I am the proud founder of an early-stage startup. Now, before you get all excited thinking billion-dollar valuation, ground-breaking new app or a hot, new social media platform, remember that the most successful startups still rely on the ability to provide simple solutions to everyday dilemmas.
When I tell people my company is "mobile," they tend to think it's an app. Well, my startup is mobile, but in the literal sense, like a food truck that's in a new spot every day! Tot Squad is a baby gear services business that cleans, repairs and installs strollers and car seats for busy parents at different retail locations, daily. We're like the Geek Squad of the baby world, lending our baby gear expertise to stores likes Babies "R" Us and buybuy BABY. No robots. No lasers. No holograms. And, drumroll please... we aren't scaling on a technology platform. Rather, we are a franchise concept.
Franchise? Do franchises actually still exist? Aren't they a concept that went the way of our grandparents and their ideas about business? Aren't franchises just businesses like fast food, dry cleaners and plumbers?
While it's easy to believe that only tech is hot, and everything else is not, franchising is surprisingly a major driver in our economy - an unsung hero that is built to last. In fact, one out of every 6 jobs in the United States is in a franchised business. The franchise sector contributes a whopping $552 billion of gross domestic product (GDP) in the U.S. Franchising just suffers from a major awareness problem.
What is franchising? In simple terms, a franchise is a business arrangement that allows another party (franchisee) to use a franchise's branded and established product or service, as well as its processes, in exchange for certain monetary payments. Instead of spending 6-12 months trying to start a business from scratch, an entrepreneur can buy in to an existing, proven business model and get it up and running quickly. It lowers one's risk of failure, which is crucial given the low success rate for new businesses.
There is a misperception that an emerging franchise concept like Tot Squad could never be as big or as successful as a tech start-up, but the reality is that franchising is an incredibly effective and efficient way to scale a business. While getting my MBA at Northwestern University, I was teased about my "cute baby idea," but then it went on to win the Kellogg Cup business plan competition, beating out all of the much "sexier" high-tech concepts my classmates were exploring. After that, I was invited to join Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program to continue growing the company and we went on to win the NextGen in Franchising Global Competition for millennials. We have since sold our first franchise and are exploring ways to expand our service platform with rideshare companies and other businesses.
At the end of the day, good ideas still matter. Tot Squad is about helping busy parents and giving them back the golden gift of time. Who doesn't want that?
I think it's important for young entrepreneurs not to be discouraged if their business idea doesn't involve tech or isn't "hot" by today's standards. If you have an idea that is scalable, franchising is a terrific business model that requires minimal capital investment and allows founders the ability to retain greater equity in their company. Does it require a little extra hustle? Absolutely. You just have to be focused, resourceful and dogged in pursuit of your entrepreneurial dreams.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.