history of franchising

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for a solid business concept that has staying power and shown consistent growth over time, there’s no better model than the history of franchising. The idea has basically been around since the Middle Ages. It was then that the very elementary franchise system was established. Governments allowed high ranking officials a license to maintain order and assess taxes. They, in turn, allowed citizens to pay a royalty to perform certain businesses. That payment ensured business protection.

The Early History of Franchising

During the Renaissance and land exploration, the history of franchising took a different twist. Governments and corporations financed the trips to discover new lands with franchise opportunities. Franchises would grant exclusive privilege to travel and trade routes, often creating a monopoly over the sale of certain goods like silks and spices.

In the 1700’s, the colonial period in the New World, European government and corporations used the franchise concept to settle lands. They would provide business opportunities in the colonies, paying royalties to royalty. The Crown received fees and taxes in exchange for the rights to do business with those previously established in the “Motherland.”  It was in this era that good ‘ole Benjamin Franklin developed something closer to what we all recognize as the modern franchise concept. Franklin formed a partnership in a printing press business. That early franchise agreement defined and outlined intellectual property and the division of equity and profit-sharing.

The Influence of the Industrial Revolution

In the age of the Industrial Revolution in the U.S., it’s believed that the first commercial franchise was created by Isaac Merritt Singer, the founder of the Singer Sewing machine company. Having trouble building capital, Singer granted permission for representatives to sell and repair his machines. Once that was successful, he changed his game plan. He gave local entrepreneurs the opportunity to be owner/operators for a fee in exchange for a share in the profits. Singer supported the franchisees with equipment and business know-how.

The history of franchising took some interesting twists and turns as it continued to develop in the late 1800’s. We began to see established cities granting monopolies to utility companies. Then another advancement occurred when General Motors created the first automotive dealership. The idea was that a franchisee could buy GM vehicles at a discount and sell them on their lots.

In the 20th century the concept of franchising was steadily growing as companies like Coca-Cola, Rexall Drugstores, Howard Johnson, McDonald’s, and KFC moved forward with this very viable business model. Thanks to the creation of turnpikes and President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, franchising became a force to be reckoned with. As Americans became more mobile, they were looking for products and services that they were used to, back home– that’s how franchise units multiplied. Franchisors realized they needed to spread out and provide standard services in different areas. By 1960, there were nearly 1,000 brands franchising, comprising 200,000 outlets overall.

Franchising in the Present-Day Global Economy

As the economy evolved into a more global marketplace, and travel was made possible worldwide, companies expanded even further. Now, based on the latest figures from the International Franchise Associations’ 2022 Economic Report, there are about 792,000 franchise establishments in the U.S. with a 2.2% growth rate. The franchising industry did very well economically throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to be one of the strongest business sectors. It does so because it allows ambitious and qualified entrepreneurs the opportunity to own and operate a business with a working blueprint that gives a safety net that might not otherwise be available to independent sole proprietors.

Franchising has come a long way and evolved into an effective business model that is very appealing to motivated entrepreneurs. After paying an initial franchise fee, you are given the use of the franchisor’s proven model and operating system, logo, training, marketing, and on-going support.

Look to the Future with Wild Birds Unlimited

Your job as a prospective franchisee involves researching the best brand to suit you and your budget. If the search is on for one of the most profitable franchise opportunities in a niche business, giving you a favorable work-life balance, consider Wild Birds Unlimited. We’ve been in the nature industry for more than 40 years and have grown to more than 350 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Providing supplies and service to wild bird watching enthusiasts is a lucrative business. There is year over year growth with some 81 million people feeding birds and watching wildlife in their backyards,  equating to $5 billion spent annually on feed alone.

There is a rich history of franchising and the model has come a long way since the early days. Wild Birds Unlimited has built on the concept and we are soaring into the future. If you are ready to join a flock that shows great profit potential, get started by filling out an application.