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Kwame Tutuh’s days of teaching second grade are over, but on a typical weekday he still arrives at school well before the bell rings. As an Ident-A-Kid franchisee in Fulton County, Georgia, Tutuh now teaches child safety. His business produces identification cards so parents can quickly dispatch the child’s photograph, fingerprints, and description to authorities and get a search underway if a child is abducted or lost. The father of two funded the $50,000 startup costs with a personal loan and launched the franchise in November 2006. In paying the startup costs, Tutuh received extensive training, a laptop computer, digital scale, digital fingerprinting scanner, the Ident-A-Kid software, and an exclusive and protected territory, among other things.
He runs the business from his home office but spends much of his time on the go. His day starts at 8 a.m. taking pictures of children at schools and daycare centers and by 2 p.m. he’s back at home matching photos with fingerprints, height, weight and other back-office tasks. A few weeks later, he produces the cards, sometimes as many as 200 at a time using equipment all in his home office.
Contracting with the schools, thousands of parents eagerly pay Tutuh the nominal fee (less than $10 each) for the sense of security that child identification cards provide. With their support, his Ident-a-Kid business grossed about $89,000 in 2007 and $140,000 in 2008. “I am in the perfect sector,” says the 32-year-old. “The economy can be at its worst but we’re still going to do whatever it takes to protect our children.”
Like Tutuh, increasing numbers of entrepreneurs are finding that they can thrive in an economic downturn in home-based franchises that provide valued services and keep overhead low. The self-sufficient entrepreneurs work in industries as diverse as senior care and interior design, but share a rare form of discipline that allows them to get the job done despite the distractions of home and the lack of manpower common in corporate settings.
Matthew Shay, president of the International Franchise Association, the leading organization of franchisors, franchisees, and suppliers, says the franchise sector will likely see declines in 2009 due to the tightening credit market and recession. However, due to the merits of the franchise model, he expects the sector to out pace others. In general Shay,Â cites the growth of in-home senior care and health and wellness franchises geared toward the needs of the expanding aging population. The increase in obesity rates is also spurring new concepts in children’s health services such as gyms and sports organizations dedicated especially to kids, he says.Â Â In fact, he expects a handful of industries to thrive because of the economy. “There are some concepts that may see increased opportunities during a slow economy such as handyman and automotive supply services because of an increase in the people who choose to repair their current homes and automobiles instead of purchasing something new,” he says.Â “Temporary placement services may see an increase in demand as employers look to fill