For new entrepreneurs on a budget, investing in a lower-cost franchise can be an appealing entry point into business ownership. Certain concepts allow getting started for well under $100,000. Here is an overview of some top low-investment franchise categories and brands to consider.

Benefits of Low-Cost Franchising

Compared to pricier franchises, lower-cost models offer advantages like:

  • Lower hurdle to entry – Reduced barrier to ownership for first-time business owners.
  • Faster breakeven – With lower buildout costs, profitability can come more quickly.
  • Smaller space needs – No expensive retail buildout – businesses can start small.
  • Flexibility – Ability to keep working a side job as needed when starting out.
  • Agility – Lower-cost models allow pivots and changes more affordably.

While offering less flashy concepts, low-cost franchising provides an affordable pathway to entrepreneurship for many.

Franchise Categories Under $100k

Several franchise categories feature opportunities under $100,000:

Tax Prep Services

  • Ex. Liberty Tax, Jackson Hewitt
  • Median investment: $61k – $71k

Pet Services

  • Ex. Fetch!, Woofie’s
  • Median investment: $75k

Home Inspection Services

  • Ex. Pillar to Post Home Inspectors, HouseMaster
  • Median investment: $47k

Senior Care Services

  • Ex. Right At Home, Home Instead
  • Median investment: $50k

Chocolate Shops

  • Ex. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
  • Median investment: $98k

These sectors provide essential services without extensive equipment or buildout costs.

Top Low-Cost Franchise Opportunities

Here are some leading low-cost franchise brands:

Jan-Pro Franchise

  • Commercial cleaning services
  • Initial investment: $3k – $65k

Dream Vacations Franchise

  • Travel agency and consulting
  • Initial investment: $3.2k – $21.8k

UPS Store Franchise

  • Retail shipping, postal, and business services
  • Initial investment: $167k – $295k

Cruise Planners Franchise

  • Travel cruise package booking services
  • Initial investment: $2,095 – $22,867

Jazzercise Franchise

  • Dance aerobics fitness classes
  • Initial investment: $1.3k – $44k

LearningRx Franchise

  • Brain training education services
  • Initial investment: $69.4k – $154k

A wide variety of low-cost franchises exist beyond more capital-intensive restaurants and retail.

Questions to Ask About Costs

Key questions to ask franchisors on costs:

  • What is total one-time startup investment? Get a detailed breakdown.
  • What are ongoing estimated fees – royalties, ad spend, technology, etc?
  • How much working capital is recommended for the ramp-up phase?
  • What is included in training and onboarding costs?
  • Are there renewal or transfer fees when selling the franchise later?
  • Can existing locations be purchased more affordably? What is the process?

Get clarity on all first year and recurring costs. Avoid surprises down the road.

Financing Low-Cost Franchises

Lower-cost franchises have more flexible financing options:

  • Personal Savings – May fully fund franchise without outside lending.
  • CDFIs – Community development financial institutions provide loans overlooked by banks.
  • SBA Microloans – SBA loans under $50k to finance equipment, working capital.
  • Home Equity – Credit lines or second mortgages can access startup capital.
  • 401(k) Funds – Can leverage IRA accounts without early withdrawal penalties.
  • Credit Cards – Reward points can offset some startup costs like training.
  • Payment Plans – Some franchisors finance or offer direct payment plans on fees.

With less capital required overall, low-cost franchises open doors to ownership through creative financing solutions.

Questions to Ask on Support

To understand the full value proposition of lower-cost franchises, ask:

  • Is ongoing operations training and support offered? How responsive are franchisor staff?
  • Is there a proven marketing program and guidance provided?
  • What technology solutions are included? Is proprietary or third-party software utilized?
  • How large is the current franchisee network for advice and collaboration?
  • Does the concept have a trade association for added support resources?

Factor in intangible benefits like responsiveness and community alongside costs. Support quality matters.

Pros and Cons of Low-Cost Franchises


  • Lower hurdle to small business ownership
  • Broader pool of potential buyers
  • Faster profits and breakeven timeline
  • Flexible work schedules possible
  • Potential for multi-unit ownership


  • Lower average revenues and profit margins
  • Less flashy concepts with minimal prestige
  • Less corporate infrastructure support in some cases
  • Can feel more like a job than purely passive business

Weigh your goals, skills, and risk appetite when assessing lower-cost franchises. They serve a key role enabling first-time business ownership.

FAQ About Low-Investment Franchising

Here are some commonly asked questions:

Do low-cost franchises provide financing?

Some may offer direct financing or payment plans, but overall financing is not as readily available as with major franchises, so personal capital is key.

Can I run a low-cost franchise myself full-time?

Most low-cost franchises are designed for owners to operate solo or with limited staff. Expect a hands-on role, especially at first.

What are disadvantages of low-cost franchises?

Lower average revenues and profit margins. Less glamorous concepts. Less infrastructure and support in some cases. But still great for first-time owners.

Do low-cost franchises offer exclusive territories?

Not always. Some may limit units while others can develop territories through multi-unit growth. Check with each brand.

How do I find good low-cost franchise resales?

Resale platforms like list thousands of franchise resales. Work with a broker to identify deals in your industry.

Are low-cost franchises risky?

Always do diligence on the franchisor. But established low-cost brands can provide a proven business model with far less risk than independent small business startups.

Start Your Own Business Journey

For aspiring entrepreneurs or franchising newcomers, low-investment concepts remove key barriers to small business ownership. While rewards may be lower, a lean franchise startup builds experience and a foundation to eventually grow.


  • Gio Watts

    Gio Watts brings over 10 years of digital marketing experience to his role as marketing manager at Walletminded. In his current position, Gio oversees brand marketing, campaign management, and audience growth initiatives. Prior to joining Walletminded, Gio held marketing roles at several ecommerce and SaaS startups, most recently serving as senior marketing manager at CloudTable Inc. There, he specialized in paid social advertising and content marketing. Gio holds a bachelor’s degree in business marketing from the University of Oregon. He is a certified content marketing specialist and frequently guest lectures at his alma mater. When he's not devising omni-channel marketing campaigns, you can find Gio coaching youth basketball and indulging his passion for live music.

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