50 big franchise success stories

A couple posing for a picture with an ocean and cruise ship background.

America’s Star Franchisees 2016

Source: – There are close to 3,000 franchise companies in the United States collectively contributing more than $1 trillion annually to the economy. That said, it was no easy task to crown 50 franchise business owners — one for each U.S. state — as America’s Star Franchisees. More than 28,500 individual franchisees, representing 364 franchise brands, were vetted by CNBC’s research partner Franchise Business Review to gauge satisfaction with their franchise system and significant financial success, including an income and return on investment that is above the industry average.

These successful franchisees have a lot in common. Most have been in franchising for many years. Many own multiple businesses or have grown their single business to cover a large service area. Most also work with a spouse or other family members. Many found success with low-cost franchises. And money alone wasn’t the driving force: Work/life balance, pursuit of a long-held passion and frustration with other careers were all factors that influenced America’s Star Franchisees. To see what it took for these entrepreneurs to succeed, read the America’s Star Franchisees full methodology.

CruiseOne Franchisees

Description: Low-cost home-based travel agency
Owners: Robert and Bobbye Haupt
Years in business: 9
No. of franchises owned: 1
Start-up costs: $4,600 to $26,300
Franchisor fees: Royalties collected weekly, with annual cap of $22,500; .25% of sales for marketing and advertising per quarter, with annual maximum of $1,000
2015 revenue, 2016 projection: $3.1 million; $3.3 million
2016 projected annual growth rate: N/A

Bobbye Haupt made her foray into the cruise business in 1989 when she became an independent contractor for Cruises Inc., a company that arranges cruise vacations for clients. She liked the work and did it for nearly 20 years, but in 2007 she decided that she wanted to be in control of her own destiny. The parent company that owns Cruises — World Travel Holdings — owns the home-based franchise arm CruiseOne, and Bobbye and her husband, Robert, decided to buy one.

“I like being in control and knowing that, good or bad, we’re the ones making the decisions and growing the business,” she said. The decision to sign on with CruiseOne was fairly simple, given that she was familiar with the company and liked the management team. “They are always available to answer questions, whether it’s something silly, like an email problem, or if there are questions about different cruise packages,” she said. Although CruiseOne franchisees can also book land vacations for clients, Bobbye said she and her husband decided to specialize in cruises, adding, “I just love them.”

Of course, managing the workload of an expanding business can feel overwhelming at times, Bobbye said. “When I was an independent contractor, all my billing and payment functions were handled by the parent company,” she said. Learning to handle that as a franchise owner was a new skill, but since she had a good rapport with the franchisor the growing pains were less severe, she claimed. Today her business is on track to earn more than $3 million in revenues. About 85 percent of her bookings are from repeat customers.

Bobbye would advise anyone looking to buy a franchise to carefully examine the leadership and corporate structure of the brand. “Interview past and current franchise owners to get their views, both positive and negative, of the franchisor,” she said. “If possible, try to arrange to shadow a franchise location for a day.”

“Interview past and current franchise owners to get their views, both positive and negative, of the franchisor. If possible try to arrange to shadow a franchise location for a day.” -Bobbye Haupt