Entrepreneurs secure an immediate product with support and training, but it comes at a cost.

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DesmoinesRegister.com:

Angela Williams‘ small frame shop in West Des Moines is starting like many small businesses. She is working to build a customer base, trying to find the right mix of inventory and getting the word out that she’s open.

Williams also has a slight edge against some small businesses: She has built-in help. Like a growing number of entrepreneurs, she bought a franchise as a way to get into business.

Her shop, the Great Frame Up in West Glen Town Center, is 1 of 180 franchise stores for the St. Louis-based company. Williams bought not only a franchise name but also the expertise, training and support she needed to launch her shop.

The number of companies offering franchises in the United States grew by 900 to 2,500, from 2003 to 2006, said Amy Bannon, spokeswoman for the IFA in Washington, D.C. Corporate downsizing and an increased desire for entrepreneurship have fueled the increases.

Entrepreneurs can get an established name, training, support, marketing help, research and development from a company that has already road-tested the concept, Bannon said.

Customers know exactly what to expect when they pull into a Maid Rite parking lot, said Bradley Burt, chief executive of the West Des Moines-based franchise. ‘Our name says it all,’ he said. ‘People expect a nice, friendly, clean restaurant when they walk in.’

One of the oldest franchise companies in the nation, Maid Rite was founded in 1926 in Muscatine and sold its 1st franchise 2 years later, he said. The company now operates 67 franchises in 9 states. Next year there are plans to add 18 more, Burt said. ‘We’re good at franchising, that’s our niche.’