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How to Start a Landscaping or Lawn Care Business

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Anyone with a yard knows that maintaining it is a lot of work. So it’s no surprise that there are so many landscaping businesses out there to help eliminate the need for mowing, weeding, treating, and doing more lawn maintenance yourself.

If you, however, are someone who loves to do yard work and the smell of freshly cut grass or a newly mulched garden is your favorite, you may have wondered how to start a landscaping business of your own and whether it’s the right move for you. Before you make the decision to start your own landscaping business, you’ll probably want to learn a little bit more about how to start a business in the first place.

The landscaping business is booming; and if you live somewhere with a warm climate, you may be able to work nearly year-round. The landscape services industry makes $93 billion in revenue each year and employs more than 1 million people, according to the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

If this sounds like the right move for you, keep reading to find out how to start a landscaping business of your own.

How to start a landscaping business in 5 steps

Considering the range and depth of landscaping—from residential to commercial, maintenance to removal, and designing to tree care—the economics of starting your own landscaping business are remarkably simple. It can be as easy as renting a lawnmower and knocking on doors.

While you might have bigger aspirations than reliving childhood memories of cutting the neighbor’s grass, this is actually a viable way to get started in an industry where the barrier to entry is low.

“My previous company was a lawn care business that I grew from myself and a push mower to over 125 employees,” says Bryan Clayton, the founder of GreenPal, an online lawn care ordering service that is a bit like the Uber of landscaping.

“Most customers have to deal with shoddy and unprofessional competitors,” says Clayton. “Creating a successful landscaping business is almost easy if you simply answer the phone when your customer calls, return their voicemails promptly, and do the work that you agree to with your clientele.”

Sounds simple enough, right? But what else can a landscaping business owner do to move beyond the basics? Here are some tricks of the trade as you start your landscaping business.

Step 1: Decide what services you want to offer and whether you want to rent or buy equipment. 

The first step to starting a landscaping business is to acquire your arsenal of landscaping equipment. Once you decide which actual services you want your landscaping business to offer, you’ll know what equipment you need. Then it’ll be time to decide whether you want to buy it outright, or opt for the cheaper option of renting.

Starting out, you have the option to rent your equipment or to buy lower-grade equipment. But as your landscaping business grows, so will equipment needs and costs—and you could easily spend the same amount on maintaining cheap equipment as the price of purchasing higher-grade machines.

“Most landscape contractors will need to spend five to 10 hours a week maintaining their equipment at first by sharpening blades or changing oil, spark plugs, air filters, fuel filters, and so on,” says Clayton.

So what are the basics of good landscaping equipment you’ll need to know when starting a landscaping business?

There are a handful of manual tools any good landscaper should have at their disposal: shovels (such as square-mouth, spade, and trench), wheelbarrows, tillers (such as rear-tine tillers or cultivators), and more powerful items like chainsaws and drills. But this isn’t where the real expenses lie. The cost of larger equipment might surprise you.

“Most people don’t know this, but the riding lawnmowers that you see commercial landscape operators running cost over $12,000 themselves,” says Clayton.

Landscape contractors need to make even bigger investments, according to Clayton:

“Landscape contractors also need to purchase or finance a decent truck, which costs at least $10,000 used, and a trailer, which costs $5,000+,” Clayton says. “Also, for landscape construction, you will need in most cases a front-end loader, which will cost $10,000 to $50,000 by itself.”

All told, Clayton estimates that landscape construction and maintenance businesses need to bring between $40,000 to $50,000 worth of equipment to a customer’s property. That’s why you might want to start off with rentals—which puts set-up costs at a more reasonable ballpark of $3,000, according to Clayton—but don’t depend on them forever.

Step 2: Get the required business insurance, licenses, and an EIN. 

Red tape is our least favorite kind of tape. But it exists for a reason, and there are a few things that you’ll need to get in order before you can officially start a landscaping business.

There are a few necessary forms of business insurance you need to obtain to conduct business at all. The most important is general liability insurance, which covers everything from the cost of repairs to legal fees to damages that need to be paid out if you or an employee accidentally causes damage. Accidents—like running over a sprinkler head with the mower, for example—happen, and you want to be covered when they do.

You might also need workers compensation insurance, depending on what state you’re operating in, though as Clayton puts it, “Many states require both insurances to operate a legitimate business regardless of whether you have employees or not.” Workers comp covers you in the event an employee is injured on the job, from medical expenses to court costs.

Other forms of insurance that aren’t required, but may come in handy, include inland marine insurance (for coverage of goods damaged in transit), commercial auto insurance (you can’t use your personal vehicle for most of what you lug around, and your personal policy won’t cover your commercial vehicles), and commercial umbrella insurance (which expands your coverage in case you’re hit with a major settlement).

Additionally, if you’re looking to apply pesticides as part of your services, most states have a pesticide charter that needs to be acquired. Clayton calls this “a very involved process” and doesn’t recommend it until you’re well-established in your field.

Before you start operating your business, make sure you also have any business licenses you need for the state you’re operating in and that you’ve registered to pay taxes and received your employer identification number, also called a business tax ID number.

The rules around which business licenses you need and where to get them vary from state to state, so check the specifics for the state where your business will be operating before you start your landscaping business.

Step 3: Get employment law liability insurance before you scale.

This tip is so important it gets its own standalone section. Another form of insurance you’ll need when starting a landscaping business is employment law liability insurance, that covers your business in case you make mistakes around calculating overtime and wage and hour violations.

Considering the uncertainty around the future of overtime wages, and the fact that many small business owners tend to go it alone at first without the aid of a lawyer or an accountant, this insurance could be a life-saver—or more accurately, a business-saver.

Clayton describes his “personal nightmare” that resulted from not having this insurance as follows:

“In 2009 my company was audited by the Department of Labor and they determined that our crew leader managers could not be paid a salary—they needed to be paid as hourly wage employees,” he says. “This, in turn, kicked in additional overtime charges that were due to 80 employees, and it resulted in a $450,000 fine that my company had to pay.”

Not having that insurance almost killed Clayton’s company. Take his experience as a lesson that having that insurance in place—particularly before you scale—is crucial to your landscaping business.

Step 4: Develop a marketing plan and decide on prices.

When it comes to marketing your landscaping business, you already know where to start: Facebook and other social media, as well as SEO tactics, will increase your search visibility on Google and other search engines.

Of course, word-of-mouth marketing is always the best, especially in hyper-local markets, but that comes with doing good work overtime. So while you wait for the glowing reviews to be passed around town, consider setting up your social accounts first as you start your landscaping business.

Clayton says that mastering all of the typical marketing channels, and putting a starting budget of $500 to $2,000 in place to acquire your first 10 to 100 customers, is the best way to start. A digital marketing expert may be necessary to bring your game to the next level once you expand your landscaping business.

When you’re first starting your landscaping business, you should also decide on the prices of your services so you can include those in your marketing efforts. Any potential customers will want to know what they’ll be charged for the various landscaping services your business will offer.

When you’re deciding on your rates, it’s a good idea to check out the competition and see what prices similar businesses are offering, then go from there. But remember, you can always adjust rates as you go.

Step 5: Get your business financials in order.

When you’re starting a landscaping business, it’s crucial that you keep your finances on track. And we’re probably past the days of using a pen and paper to keep track of all your business expenses, schedules, and accounts. Even spreadsheet applications, though capable of handling large quantities of information, are a bit outdated.

Luckily, there are plenty of business apps out there that can help your landscaping business operate more smoothly. There are apps and software to help with everything from inventory management and payroll to employee timesheets so you can focus on the important things—like actual landscaping work.

Clayton also recommends Xero accounting software for new landscape contractors. Xero is a system for billing invoices and accounts receivable, as well as payroll (good for smaller companies, from five to 10 employees) and fixed asset management. Rather than calculating the depreciation of your fixed assets yourself, let the software handle it.

Starting a landscaping business: The economics

Most lawn care operators make between $30 and $50 per hour. If you’re interested in going further—if you feel like you have the work ethic, dedication, people skills, and willingness to learn (be it about new technologies like management software or small business marketing)—little is stopping you from starting your own landscaping business.

Clayton went on to sell his business in 2013, in the largest acquisition in the lawn care industry in a decade, before starting GreenPal. And remember: He got started on his own, with just a push mower to his name. Success isn’t guaranteed to everybody who gets into landscaping, but it’s a field that shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon. And there’s no time like the present to capitalize on people’s love of a well-manicured lawn.

The final word 

As mentioned above, a major part of landscaping is fairly simple: Answer the phone, get back to your clients, get your work done when you say you will. This mindset should never fade, especially as you’re trying to get ahead of other competitors in your field.

“If you do the work you say you will do on the day that you promise for the price that you agreed on, most issues will take care of themselves,” says Clayton. Now, get out there and start your landscaping business.

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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Starting a new online business during the pandemic: Two COVID-era tales of renewal in Miami

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The pandemic forced more than three-quarters of small businesses across the U.S. to temporarily close up shop in the spring of 2020, and thousands have since shut down for good.

But the COVID-19 pandemic also led to a record number of people trying to start their own businesses: 4.5 million filed new business applications in 2020, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Economic Innovation Group.

That’s the highest number ever and a 24% increase from 2019.

 

And the momentum isn’t slowing. The Census Bureau says 492,000 new business applications were received in January 2021, a 43% jump over the previous month. Many more informal businesses are believed to have been created, often as side hustles, but never registered.

Few cities saw more aspiring entrepreneurs than Miami. Although new business creation was not distributed evenly across racial and socio-economic lines, green shoots of entrepreneurship popped up across the metro area, helping to bring a dose of resilience to the local economy.

[At the same time, untold numbers of existing small businesses — restaurants, neighborhood shops, salons — decided to establish a digital presence, allowing them to find new customers and take orders from beyond their immediate area.

In all, the number of digitally connected microbusinesses in Miami-Dade County rose 6.7% from 2019 to 2020, according to data from GoDaddy’s Venture Forward project, which studies the economic impact of these small online businesses. The Miami metro area, which includes the neighboring cities of Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach, has more microbusinesses per 100 people than any other large metro area in the country.

These everyday entrepreneurs make a big impact on their communities, with each new one leading to the creation of two additional jobs, Venture Forward data shows. Additionally, each new microbusiness per 100 people can reduce the unemployment rate by .05 percentage points.

And between 2016 and 2019, every microbusiness per 100 people that’s active online was associated with a $485 increase in a community’s household median income.

Here are the stories of two inspiring women entrepreneurs who took the initiative when the pandemic upended their lives.

Natasha Nails: Rethinking the press-on

It took a painful case of contact dermatitis, a type of allergy, following a visit to a nail salon for Natasha Williams to come up with an online business idea for the future of press-on nails.

The Miami native, who lives in Little Havana, has had her nails done since her teens.

But after her allergic reaction in March 2020, she was forced to switch to press-on nails that used hypoallergenic adhesive pads.

Unhappy with the appearance of what was available — they felt cheap and plasticky — Williams started buying clear nails and hand painting them with her favorite colors and designs.

Around the same time, the pandemic shut down the local economy. A well-known tap dance performer and teacher around Miami, Williams suddenly had a lot of time as lessons and gigs dried up.

By July, buoyed by the admiring comments she got from friends and strangers on the street, she realized there was a market for her creations, so she quickly built an online store and Natasha Nails opened for business.

At first, it was as much a hobby as a career plan. But soon she started asking questions and understanding the opportunity was real.

Why did women tend to apply press-on nails and leave them on and then throw them out? Given how easy they are to remove and reapply, particularly the adhesive-pad type, wouldn’t it be more fun and affordable to have collections of nails so they could match outfits or daily moods, the way they choose which shoes to wear or purse to carry?

“I want people to be able to mix and match, like ‘let’s see what I have in my closet to wear today,’” she says.

If she can popularize this approach, women may one day not feel obliged to suffer the daily inconveniences of wearing long nails.

“Just try typing all day with these things on,” she laughs, showing off long, olive nails. “You really can’t do much. And anyone who tells you differently is lying!”

While her new business doesn’t make enough money for her to quit her teaching, she spends about the same number of hours on both.

That includes 30 minutes each morning tending to her growing Instagram account — where she has amassed more than 5,000 followers who account for most of the orders on her website — and a few hours in the evening painting nails, including custom orders, and packaging up boxes for customers who opt for her monthly subscriptions.

Many challenges remain ­— particularly how to scale production beyond her ability to hand-paint nails while maintaining the artistic quality. But Williams is definitely a long-term thinker who hopes that, some day, her creations will be featured at major retailers.

“I don’t see obstacles as problems, but as challenges,” she says of the process of building a company. “You just have to follow the steps.”

Read more about Natasha’s story here.

Starting an online charcuterie-to-go

Like so many healthcare workers around the world, Maryam Kheirabi faced new demands when the pandemic hit. An oncology pharmacist with a Miami-area hospital, she suddenly had more hours, more stress and more fears of the unknown.

To deal with the growing pressure, Kheirabi decided she needed a new activity, something that would take her mind off her stressful job and give her a newfound source of fulfillment.

That’s when Fig & Brie, a charcuterie-to-go business, was born.

 

“I’m happiest when I’m extremely busy, and I wanted to create something beautiful for people to share,” she says. “In a way, I think the business got me through the worst days of the pandemic. It gives me hope, and hopefully it gives other people hope, as well.”

The idea came to her soon after the pandemic began, when she saw groups of friends eating from plastic containers full of snacks at a park across the street from her home for socially distanced get-togethers.

“How cool would it be to have a charcuterie box to go,” she remembers thinking. It would give people the option to pre-order a food board that could be delivered just when it was needed.

A native of Queens, N.Y., who moved to Miami with her speech pathologist husband in 2016, Kheirabi grew up being responsible for creating food platters for family gatherings.

“We Persians are very big on hospitality, and I never lost my love for creating beautiful, delicious things,” she says.

Once the first spike in COVID-19 cases began to ease in August, she started doing research, which included the creation of a variety of charcuterie platters for colleagues at the hospital.

A cousin in New Jersey agreed to help her secure a domain name and choose website-building tools.

“The rest was left up to me, but it was mostly dealing with aesthetics, which I love, anyway,” she says.

In early November, Fig & Brie officially launched, with a range of offerings, from a $20 “solo” platter to an $85 “soiree” box.

The seed capital was $2,000 that her husband, Francisco, urged her to take from their savings, with the understanding that they wouldn’t spend any more if the business wasn’t profitable after a month. She ended up spending $1,900 of it in that time, but by early December the business was making money.

Kheirabi’s digital marketing strategy initially was solely based on Instagram, in part because she wanted to grow slowly at first. But sales jumped more quickly than expected over the holidays, as friends and fans spread the word. One local real estate broker ordered platters as gifts to her clients.

It wasn’t easy, but she and her husband managed to keep up with demand while maintaining their jobs in healthcare. It helps that most orders come on Thursdays or Fridays, for delivery on Saturday.

Francisco does everything from taking photos to taste-testing to driving their only car around the city making deliveries. When he once asked what he would be paid for all his work, she quipped, “Sorry, but we pay in cheese.”

Her near-term goal is to have enough demand to hire a driver or two, and then to find a way to ship around the U.S. (That will require some innovation, to either find a way to keep fruits and veggies crunchy and fresh, or to come up with boards that meet her standards without those foods.)

Ultimately, she’d like to open a storefront in Miami and share her business model so women in other places could follow suit.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if it was only for the money,” she says. “That’s just icing on the cake.” The primary reward, other than enriching customers’ lives, is to empower women, including herself.

“We’re living in a time when women are standing up and taking charge of themselves,” she says. She even welcomes the competition from other female-owned online charcuteries in the city. “There’s enough demand to go around,” she says. “Women shouldn’t compete with each other. We should lift each other up.”

Related: Research shows that women have what it takes to make great CEOs

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The 15 Best Franchise Opportunities of 2021

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If you’re looking for a new business venture, but don’t want to take on the difficult work of developing your own brand image and identity, a franchise opportunity might be the best fit for you. Since there’s already a strong corporate and management framework in place as well as guidelines around everything including marketing, merchandising, and production, owning a franchise can be a great choice for some.

Still, just knowing you’re interested in a franchise is only the beginning; in reality, finding the best franchise opportunities can be a challenge. There are more franchises out there than one can reasonably count and consider, making it tough to figure out which one is right for you.

That’s why we’ve reviewed many of the different options for franchise businesses, and picked out some of the best franchise opportunities of 2021 across several different sectors. Their fees and requirements vary, but you should hopefully be able to find a franchise opportunity that piques your interest and aligns with what you’re hoping to build.

As we go through these businesses, remember that all costs and fees listed here are averages or approximates, and will change based on when you inquire, so make sure you contact each company for the most up-to-date numbers.

15 franchise opportunities 

1. McDonald’s

  • Initial investment: $1,263,000 to $2,235,000

  • Liquid cash requirement: $500,000

  • Ongoing royalty fee: 4%

  • Ad royalty fee: 4%+

We’re pretty positive this is a name you know. McDonald’s is one of the more expensive franchises around, but has perhaps the best brand recognition in the world. If you’re able to open a McDonald’s franchise in a well-trafficked area without much competition, you may be able to quickly recoup the initial investment.

2. Sonic

  • Initial investment: $1,236,800 to $3,536,300

  • Net-worth requirement: $1 million to $2 million

  • Liquid cash requirement: $500,000 to $1 million

  • Initial franchise fee: $45,000

  • Ongoing royalty fee: 2.45% to 5%

  • Ad royalty fee: 3.25% to 5%

Sonic is an American fast-food staple with unmissable branding, mostly fueled by their drive-in style of service and unique soft drinks. With franchises in 46 states, Sonic offers a strong franchise opportunity that comes with a cult following for their unmistakable menu items (cherry limeade, anyone?) as well as core staples that customers expect and love.

3. Dunkin’

  • Initial investment: $395,500 to $1,597,200

  • Net worth requirement: $250,000 to $500,000

  • Liquid cash requirement: $125,000 to $250,000

  • Initial franchise fee: $40,000 to $90,000

  • Ongoing royalty fee: 5.9%

  • Ad royalty fee: 5%

Formerly Dunkin’ Donuts, Dunkin’ certainly costs less than a McDonald’s and has strong name recognition to boot. In fact, when Dunkin’s first franchises returned to southern California, customers lined up at 5 a.m. in some locations, just to be among the first to get their fix.

4. Anytime Fitness

  • Initial investment: $107,500 to $722,800

  • Net-worth requirement: $300,000

  • Liquid cash requirement: $100,000

  • Initial franchise fee: $35,000

  • Ongoing royalty fee: $549 per month

  • Advertising fee: $300 per month

Few fitness franchises are as hot right now as Anytime Fitness. This gym franchise focuses on offering group workouts as well as solo workout equipment. Best of all, the franchise provides members with a keycard to access the gym during off-hours, allowing people to work out on their schedule. Operating costs are low, and name recognition is high—so high, in fact, that there are currently 4,000 locations worldwide.

5. Planet Fitness

  • Initial investment: $1,084,600 to $4,178,000

  • Net-worth requirement: $3 million

  • Liquid cash requirement: $1.5 million

  • Initial franchise fee: $20,000

  • Ongoing royalty fee: 7%

  • Ad royalty fee: 9%

Planet Fitness differentiates themselves with their iconic purple and yellow branding, low membership fees, and mission to create a welcoming atmosphere for first-time gym members and avid fitness fans alike. Gyms tend to be challenging to open, but Planet Fitness’s main market is fitness first-timers, which means that these gyms can benefit from high retention rates through low prices and high sign-ups.

6. Orangetheory Fitness

  • Initial investment: $575,422 to $1,497,372

  • Net-worth requirement: $500,000

  • Liquid cash requirement: $150,000

  • Initial franchise fee: $59,950

  • Ongoing royalty fee: 8%

Group workout studios are a booming business for the fitness franchise market. The desire for high-intensity interval training programs makes the desire for new programs a compelling draw for people looking to get in shape or take their training to the next level. Orangetheory’s combination of running, rowing, and cross-training with a focus on heart rate is a unique way for customers to get in shape and—most importantly—keep coming back for more.

7. Primrose Schools

  • Initial investment: $637,900 to $6,375,500

  • Net-worth requirement: $750,000 to $1.2 million

  • Liquid cash requirement: $350,000 to $1.2 million

  • Initial franchise fee: $80,000

  • Ongoing royalty fee: 7%

  • Ad royalty fee: 2%

Early childhood education is a prime market for franchise opportunities as parents look to give children every opportunity to learn—even within their early years of education. Primrose Schools are a solid franchise because they offer educational programs all year round, are licensed facilities for educational child care, and give their teachers continuing education access to keep their skills sharp.

8. Kiddie Academy

  • Initial investment: $425,000 to $4,163,000

  • Net-worth requirement: $700,000

  • Liquid cash requirement: $225,000

  • Initial franchise fee: $135,000

  • Ongoing royalty fee: 7%

  • Ad royalty fee: 2%

Kiddie Academy also offers a compelling opportunity in the early childhood education market, serving up a hybrid of child care and educational development that helps keep children entertained and learning at the same time. There are franchise opportunities throughout 49 states (sorry, Montana), and plenty of room to grow.

9. Kumon Math and Reading Centers

  • Initial investment: $73,373 to $154,825

  • Net-worth requirement: $150,000

  • Liquid cash requirement: $70,000

  • Initial franchise fee: $1,000

  • Ongoing royalty fee: $34 to $38 per student, per month

The Kumon Method for improving math and reading comprehension was first created in 1958, based on a curriculum developed by Toru Kumon in Osaka, Japan. Today, Kumon Math and Reading Centers help students learn critical math and reading skills that prepare them for more complex concepts later on in their education. With a low cost to entry and high demand, Kumon can be a great opportunity to help students get a leg up on their education, while also creating a great business opportunity for prospective franchisees.

10. Ace Hardware

  • Initial investment: $286,000 to $2,110,230

  • Net-worth requirement: $400,000

  • Liquid cash requirement: $250,000

  • Initial franchise fee: $5,000

Ace Hardware is an excellent franchise prospect for providing an antidote to the big-box home improvement store experience, which is typically marked by unhelpful staff and overwhelming product choices. Instead, Ace Hardware locations pride themselves on hiring staff that put customer service at a premium and keeping product choices to a reasonable selection. Their franchises make it easier for local hardware stores to remain competitive against mega-stores by way of their cooperative structure and store-brand products.

11. Snap-On Tools

  • Initial investment: $172,207 to $375,265

  • Net-worth requirement: $37,999 to $55,377

  • Liquid cash requirement: $37,999 to $55,377

  • Initial franchise fee: $8,000 to $16,000

  • Ongoing royalty fee: $125 per month

Any gearhead, DIY aficionado, mechanic, or professional contractor will tell you that few tool brands have as high a reputation for quality—and even a cult following—as Snap-On does. This high brand affinity makes Snap-On a great franchise to consider if there’s a strong opportunity in your determined area. The low investment threshold and net worth requirement also make Snap-On a promising option for would-be owners that aren’t flush with the kind of cash needed to sign on with other franchise businesses.

12. Pillar to Post Home Inspectors

  • Initial investment: $37,100 to $45,900

  • Liquid cash requirement: $10,000

  • Initial franchise fee: $21,900

  • Ongoing royalty fee: 7%

  • Ad royalty fee: 4%

Home inspection services are always in demand, particularly in parts of the country where home sales are hot and the real estate market is hopping. Pillar to Post makes the process of starting a home inspection business easy, providing franchisees with everything they need to drum up new business, train staff as necessary, and their proprietary software makes home inspections easy for staffers to complete.

13. Keller Williams

  • Initial investment: $183,947 to $336,995

  • Liquid cash requirement: $150,000

  • Initial franchise fee: $35,000

  • Ongoing royalty fee: 6%

  • Ad royalty fee: $1,000 per year

Keller Williams has a reputation for providing real estate agents with opportunities to grow professionally while helping their clients find their dream homes. The company began in 1987 and has been attracting agents through profit-sharing agreements and other perks, which can make it easier for franchise owners to recruit and retain top talent.

14. FastSigns

  • Initial investment: $197,172 to $313,136

  • Net-worth requirement: $300,000

  • Liquid cash requirement: $80,000

  • Initial franchise fee: $49,750

  • Ongoing royalty fee: 6%

  • Ad royalty fee: 2% per year

If you’re going to own a store, then you’ll quickly realize how important signage is. FastSigns has been franchising their signage shops since 1986. With more than 600 locations, the Texas-based company offers opportunities for entrepreneurs to get involved with this high-visibility “visual problem-solving” company both in the U.S. and abroad, too.

15. Merry Maids

  • Initial investment: $89,619 to $125,023

  • Net-worth requirement: $90,000

  • Liquid cash requirement: $35,000

  • Initial franchise fee: $37,500 to $51,500

  • Ongoing royalty fee: 5% to 7%

  • Ad royalty fee: 1.3% per year

The home cleaning sector can be overwhelming for many consumers as options abound. This means that operating a business that has a household name provides a competitive advantage that can turn into tangible business opportunities for franchise owners. Merry Maids has this in spades: As one of the largest house cleaning companies in the United States, this franchise is easy to set up and doesn’t require a ton of startup capital to get things rolling.

Financing your franchise

As you’re looking into the best franchise opportunities for 2021, one thing to keep in mind is how you’re going to pay your franchise fees.

All franchises come with some kind of investment, which usually comprises corporate fees, startup costs, real estate, staff, equipment, and other expenses, too. Your investment will be contingent on several things, but the two most important are the mandatory expenses set by the parent company to get up and running as well as the regional expenses that dictate costs (in other words, some markets are more expensive than others).

Make sure you take into consideration where the capital to finance your franchise will be coming from. Many entrepreneurs choose to take advantage of a business loan, including SBA loans, business lines of credit, term loans, and equipment financing. To begin, check out the best franchise financing options.

Also note that some companies offer internal financing, as well as discounts for certain types of business owners (such as women, veterans, and more). Make sure to check with headquarters for their options if you are seriously interested in pursuing their franchise option.

The bottom line

One thing you’ll find as you search through franchise opportunities: There’s no shortage of great companies with strong brands and quality products and services to explore.

Still, it’s important to keep in mind that the best franchise opportunity for one person isn’t necessarily the best franchise opportunity for you. When you’re weighing options, don’t forget to take into account how much you’re willing to spend on an opportunity, and, perhaps most crucially, what you’re interested in doing.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to franchising, so make sure you weigh the pros and cons before moving ahead. A great franchise leader is one who truly believes in what’s being sold, and wants to stand out both in their local business landscape, and also as a franchisee across their parent corporation.

Industry franchise guides

Have a specific industry in mind? Learn more about it with these franchise guides:

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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Best Craft Business Ideas

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Thanks to the popularity of craft-focused, online marketplaces like Etsy, starting a business making crafts can be a lucrative endeavor for creative types. And depending on your bandwidth, it’s certainly possible to turn any of the following craft business ideas from an entrepreneurial hobby to a full-time gig.

Of course, the best craft business ideas for you are those that align with your particular interests and skill set. It’d be hard to start a successful woodworking business, for instance, if you’ve never laid your hands on a power jointer (or if you just had to Google what a “power jointer” is). But if you’re inspired to take up a new, potentially monetizable hobby—or if you’re one of the gifted few whose artistic talent spans several mediums—then we’d recommend giving one of the following craft businesses ideas a go.

These 10 craft business ideas all involve different materials and skillsets. But they all require relatively few upfront and overhead costs, they’re totally viable home-based businesses, and there’s a market for all of these products, which makes them ideal if you want to dip your toe in the field.

10 craft business ideas to try in 2021

If you’re ready to explore the best craft business ideas, the following options have something for everyone.

1. Rehab old furniture 

Refurbishing or flipping furniture is an excellent craft business idea for people with basic carpentry, upholstery, and furniture stripping and painting skills (and with a garage or basement space that can double as their home studio). An overall aptitude for fixing fiddly things is key here too, as upcycling old furniture often involves revamping or replacing broken knobs, legs, and drawers. That said, it’s entirely possible to learn these skills as you go, simply by searching for tutorials on YouTube. However, do make sure that you understand how to properly repair antiques and other fragile furniture before you dive in.

For this side hustle, your main upfront cost will be the furniture itself. Look for inexpensive vintage or secondhand furniture at antique stores and outlets, garage sales, flea markets, and on eBay. You won’t know what materials you’ll need to purchase until after you’ve picked up your furniture and evaluated its condition, but you can find basic upcycling tools and materials (like paints, stains, and sprayers) relatively cheaply online.

2. Jewelry making

Whether you like to work with beads, precious and semi-precious stones, charms, metals, or more unconventional materials like rope, leather, and resin, there’s a market for every style of jewelry you want to create.

When you’re just starting out, you can purchase materials and basic jewelry-making equipment relatively cheaply at crafts stores like Michael’s. Use these preliminary pieces to “test-run” your designs and processes. At this stage, you can ask your family and friends to wear your pieces and provide feedback about their comfort, the integrity or strength of the construction, and any other helpful advice.

As you nail down your aesthetic, branding, designs, market, and the materials you enjoy working with, you can purchase higher-quality materials in bulk from wholesale suppliers. And when you feel ready, consult our guide on how to start a jewelry business for step-by-step advice on how to turn your craft into a full-blown business.

3. Printmaking

In this context, “printmaking” can refer to a number of mediums. Platforms like Printful and Society6 enable illustrators and designers to print their designs on virtually any product you can imagine: blankets, apparel, tapestries, laptop and phone cases, yoga mats, stickers, mugs, pillows… the list truly goes on. Of course, you always have the option of going traditional and sticking with framed wall art. Both of these particular services handle shipping and fulfillment processes as well, which cuts out one of the major lifts involved in running your own craft business.

4. Knitting

A knitting business is potentially the lowest-cost venture on this list, as your material costs are essentially limited to yarn and knitting needles (though we assume you already have the latter). If you’re already a hobbyist, we can also safely assume that you know where to buy high-quality yarn, potentially in bulk, so you won’t need to sink time into finding a vendor.

To start, focus on creating simple, smaller items—more hats and potholders, less sweaters and blankets—so you can more quickly produce, sell, make a profit, and garner feedback from your customers so you can shape your offerings and branding accordingly. As a supplement to selling your knit products, consider designing your own knitting patterns and selling them along with instructions.

5. Stationery and greeting card design

If you have a talent for lettering, illustration, and calligraphy, and you’re interested in the printing process, consider putting your unique skill set to use as a stationery and greeting card designer. (Bonus points if you love a good pun, too.)

Spend some time researching the market and industry so you know how to tailor your designs and branding, and how to position your own designs in the market. Spend some time coming up with your preliminary designs in a range of formats, like bespoke stationery, wedding and other event invitations, and several types of greeting cards. Test out a few materials and colorways, as well. In addition to your design materials, like papers and pens, you’ll also need to invest in stationery tools like paper cutters and trimmers.

When you’re just starting out, you can likely print your own work with an inkjet printer. But ultimately, you’ll likely need to find a trustworthy printer who can print your designs in larger volumes. Look into both local printers and online print services, and ask for sample prints from both. Work with the service that prints your work in a timely manner, according to your standards, who works within your budget, and who can answer your questions about the printing process (which can be tricky and complex for people with no prior experience).

6. Ceramics

To start a ceramics business, you’ll need a dedicated studio space with a sink, kiln, clay, shaping and finishing materials, and glazes. A pottery wheel is incredibly useful as well, but it’s possible to make ceramics without a pottery wheel. We’d recommend scouring Pinterest, Etsy, design blogs and magazines, and both small and large retailers to get a pulse on current ceramics trends, and forge your own aesthetic from there (without compromising your own design values in the process, of course).

7. Floral design

In addition to creating custom and readymade flower bouquets, floral designers are responsible for the greenery displays and designs at various events, in stores and restaurants, and, potentially, in people’s homes as part of a holistic interior design strategy.

It helps to have an existing network of potential clients, so people with home or interior design experience, or who have previously worked in floral shops or in landscaping, will likely find the most (or the fastest) success in this field. That said, if you have a natural flair for floral arranging and a good eye for design in general, it can’t hurt to start by designing for your family and friends and letting them talk up your skills to their networks.

Either way, we’d recommend taking a floral design class, either in-person or online. These classes teach you how to properly handle several types of flowers and plants, key design elements to floral displays, and how to tailor your designs to particular events or clients. Some courses even specialize in starting a floral design business.

8. Candle making

You only need to glance at Instagram, Pinterest, or candle hauls on YouTube to know that there’s a huge demand for candles, especially those with yummy scents and design-forward packaging. (Maybe it’s an enduring obsession with hygge, the Danish and Norwegian term for coziness that’s become a home-decor phenomenon in the English-speaking world.)

Other than learning how to make candles (which you can easily learn through your own research and handy YouTube tutorials), the first step in starting a candle-making business is to develop your scent and gather your materials. Purchase a collection of fragrance oils and develop a few scents you’re happy with. Then, you can purchase your other materials—including paraffin, soy, or beeswax, plus wicks, measuring instruments, a thermometer, molds, and containers for your candles—either from a wholesaler in bulk, or with a readymade DIY candle-making kit. We’d recommend the latter when you’re just starting out, then seeking wholesale vendors when you’re ready to make bulk orders.

In order to price your items, you’ll need to define your market. Candles run the gamut from $1 unscented tea lights to $85 luxury candles (check out Byredo for some serious candle envy). Your price point depends on the quality and type of materials and ingredients you’re using, of course, but you should also shape your pricing around what your target market will realistically spring for.

9. Gift baskets

This craft business idea may require more overhead costs than others on this list, since you’ll have to source and purchase several items and gift wrapping material for each type of gift basket you offer. But your offerings can be incredibly varied, so your market may be less limited than other craft businesses we’ve mentioned here.

Most importantly, you’ll need to develop your angle. Think about theming your gift baskets according to an occasion or event—back-to-school for college students, baby showers, sleepaway camp, holidays, anniversaries, bachelor and bachelorette parties, graduation, and retirement are just a few options. You can also design specialty baskets for certain food or beverages, like a wine-and-cheese lovers’ box, an all-chocolate basket, or a basket that sources from local businesses. Get creative with the items you provide within each theme, too. Thinking outside the box, so to speak, along with a sense of humor (like laundry detergent and aspirin for your college freshmen box) will help set your gift basket business apart from your competitors.

10. Bath and body products

Much like starting a candle business, creating bath and body products firstly involves deciding which products you want to create and nailing down your formulas and scents. This step might take some experimentation, so enlist your (consenting) friends and family to find out what works, what doesn’t, and the scents and ingredients people respond to best. You can start by sourcing your ingredients from local crafts or beauty supply stores, but eventually, you’ll want to work with vendors who can supply you with ingredients in bulk.

Your packaging is almost just as important as your product, so take the time to design a logo and packaging that aligns with your overall brand strategy and market positioning. If you’re not confident in your own design skills, hire a graphic designer to do this for you. Trust us—the money will be worth it when you draw in more customers.

The next step: Selling your crafts

Until you actually sell your crafts, your craft business is actually just a crafting hobby—and since you’re reading this article, we’d guess that you’d prefer to achieve the former. But as we mentioned earlier, the barrier to entry for selling your crafts is very low when you leverage craft-centric online marketplaces, galleries, and your own ecommerce store. And since most people shop online these days, we’d seriously recommend that you leverage as many relevant online sales channels as you’re able.

Etsy is hands-down the best marketplace for crafters to sell their work online, but it’s worth looking into selling on Amazon and eBay, as well. You could also look into selling on Society6, an online gallery geared toward crafters.

At the same time, prioritize building a business website with ecommerce functionality. That way, you can redirect all the customers you’ll garner from these highly trafficked platforms onto your own, dedicated store—and, hopefully, start to build up a loyal customer base. Don’t forget to create a Facebook Business page and Instagram account dedicated to your craft business, too

All your online sales channels should be supplementary to in-person sales tactics, like crafts fairs, trunk shows, asking local businesses if they’d consider selling your work, and—most importantly—word of mouth marketing. Start by selling your crafts to your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members, and ask them to spread the word to their network about your new venture. Happy crafting!

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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