Taking Small Business on the Road


Tim Kennedy, co-owner of Office Lube, decided to create a mobile oil change company that works the corporate parking lots on scheduled days of the month. Though Kennedy admits his company wasn’t the first to provide such a service, he says the market is underserved. His business has caught on fast, and sales have doubled or tripled every year since he founded it in 2002, making it the largest such company in California.

While ice cream trucks and locksmiths’ vans have been local fixtures for decades, more and more mobile service businesses providing everything from oil changes to root canal work to spa treatments are rolling onto corporate campuses and into neighborhoods across the country.

The growth in mobile businesses is fueled in part by an increase in the amount of time spent at the office. The workweek for the average family has steadily lengthened over the past few decades, partly fueling a rush toward entrepreneurship and business ownership while at the same time creating hordes of potential customers.

And entrepreneurs like the flexibility of mobile businesses, many of which operate by appointment only, allowing business owners to create their own hours.

Lower up-front costs is another reason franchisees and other entrepreneurs are increasingly attracted to mobile business. Instead of renting or buying real estate, entrepreneurs like the minimal overhead of a converted RV or truck.

Since the entry costs are as low as $10,000 for a mobile pet grooming business, vs. upward of $200,000 for a brick-and-mortar business, mobile entrepreneurs can often turn a profit faster, says Eric Stites, president of Franchise Business Review. The lower entry cost “opens more doors for people who may not have been able to get into business otherwise,” adds Stites.

Photo by BusinessWeek.com.

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