead allows you to trial any plan (even their highest-tiered option!) for 30 days before committing. This is great for DIYers who want to give a plan a test drive before committing.

It is important to note, however, that your subscription will automatically renew, which means if you don’t cancel within 30 days, your card will automatically be charged.

Homestead sign up credit card info

This isn’t necessarily a “con”, but it something to be aware of if you’re just testing out the builder.

Some Product Integration

While limited, Homestead does offer some product integration, such as ecommerce functionality and domains / email.

One thing to note — these additional integrations / functionality are either part of paid plans or require additional fees. This isn’t necessarily a con, but it is something to pay attention to… especially because you can find a lot of this functionality for less with other website builders.

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using Homestead as your website builder.

Pricing + Plans

Perhaps the biggest con with Homestead’s website builder is their pricing and plan structure.

All of their plans come with storage caps, which means you’re limited to the photos, documents, files, etc. you store on your website. Their plans also limit bandwidth across all tiers.

Homestead Pricing

There are also some significant fees for add-ons and advanced features on top of the paid plans. When you compare Homestead to other all-inclusive website builders, they’re definitely on the pricier side for similar features and less storage.

Design & Branding

Trust is a huge factor when choosing a website builder (or any other website product). You want to know that whoever you’re doing business with (and giving your credit card to) is a legitimate company who is going to stand by their offer.

Trust comes in many forms — word of mouth, reviews, years of existence, etc. — but it also comes via design and branding. If a business doesn’t look particularly trustworthy or credible based on their website design, it leaves you wondering… ESPECIALLY when you’re using them to build your website design.

While we didn’t have any issues with Homestead in terms of getting started with their website builder, their website design and branding does leave something to be desired. They haven’t quite kept up with the times, and it actually made me doubt that their template designs would be worth using.

homestead branding

Limited Feature Set – Technical

Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.

These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet.

Now, as I mentioned above, Homestead does give some integrations, like DNS / hosting services and email for an additional payment.

They also allow you to insert code into the header of your website for things like analytics tracking, and even offer some ecommerce functionality.

However, there are a ton of technical features that Homestead doesn’t provide or that are extremely limited.

For example, let’s look at Homestead’s Advanced settings. I can edit the site meta tags and header tags, and hide the site from search engines. But aside from that, I’m pretty locked in. There’s no options for Schema, Open Graph settings, etc. – much less highly advanced options.

Even the additional add-on products / integrations are limited. There’s not much to address marketing your site, aside from adding code for Google Analytics and or adding social share functionality. Even their traffic generating / SEO service add-on sounds… less than ideal.

homestead seo add on servie

Ultimately, Homestead leaves much to be desired when it comes to product integrations and additional technical features that can help you better market your website.

Homestead Review Conclusion

Homestead has well-designed templates that allow for quite a bit of customization when compared to other all-inclusive website builders. They make getting a good-looking website up and running fairly easy.

Check out Homestead’s plans here.

However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control, especially when you factor in price. Homestead’s pricing leaves a lot to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans and take into account the technical limitations AND the extra fees for add-ons, even with the higher priced options. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability for less cost, you’re better off elsewhere.

Not sure Homestead fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Homestead Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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1&1 IONOS MyWebsite Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

1&1 IONOS MyWebsite Review_ Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

1&1 MyWebsite is an all-inclusive website builder from German web hosting company IONOS. Their website builder is geared toward helping small businesses get up and running online with pre-made templates that include images and text based on your niche. Their platform requires zero code or design skills, meaning even those with no website experience can create a good-looking site in minutes.

See 1&1 MyWebsite’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave 1&1 MyWebsite a try for a full 1&1 MyWebsite review (I have previously reviewed their hosting services). But before I get into the pros and cons of this website builder review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is the 1&1 MyWebsite Website Builder?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, 1&1 MyWebsite lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.

Using 1&1 MyWebsite is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like 1&1 MyWebsite, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, 1&1 MyWebsite competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, Yahoo!, and WordPress.com  (and Shopify for online stores).

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on ecommerce functionality (they have three separate ecommerce plans — but more on that in a bit!). 1&1 MyWebsite offers several website templates organized by niche (i.e. fitness, consulting, business services, etc).

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using 1&1 MyWebsite Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using the 1&1 MyWebsite builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Template Design / Customization

1&1 MyWebsite offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer) and are premade with images, layouts, and text that are chosen specifically for your selected niche.

Not only to the templates look good — they’re also incredibly easy to customize. The whole set up is intuitive. You can add new sections, drag and drop different elements like photos, buttons, text, etc. on custom pages, and even dive into developer mode to edit the code of the template.

custom page 1 and 1 builder
Developer-Mode-IONOS-Website-Builder

As far as all-inclusive website builders go, 1&1 MyWebsite gives users a ton of flexibility in customization. Typically, there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control (and there still is here — which we’ll get to in a bit), but again, when compared to competitors, 1&1 MyWebsite’s Builder gives DIYers more control than most!

$1 Trial + No obligation

Another benefit 1&1 MyWebsite is their $1 trial for their baseline plan, and the fact that all plans allow users to cancel at any time.

1&1 MyWebsite allows you to use their Online plan for $1 for the first month, which is great for DIYers who want to give the platform a test drive before committing for the long-term (as long as you don’t need ecommerce features!).

They also offer a “no risk, anytime cancellation”, which means you can cancel your plan at any time and aren’t locked in for the long haul. This is a big pro for those who want the advanced functionality of the ecommerce plans, but perhaps have a short-term project or don’t want to be stuck in a long-term commitment before giving the platform a test drive for a few months.

Functionality + Integrations

Another pro of 1&1 MyWebsite’s Builder is their functionality and additional product integrations, such as ecommerce, domains, email, social media widgets, and more.

Even their basic Online Plan (which is just $5/month) offers extensive app functionality, such as Yelp Reviews, Live Chat functionality, PayPal integration, OpenTable integration, MailChimp, etc.

They also make it easy to upgrade to a higher plan for advanced functionality while maintaining your current content.

Again, there’s always going to be some sort of trade-off between convenience and control, but when it comes to all-inclusive website builders, 1&1 MyWebsite gives users A LOT of control in addition to convenience.

Pricing

Another pro of 1&1 MyWebsite is that their pricing is very competitive not only compared to other all-inclusive website builders but also with buying your own hosting.

Their Starter plan starts around $5/mo (with a $1 trial for the first month) and you can cancel at any time. You are limited to one domain and 5 email accounts, but even this is more than some all-inclusive competitors offer.

There also doesn’t seem to be any caps on storage space, which is amazing given the pricing – though I do wish they’d be clearer with the feature set. In fact, this feature transparency is a bit of a con for 1&1. It’s not that they don’t have the feature / storage – it’s that so many builders do overpromise, that they need to be much clearer on what you are getting.

Even their ecommerce pricing, while more expensive than doing the same thing on your own hosting, is much cheaper than comparable plans with direct competitors.

Compared to building your own website on your host and especially with other website builders, 1&1 MyWebsite’s pricing is very competitive. Price isn’t everything, but I really like how they structure it.

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using 1&1 MyWebsite as your website builder.

Setup Clarity

While 1&1 MyWebsite is fairly easy to use and convenient for DIYers who want to build a website fast (or even create something more custom), there was some confusion when I signed up — which is the biggest con with the platform.

For starters, I named my website and registered my free domain… so I thought. After I chose my theme and published my site, I came back to find my website was unnamed and had a subdomain.

Now, there’s always a chance of user error… but it was confusing nonetheless.

I also couldn’t seem to find information on storage caps. Most all-inclusive website builders cap storage and/or pages. But IONOS didn’t say anything about storage on their plans at all.

In fact, the only place I did see mention of storage was in an upsell on the checkout page.

1&1 MyWebsite Review Conclusion

1&1 MyWebsite makes getting your website up and running simple and fast, and they include advanced customization options and functionality integrations for those who want to take their site to the next level. This, combined with their pricing, makes them a great choice for those looking to bundle their hosting, domain, and website builder.

Check out 1&1 MyWebsite plans here.

However, like all website software, there’s no such thing as “perfect”. The lack of clarity and transparency tainted what would have been a smooth experience with 1&1 MyWebsite, and made me concerned about what else I was missing when using the platform.

Not sure 1&1 MyWebsite fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post 1&1 IONOS MyWebsite Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Everything You Need To Know About Using A Credit Card Imprinter

The post Everything You Need To Know About Using A Credit Card Imprinter appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The 12 Best Low-Cost Franchises You Can Purchase In 2019

Travel Agency Franchises

Starting your own travel agency can be a good idea for organized, self-motivated individuals who love travel and like the idea of helping people score great deals on their own dream getaways. Travel agency franchises are often home-based, meaning there is very low overhead and minimal startup costs.

1. Dream Vacations

  • Initial investment: $3,245–$21,850
  • Franchise description: Home-based travel franchise
  • Awards & distinctions: Entrepreneur Best Home-Based Franchise (2018), USA Today Top 50 Franchises for Minorities (2017), IFA 5-Star Franchise (2018–2019), #101 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (2019)

If you’ve ever dreamed of starting your own travel agency, Dream Vacations can allow you to do that for a 4-figure initial investment– and from the comfort of your own home. Dream Vacations has collected a lot of accolades over the years (see Awards & distinctions above) and current franchisees rate it highly on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.com. DV lets you market your business under Dream Vacations or its sister company CruiseOne, and is currently looking for new franchisees throughout the U.S.

A major benefit of owning a home-based travel agency franchise like Dream Vacations is its low overhead. DV is also a veteran-friendly business in that it gives a 20% discount on the franchise fee to veterans. The company offers in-house financing if you can’t afford the franchise fee, or you could also get a franchise loan from a bank or online lender.

2. Cruise Planners

  • Initial investment:$2,295–$23,367
  • Franchise description: Home-based travel franchise
  • Awards & distinctions: #60 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500 and #1 in Travel Agencies category (2019), American Express Travel Representative Excellence Award (2018), Inc. 5000 List (since 2012)

Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, is another low-cost, work-from-home travel agent opportunity. Don’t let the name fool you; as a Cruise Planners travel agent, you can book a lot more more than just cruises—you can also connect your customers with great deals on airfare, car rentals tours, hotels, etc. Cruise Planners claims they offer the highest commissions in the industry, and they do not require any travel experience.

When evaluating this franchise, I found their website to be very friendly and informative, though I couldn’t find a figure for the initial investment, apart from the $10,995 franchise fee (with no discounts). However, as with other work-from-home, service-based franchises, I expect a home-based business like Cruise Planners would require few startup expenses apart from the franchise fee (according to the official franchise disclosure document, the total initial investment to open a Cruise Planners franchise can range from $2,295 to $23,367). Cruise Planners offers in-house financing if you can’t afford the franchise fee, as well as a deep discount for veterans, first responders, and travel industry professionals. While Cruise Planners has a larger initial franchise fee than some other home-based travel agency franchises, a big perk you get with Cruise Planners is the American Express network affiliation.

3. Travel Leaders

  • Initial investment: $2,270–$16,910
  • Franchise description: Travel agency franchise (storefront preferred)
  • Awards & distinctions: Largest network of travel agencies in North America, highest-ranked travel management company in Business Travel News’ annual survey (2016), Top North American travel companies in Travel Weekly 2016 Power List

Travel Leaders is a quality, yet inexpensive franchise ownership opportunity if you’re an experienced travel agent who is interested in running a storefront travel agency. According to information in their FDD (Franchise Disclosure Document), it requires upwards of 10 employees to run a Travel Leaders agency. To be honest, I couldn’t find that much information online about what it’s like to work for Travel Leaders, but the brand has accumulated a number of industry accolades over the years—to be specific, over the past 131 years the company has been in business (Travel Leaders has been franchising for 35 years). Travel Leaders offers several different tiers of franchise ownership, with no long-term commitment.

Travel Leaders is currently seeking experienced travel agents worldwide.

Commercial Cleaning Franchises

If you are a dedicated hard worker but don’t necessarily have a specific skill-set, starting your own cleaning business can really pay off. Commercial cleaning is a fast-growing industry, and most of the top commercial cleaning franchises are flexible and scaleable, with a low initial investment and part-time options.

4. BuildingStars

  • Initial investment: $2,245–$53,200
  • Franchise description: Commercial cleaning for office buildings with part-time option
  • Awards & distinctions: #199 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500, Inc. 5000 List (2017)

BuildingStars is one of the largest, fastest-growing franchises in the commercial cleaning industry, with a sole focus on solutions for office buildings. Services include nightly cleaning, green cleaning and consulting, and carpet and floor care. According to BuildingStars, this franchise offers the highest average gross revenue of any cleaning franchise. BuildingStars also has the benefit of allowing you to start small, working part-time to start your cleaning business while you keep the income and security of your current job. The franchise offers three levels of franchise ownership: part-time technician, full-time onsite manager, and corporate manager. Depending on your goals, you can start as a part-time technician, then work your way up to onsite manager, and then corporate manager as you build experience managing larger-tenant office buildings.

BuildingStars has mostly positive reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed (average of 3.5/5 stars on both sites). The company is currently looking for new franchisees worldwide, and can offer in-house financing to cover not only the franchise fee, but also equipment and other startup costs.

5. JAN-PRO

  • Initial investment: $4,170–$54,700
  • Franchise description: Commercial cleaning franchise with multiple tiers of ownership
  • Awards & distinctions: #1 Commercial Cleaning Franchise and Top Franchise For Veterans in Entrepreneur Magazine (2019), Top 200 Franchise in Franchise Business Review (2018), Top 50 Franchise for Minorities in USA Today (since 2012)

JAN-PRO is another fast-growing commercial cleaning franchises with multiple tiers of investment, including a home-based option. This company’s network of 10,000+ franchisees focuses on business cleaning, healthcare cleaning, and green cleaning. JAN-PRO franchisees offer cleaning services to businesses such as car dealerships, restaurants, banks, gyms, schools, churches, medical centers, and offices. JAN-PRO’s VetConnectionSM program was the first franchise commercial cleaning program created exclusively for veterans—veterans receive a 15–20% discount on the franchise fee.

JAN-PRO can be a good place to start out with commercial cleaning, as no prior experience is required and they provide you with your own accounts so you don’t have to find customers. You can start a JAN-PRO franchise for less than $5,000, which includes initial cleaning equipment, cleaning accounts, education on JAN-PRO cleaning standards, and ongoing support. The franchisee testimonials I found online say JAN-PRO has flexible hours and good compensation, and like the fact that franchise owners can transfer ownership; however, they report that JAN-PRO can be demanding work until you have well-trained employees.

6. Stratus Building Solutions

  • Initial investment: $3,450–$64,550
  • Franchise description: Commercial cleaning franchise with multiple tiers of ownership
  • Awards & distinctions: #42 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (overall) and #2 by Entrepreneur – Top Budget-Friendly (2019), “Franchise Rankings” Winner – Janitorial (2015), Franchise Direct Top 100 Global Franchises Award (2016)

Stratus Building Solutions is a general commercial cleaning franchise that specializes in environmentally friendly cleaning solutions, with branded Green Seal Certified chemicals and equipment. From schools and malls to gyms and warehouses, Stratus’s 1,400+ janitorial franchises have customers in just about every industry. This flexible cleaning franchise boasts 16 different levels of ownership, from home-based to master franchise.

You do not need any prior janitorial experience to open a Stratus franchise. In fact, all you need is $1,000. While the total buy-in for a home-based janitorial franchise starts at $3,450, with the help in-house financing, Stratus says you can buy in with as little as $1,000 down (plus another 10% off the franchise fee if you’re a veteran).

Sports & Fitness Franchises

fitness instructor franchises

Fitness and sports coach franchises are another low-cost franchise idea if you are an aspiring fitness instructor who wants to benefit from the recognition of a name-brand sports/fitness franchise. In some cases, you can also use the facilities and gym equipment of a master franchise, while working as an independent instructor.

7. Jazzercise

  • Initial investment: $2,500–$17,155
  • Franchise description: Global aerobics class brand with instructor and center owner options
  • Awards & distinctions: #94 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500, #6 on Franchise Chatter’s 25 Best Gym and Fitness Franchises of 2019

Jazzercise might scream “80s party ideas” to the uninitiated, but the franchise has actually experienced a revival in demand in recent years (I think once people just realized it’s an easier version of Zumba), and in fact, Jazzercise never even went out of style in certain circles. In any case, demand for Jazzercise aerobics classes is going strong in 2019.

Jazzercise offers several different tiers of ownership. If you just want to teach, it costs around $2,500. If you want to own your own Jazzercise center, it can range from $9,000 to $38,000. Every instructor is technically a franchise owner, however (not an employee of Jazzercise). All new instructors are trained and certified by Jazzercise before they start teaching, and the training cost is included in the initial fee.

Generally, Jazzercise franchise owners rate the franchise approvingly on sites like Indeed.com. But as for the cons, they say the job can be physically demanding and the pay isn’t great. However, if you want to get paid to exercise and can get by on a part-time income, Jazzercise could be a good investment of your time and money, especially if you already enjoy Jazzercise-ing.

8. Baby Boot Camp

  • Initial investment: $6,050–$13,179
  • Franchise description: Stroller-fitness classes for new moms, taught by “mompreneurs”
  • Awards & distinctions: Franchise Business Review Franchise Satisfaction Awards (2016), Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (2015)

Baby Boot Camp offers several different types of fitness classes for moms, including popular outdoor fitness classes designed for new moms to bring their stroller-age kids to. The main idea is for new mothers to get back into shape postpartum, though the franchise also offers fitness and nutrition classes for expectant mothers as well. Baby Boot Camp participants cite the community aspect as the main reason they like these classes; they provide an atmosphere for new moms to make friends with similar-age children in their area. As for the instructors, most of them are franchisees. The very reasonable franchise fee includes everything you need to get started, including your own territory. The company website also lists existing franchise territories for sale, which you might be able to buy at a lower rate. You do not need any fitness instructor experience to own your own Baby Boot Camp franchise.

There aren’t too many franchisee reviews online, but the ones I could find were positive and noted the company is extremely family-friendly and allows you to bring your kids with you to work. There are fewer than 150 Baby Boot Camp franchisees in the country, so this franchise could represent an opportunity to enter a market that hasn’t become oversaturated yet.

9. Soccer Shots

  • Initial investment: $41,034–$53,950
  • Franchise description: Youth soccer franchise for children aged 2–8
  • Awards & distinctions: #245 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (2019), Forbes “Best Franchises to Buy” (2019)

Soccer is a sport that many of today’s parents want to get their children involved in, not always because they want their kids to embark on a serious soccer career, but more often to simply teach their kids the fundamentals of sportsmanship and teamwork at a young age. And if your preschooler has experience with soccer, there is a good chance that they participated in Soccer Shots, as it is the most popular soccer franchise in the U.S. aimed at young children. Soccer Shots instructors/franchisees teach children basic soccer skills, via 30–40 min weekly classes that take place at their preschool, elementary school, or local community park.

While this isn’t the cheapest franchise opportunity you’ll find, it is still possible to start a franchise for under $50K, and the pay is better than many other franchises—according to the Soccer Shots website, the brand’s franchise-wide top earner makes $3,093,392 in annual revenue, while the top first-year owner made $248,240. Soccer Shots Franchising LLC offers in-house financing to cover the franchise fee, and veterans receive a 15% discount on the fee.

Soccer Shots owners also report a high level of satisfaction: 93.5% of Soccer Shots franchisees would recommend the franchise, according to the Franchisee Satisfaction Index by Franchise Business Review.

Fast Food Franchises

cheap fast food franchises

Fast food franchises are typically big earners and as such, they often carry large initial investment. However, it is sometimes possible to start a fast food franchise for under $100K, particularly if it has a non-traditional setup.

10. Chester’s Chicken

  • Initial investment: $12,385–$286,817
  • Franchise description: Fried chicken QSR (quick-service restaurant)
  • Awards & distinctions: #110 in Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 (2019), Forbes’ “The 10 Best Food Franchises For Your Buck” (2014), largest Alabama-based franchise

Chester’s Chicken is a low-cost fast food franchise, and is, in fact, one of the most affordable fast food franchises out there. Depending on your setup, you can start your own Chester’s for an initial investment of less than $15K. The franchise fee itself is amazingly low, only $3,500. For the right person and location, becoming a Chester’s franchisee could be the perfect opportunity.

A popular southern fried chicken franchise, Chester’s is unique in that it offers flexible franchise options, including store-in-store options. For example, if you already own a grocery store or convenience store, you can become a Chester’s franchisee to start selling Chester’s Chicken in your existing store. In addition to store-in-store locations, many Chester’s locations are located inside of malls, food courts, airports, college campuses, and truck stops. Chester’s was founded in 1965, but only started franchising in 2004.

11. Checkers & Rally’s

  • Initial investment:$96,414–$1,501,265
  • Franchise description: Double drive-through burger chain
  • Awards & distinctions: Best Franchise Deal by QSR Magazine (2018), Franchise Satisfaction Awards Top 50 Franchises (2019), #88 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (2019), Franchise Times Top 200 (2019)

Another Alabama-based fast food chain, Checkers Drive-In Restaurants merged with Rally’s Drive-In in 1999 to form a double drive-thru fast food chain, Checkers & Rally’s. Besides burgers, the chain’s varied offering also includes hot dogs, chicken, fish, and desserts. The initial investment is the highest one on this list, but is still quite low compared with most competing fast food franchises.

Versatile and eye-catching modular buildings, multiple financing options, and high ROI (28.7% according to the FDD) make Checkers & Rally’s a good bet for an aspiring fast-food franchisee on a budget. This franchise is an especially good deal for veterans, as the company will waive the $30,000 franchise fee entirely for those who have served in the military.

12. Baskin Robbins

  • Initial investment: $93,550–$401,800
  • Franchise description: Global ice cream brand
  • Awards & distinctions: Largest ice cream chain in the world, QSR Top 50 (2018), Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (2019), Franchise Times Top 200 (2017)

Becoming a Baskin Robbins franchisee means joining the world’s largest chain of ice cream stores, for potentially under $100K. With over 8,000 locations across 54 countries, Baskin’s offering includes not only its beloved rotating 31-flavors of ice cream, but also its popular ice cream cakes and frozen drinks. Though Baskin has been around since 1945, the brand is still growing and changing with the times to stay ahead of competitors. Baskin has rolled out dairy-free and gluten-free options in recent years, as well as a mobile app that allows customers to order online and collect points. In 2017, Baskin teamed up with DoorDash to offer home deliveries.

Baskin offers franchise financing for the development of new units, as well as a waiver of the franchise fee and reduced royalty rates for vets. Conveniently, Baskin lists opportunities to purchase existing Baskin Robbins locations on its website. In addition to traditional establishments, Baskin is also currently interested in non-traditional locations, such as airports, college campuses, transit terminals, and other places with a captive audience and high foot-traffic.

In case you were wondering, yes, Baskin Robbins’s sister franchise Dunkin’ Donuts is arguably an even hotter commodity right now. However, it’s also a lot pricier, with an initial investment that ranges from $228,621–$1,717,103.

Buying A Franchise: What You Need To Know

Even though it typically requires less leg-work than starting your own business from scratch, buying a franchise is still a large endeavor. There are several important things you need to understand before purchasing a franchise:

  • Opening a new franchise is different from buying an existing franchise (a franchise re-sale) and there are different steps associated with each type of transaction. You’ll probably need to hire an attorney to help you perform pre-purchase due diligence tasks like reviewing the FDD (Franchise Disclosure Document).
  • Territory is everything in the franchise business. Before buying into a franchise, you need to know how large your territory is and how many franchisees are nearby to make sure you’re not entering an oversaturated market. You can find territory information in the FDD.
  • Franchises do not run themselves. Most franchisees must be actively involved in managing their franchise in order for it to succeed. That said, once you are running a successful franchise, the franchise company will often give you the opportunity to start additional locations in your territory.
  • Pay attention to the estimated initial investment (as disclosed in the FDD), not just the franchise fee. Oftentimes on a franchise’s promotional materials (including the company’s website), only the franchise fee is listed front and center, as if to imply this figure is how much it costs to open a franchise. This is, of course, misleading, as the franchise fee doesn’t include the cost of things like inventory, labor, real estate, equipment, working capital, etc.
  • Is it a franchise or a pyramid scheme? Lots of multi-level marketing companies may sound like a franchise at the outset, promising to let you “own your own company.” But if the “opportunity” focuses mostly on recruiting other people to the company (rather than selling the actual product/service), then you’d probably be wise to run for the hills.
  • Find out what other franchisees have to say. Check reviews on Indeed.com, Glassdoor.com, online forums, and anywhere else you can find information on a franchise you’re interested in. This way you’ll know whether the franchise is worth investing your time and money, and you will be prepared for the potential negatives associated with owning that particular franchise.

Read my Step-By-Step Guide To Buying A Franchise for more need-to-knows about how to buy a franchise.

How To Finance Your Franchise Startup Costs

There are various ways to finance a new franchise. Which one you choose depends on the franchise’s policies regarding financing, and the types of financing available to you. Here are a few ways franchisees finance their startup costs.

  • In-House Franchisor Financing: Many franchises have in-house financing programs that allow you to finance startup costs such as the franchise fee, equipment, inventory, etc. It’s also common for franchises to partner with third-party financing sources to offer financing for their franchisees.
  • Personal Or Business Loan: If your franchise doesn’t offer financing or you prefer not to use their financing program, you can also obtain a loan on your own (depending on if your franchise allows this). It can be difficult for new businesses to get a business loan from a bank, but you might be able to get a startup business loan or a personal loan online. To find out about some good online loan options for new franchisees, be sure to read my post on the best loans for franchises.
  • SBA Loan: If your franchise is listed in the SBA Franchise Directory, then you may be eligible for a low-interest SBA franchise loan. Read our guide to SBA franchise financing to learn how to get an SBA loan to finance your franchise startup.

There are also alternative financing options you might consider to fund part or all of your franchise startup costs, such as crowdfunding, ROBS, or even a business credit card.

It’s also important to note that most franchises have specific requirements as to franchisees’ personal net worth and liquid cash. Some franchises will not even let you buy into the franchise if you don’t have deep enough pockets to cover your startup costs yourself (in other words, they don’t allow any kind of financing). Most of the franchises on this list do allow you to finance your franchise startup costs via a loan or other means.

Final Thoughts

Buying a franchise is not cheap. In addition to the franchise fee, you have to pay for inventory, labor, a business space, and other costs. You’ll also need to have enough working capital to run your business and support yourself before your franchise makes a profit. However, there are a lot of low-overhead franchises which you can start without breaking the bank. Particularly, home-based franchises such as travel agencies, commercial cleaning companies, and sports/fitness instructor franchises can be very inexpensive to get started with. There are even low-cost fast food franchises out there if you know where to look. As long as you do your due diligence before buying into a franchise and secure adequate financing, you will be well-positioned for success as a franchisee.