B.J. Harrison doesn’t mind if he’s called a computer geek — just don’t call him a nerd. “Nerds do it for free, geeks get paid,” explains the 36-year-old owner of a Geeks On Call home-based franchise. Harrison provides PC and computer network maintenance, upgrades, training, and consulting to computer users in their homes or businesses. And he is getting paid. Launched in July 2001, his one-man franchise grossed $34,000 for the remainder of that year and has generated more than $47,000 in the first six months of 2002 — some $81,000 in the last 12 months.
Not bad for someone who averages a 24- to 28-hour workweek. However, programming this new venture was no small feat for the former information technology support staffer with Internosis, a technology-consulting firm based in Arlington, Virginia. Start-up costs totaled $55,000, which included a $15,000 franchise fee, $20,000 for a vehicle, $9,000 in up-front advertising expenses, and another $11,000 for working capital and inventory. Fortunately, Harrison’s out-of-pocket expenses were only $5,800, financing most of the business through a $58,000 loan with the Small Business Administration.
Now, Harrison revels not only in the fact that he’s his own boss but he has also gained true occupational independence. What attracted him to operating his business from home, he concedes, was “the freedom to be able to fix a schedule to do what I need to do and what I want to do.”
Harrison represents a growing breed of franchisees who have made the decision to hang their shingles from home. According to the International Franchise Association (IFA), a trade association in Washington, D.C., roughly 10% of its 800 members offer home-based options and though many of the brand names may not be as mouthwatering as a McDonald’s or Krispy Kreme outlet, entrepreneurs are grossing upwards of $100,000 a year. With less overhead costs, lower start-up expenses, and driven by the red-hot services sector, home-based franchising appears bountiful for African American entrepreneurs.
For that reason, BLACK ENTERPRISE compiled our annual list of top franchises best suited for African Americans. Our survey was sent to some 80 franchisors that were designated by the IFA as having cottage operations. BE Research then screened the pool on the basis of affordability, revenue-generating potential, and the number of black-owned franchises — those most likely to seek out and attract minority entrepreneurs. The 10 selected represent those offering the best home-based franchise opportunities for African Americans (see table).
FINDING THE HOT SPOTS
Home-based franchises have enjoyed a resurgence these days, benefiting from increased demand in the services sector. According to Don DeBolt, president of the IFA, the current “hot spots” in home-based franchising are chock-full of businesses that “provide a way for people to save time from the drudgery of life.” These include home inspection firms, computer repair, and interior decorating. Home improvement and inspection are benefiting from the boom in the housing market and historically low interest rates. With the need for heightened security for both residences and businesses, security services are also seeing a lot of activity, according to