Cheap Franchises to Start

If starting your own business seems daunting, buying into an established one might be a good option. In this way, someone else has gone over the bumps in the entrepreneurial road and smoothed the way for you. All you have to do is come up with the required amount of money to invest. While some franchises can be expensive ventures, there are a few low-cost options.

Instant Tax Service

This business that specializes in tax preparation and expedited refund and refund-anticipation loans topped’s 2009 list of low-cost franchises. If having franchisees with multiple franchises are any indication of success, Instant Tax Service is a good investment: 75 percent of its franchisees own more than one franchise. Now, in 2009, the company is seeking franchises in all 50 states and requires a population of at least 21,000 in each territory. The franchise fee currently is around $34,000, and the total investment required starts at $39,000.

Merle Norman Cosmetics

Merle Norman’s concept of “try before you buy” helped her launch a successful cosmetics studio in Santa Monica, California, in 1931 and eventually led to franchises across the United States. The franchises--1,691 of them in this country in 2008--carry skin-care products and a full line of cosmetics. Currently, no franchise fee is necessary and the total investment required starts at $33,300. Qualifications for franchise owners include experience in retail, cosmetics and customer service.

Jazzercise, Inc.

Judi Sheppard Missett didn’t know what she’d stumbled onto in Evanston, Illinois, in 1969, when she turned a traditional jazz dance class into a class that used dance moves to make aerobic exercise more fun. Now in 2009, more than 5,000 instructors are teaching Jazzercise to almost half a million participants each year in the United States and more than 30 other countries. The total investment required for a franchise currently ranges from almost $3,000 to a little more than $38,000. Instructors must be trained and certified before becoming franchised.


Dave and Gail Liniger started RE/MAX to give real estate agents a way to earn higher commissions. Under a maximum-commission concept, agents are in charge of their own business and split office expenses equally with other agents. Currently (2009), a franchise fee of at least $12,000 is required, and the total investment involved begins at $35,000. Qualifications for franchisees include industry experience, marketing skills and general business experience.