THE BLOG
06/13/2012 10:04 am ET | Updated Aug 13, 2012

Why Franchising Matters (and How to Get Into the International Franchise Expo This Weekend for Free)

Franchising, as a business model, is good for the current lean economic environment, and it's great for job creation. The franchise industry provides over 20 million people with employment, and it generates more than $2 trillion in economic activity yearly.

According to a recent report by the International Franchise Association, franchise business jobs are expected to grow 2.1 percent in 2012, despite the sluggish economic recovery. This means 168,000 new jobs this year -- how's that for job creation? The gross domestic product generated by the franchise sector is also expected to grow 4.1 percent, an increase of $2.1 billion, or quite a bit more than the consensus of the "talking heads."

My Interest in Franchising

As CEO and co-founder of Mercantile Capital Corporation (my primary business), I've provided franchise financing for more than six dozen different franchised concepts in just the past nine years. We've worked with franchisees of such concepts as Golden Corral, Holiday Inn Express, Jimmy Johns, and many, many more. And, we've seen a significant increase in franchise activity so far this year. In the first five months of 2012, we closed 10 commercial loans for franchisees, mostly hotels and restaurants. If this trend holds up and the IFA's projections are accurate (hopefully they're on the conservative side), franchising will play a big part in our nation's economic recovery in the immediate future.

My secondary business, which probably isn't as familiar to most people as Mercantile, is a barbershop franchise concept called Kennedy's All-American Barber Club. I become the co-founder of Kennedy's in 2008 when I recognized a unique business opportunity in a foundering barbershop chain. It had proven, turnkey operations already in place (and a unique membership-based business model, which we have a patent pending for), and it had seen quite a bit of success in its very brief past. We bought the small franchise and rebranded it as Kennedy's, while adding services and improving the customer experience. We now have 13 locations in three states, nearly 3,000 members, and are about to open our 14th location in a new state (for us): New Jersey. In fact, I liked the concept so much that I decided to own and operate the franchise nearest my home, so I'm living proof that the right franchise can make the perfect second business.

Where to Learn More

Later this week (June 15-17), I'll be at the International Franchise Expo, hosted by the IFA. This is the first year it's NOT being held in Washington, D.C. Instead, we'll be in New York City -- the business capital of the world -- at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. More than 300 franchisors have registered for the Expo, and it's expected that between 8,000 and 10,000 people visitors will attend the three-day event.

If you're interested in learning more about the opportunities afforded by franchising, the IFE is THE place to be. In fact, as a loyal reader of my blog posts here, I want to reward you with a unique code that will let you attend for free. Just go here to register for the event and use the promotional code HUFFPO (if it asks for one).

So, if you don't have plans this upcoming weekend, come spend some time at the International Franchise Expo and learn all about franchising (there's a wide range of concepts out there worth looking into). And if you do visit, be sure to stop by the Kennedy's booth and meet with me in-person! I'd enjoy getting to know some of my new readers and friends a little better.