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Franchise opportunities abound at Miami Beach expo

By Ina Paiva Cordle The Miami Herald

John and Nikkolette Krumheuer flew from Minneapolis to Miami just to attend Franchise Expo South, with hopes of finding the perfect business to bring home.

Why a franchise?

“Because they have a set process, an executed plan,” said John, 36, who works as a director of sales for a technology company, but wants to make some extra money. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

The Krumheuers and others have plenty of options to choose from at the seventh annual Franchise Expo South, which kicked off Friday as a meeting place for more than 200 franchisors seeking franchise buyers.

The show, which runs through Sunday at the Miami Beach Convention Center, expects to draw more than 10,000 attendees — up from about 7,000 last year, said Tom Portesy, president and chief executive of MFV Exhibitions, producers of Franchise Expo South.

“We are on the heels of what I am convinced is a big comeback,” Portesy said, noting that more than half of the franchisors on site are new to the exhibition.

Take beesket, a colorful, natural juice bar that opened its first site in Seoul, South Korea, in 2011, and now wants to expand globally.

“A lot of people from around the world came to us and said they want to open in their country,” said Chief Executive Sunghoon Kevin Cho, 32.

So he chose the Miami expo to try to find a local master franchisee for the concept, which allows the consumer to combine various fruits and vegetables, and learn the calories and nutrient components.

Also new to the franchise scene is French Fry Heaven, which opened its first site 15 months ago in Jacksonville, offering regular and sweet potato fries with 50 different sauces, flavored salts and seasonings.

The company began franchising three months ago, with options ranging from food trucks to outdoor or indoor kiosks and stores, said Justyna Cassata, whose title is “right arm to director of franchising.” Franchise costs range from $114,000 to $224,000, she said.

So far, French Fry Heaven has locations in Jacksonville and St. Augustine, and plans to open in New Jersey soon. It hopes eventually to have as many as 20 locations in the Miami area, said Chief Executive Scott Nelowet.

“The market is great here,” Cassata said. “And we are a snack concept, and the industry is not saturated at all.”

Industry experts say owning a franchise appeals to everyone from college graduates who can’t find a job, to downsized corporate employees and returning veterans.

The clear benefit, they say, is that as an offshoot of an established brand with a proven concept, a franchise carries less risk than opening a stand-alone business.

“We like to call it formula entrepreneurship — a way to be in business for yourself but not by yourself,” said Steve Caldeira, president and chief executive of the International Franchise Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group.

The cost of opening a franchise ranges from as little as $5,000 for a janitorial service, up to a few million dollars for a hotel franchise — with loads of options in between.

America’s Taco Shop, which serves taco recipes of founder America Corrales-Bortin’s mother from Sinoloa, Mexico, is looking for local franchisees who have a net worth of $375,000 and $90,000 in liquid capital, said Dana Mead, director of franchise development.

So, far, the company has locations in Arizona and Maryland and plans to open in Texas, California and, hopefully, South Florida.

“We think the authentic, traditional Mexican food will resonate very well in this market,” Mead said.

Overall, the number of franchise businesses in the United States is projected to grow by 1.4 percent in 2013, just short of the 1.5 percent growth of 2012, according to the IFA’s 2013 forecast report.

Job growth is expected to outpace other industries, with the number of franchise jobs expected to increase by 2 percent this year, down slightly from a gain of 2.1 percent in 2012.

“We expect the franchise sector to continue to do well in the industries where franchise businesses are concentrated, and outperform growth of most other industries and the economy as a whole,” Caldeira, of the IFA, said.

Among the fastest growing sectors are business services, commercial and residential services, and quick-service restaurants.

Instant Imprints, based in San Diego, is looking for an area developer in South Florida, with hopes of having more than 18 locations here, said Bryan Smith, senior vice president of franchise development. The cost of a franchise unit is $140,000, including training, build-out, equipment and advertising, with discounts for veterans.

Sloan’s Ice Cream, an ice cream, cake, cookies, candy and merchandise store with four company-owned locations in Palm Beach County, also wants to expand through franchising.

The family owned business, in operation since 1999, started franchising six months ago, and expects to open its first franchise in Miami-Dade this summer, said David Wild, director of franchising. It’s on the hunt for more franchisees for Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, he said.

The total cost for opening a Sloan’s Ice Cream, which is known for its unusual flavors like “Mom’s Apple Pie and “Tracy’s Scrumptious Pretzel,” is $700,000 to $750,000, Wild said.

“We’re looking to expand in a lot of places, and Florida is No. 1,” he said. “We’re so close, so it makes it very easy to support, easy to supply, and we know the market very well.”

Other companies that say they are looking for franchisees in South Florida include Firehouse Subs, Mathnasium Learning Centers and Seniors Helping Seniors.

The key is finding the right fit for potential buyers like Jeff Webster from North Palm Beach, who was strolling the aisles Friday, searching for a new family venture.

“We have money to spend,” said Webster, who just sold a distribution business. “And we just have to find something to do with it.”

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