Hit the Road: Mobile & Home-Based Franchises

Unique businesses for entrepreneurs on the move

Illustration of a man driving a blue van

Ready to venture out on your own, but don’t like the idea of being tied to one location? A mobile business might be the perfect option. Check out five business models that have laid the foundation for success, without the bricks and mortar.


Started in Ottawa, Ontario, Fire-Alert’s been fighting fires for 35 years. They first began franchising in 2008, with a focus on expanding locally to build a strong core. Today, 20 branches across Canada offer residential and commercial fire and safely supplies from mobile, high-top commercial vans that go right to their customers’ doorsteps. “We have put together a strong workshop that allows our staff to do anything they need to do to perform their work on site,” says Sylvain Houle, Co-Owner and Director of Franchising.

The recession-proof concept continues to grow as government rules get stricter and regulations tighten. “People don’t have a choice but to get this type of inspection done,” says Houle. “It’s interesting in the sense that you have new laws growing your business for you.”

The lower start-up cost eliminates much of the fees incurred with traditional build outs, offering franchisees a reasonable total investment. “From there, as they build the capital within their business, they have the flexibility to grow and either put another truck on the road or have a location.”

Fostered by the franchise, connections to chain stores like Sleep Country and Petro-Canada provide franchisees with an existing client base, allowing them to focus their efforts on developing locally. “Together, this is how we make their business a success.”

In addition to a 24-hour 1-800 number to stay connected while on the road, Houle and his team are constantly sharing the latest in new code regulations and trends. Even though the system is mobile, Houle says a lot of the ground rules remain the same, and they often perform site visits to ensure that standards are maintained.

His advice on success? “You need to be motivated to grow a business. That’s who we look for. People who are energetic, who are very personable, because we do work with the public a lot. We’re driving to them, and performing a service at their facility. You need to be able to present yourself well. There is a high level of professionalism.”

Learn more about Fire-Alert franchise opportunities

Matco Tools

Matco has provided tools to automotive professionals since 1979. With more than 1,700 mobile ‘stores’ across North America, Ben Gambrel, Vice President of Marketing, says their process-oriented approach is one of the reasons for Matco’s big success. “We really think about the business formulaically, and give a recipe on how to be successful in the mobile tool industry.”

A thorough training program is followed by weeks of field instruction with trainers and district managers. “We really prepare our franchisees to be successful business owners. Franchisees need to come in and follow our playbook; there’s a high level of success if people do that.”

Once on board, franchisees can choose from a variety of store options, eliminating much of the guesswork that often comes with starting a business. They’re also given a list of a minimum of 325 potential customers in an exclusive territory, so they can hit the ground running.

Successful franchisees don’t need to be automotive enthusiasts, they just need to get out there and put in the work to make a sale. Success comes hand-in-hand with the brand promise of service, trust, and results, and Gambrel says excellent service comes with consistency. “Franchisees are there each and every week. When an issue arises, they take care of it promptly, and this establishes trust between the technicians and our franchisees. Once that trust is established, the results come for our customers, our franchisees, and for Matco Tools overall.”

The Matco team is well supported, with district sales meetings, local area support, and an annual tool expo, where they can engage in tool talk and additional training. From marketing support to national advertising, promotions, partnerships, and a franchise advisory council, Matco has honed the formula for success.

Gambrel explains, “Matco is committed to providing every franchisee the opportunity of realizing successful business ownership. We know that our job above all else is to make our franchisees successful. We’ve done that for thousands of people over the last 38 years. We’ve had a lot of success over the years, and Canada offers us a great opportunity to continue to grow.”

Learn more about Matco Tools franchise opportunities

Restoration 1    

Though restoration companies typically market to insurance agencies, Eric Simtob brought Restoration 1 to Canada in 2012 with a vision to break the tradition. “We’re growing, and our direction of growth is to try to gain more referrals with a larger reach,” says Simtob.

Their innovative online and direct consumer strategy casts a wider net, fostering relationships with brokers, property managers, and more, allowing franchisees to focus on connecting to their local markets. The mobile concept allows franchisees to wade in slowly, starting their business from home, and adding a warehouse to store, clean, and repair equipment when they’re ready.  “Our franchisees are self-starters who want to push beyond the comfort zone. They are invested day in and day out, and care about the process,” notes Simtob.

A four-week training program in Toronto teaches owners everything they need to know, from assessing property damage to writing estimates. Once franchisees are up and running, the corporate team is a phone call away to help handle the unique challenges that come from running a non-traditional business where the landscape changes daily. “They’ve got the support of the network and other franchisees around them. Every day is a different day, which is why we need owner-operators who are personally invested.”

Simtob’s advice to prospective business owners? Look for a franchisor that offers local support. “Without it, you won’t be able to get that local, personalized support you’re going to need, especially in the earlier stages of the business.”

He adds that it’s important for franchisors to work in the system, testing different ideas and concepts to stay current. “Growth isn’t just adding dots on a map. It’s creating new systems and concepts and marketing ideas that expand the way you manage business. In the long term, that’s really what’s going to grow you.”

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Chris Clark has owned a construction company for 17 years. “We were renting equipment every day, and it’s a lot of work to pick up and drop off rentals,” says Clark. “Customers want things done as easily as possible, on their time frame.” He started TheRentalGuys.ca, an online storefront, to make the rental process easier.

A first in the industry, Clark and his team worked from the ground up to develop a system that manages the rental process online from start to finish, and launched the first version in 2014. “It was a runaway success. People took to it like it always existed.”

They started franchising in 2016, and today, they have locations in Mississauga and Guelph in Ontario, and Edmonton, Alberta, along with a corporate location in Calgary, Alberta. “We are very focused on getting the right franchisees, because it’s a non-traditional franchise. We want to partner with the right people to make sure they’ll be a big success, so in turn, we’ll be a big success.”

Because transactions happen online, the first point of contact is often during the delivery of the equipment, so having the right people in place is vital. “Having franchisees who really want to impress those customers is important, otherwise we lose control of the brand very quickly,” says Clark. “We put a lot of effort into training our franchisees, including how to interact with customers. We have a repeat customer business, so our customers come back to us over and over again. We really have to be conscious of that customer experience.”

In addition to pioneering a cutting-edge system that’s changing the way rental companies conduct business, strong purchasing power allows franchisees access to the latest and greatest in equipment. A full-time marketing team is dedicated to developing the best online presence in the industry, benefits that Clark says will make or break your business.

Clark’s advice to franchisees? Investigate the industry you want to go into. Meet local rental owners. Rent a piece of equipment. “See if you can see yourself on the other side of the business,” says Clark. “If you go into it with your eyes open, you will have very few surprises.”

Learn more about TheRentalGuys.ca franchise opportunities

Tutor Doctor

Tutor Doctor started in 2008, and has grown to include 300 franchisees in 500 territories around the world. “It’s been a fun journey so far, with lots of growth and ups and downs and growing pains. We’ve found ourselves at the next stage of maturity,” says President Frank Milner. “Ten years in, and I’m more excited than I’ve ever been.”

The franchise recently rolled out a fresh new rebrand to help differentiate itself and take things to the next level. “The essence of Tutor Doctor is us truly being present for our families. We have a great story to tell. We’ve impacted so many students’ lives. Our new brand does a much better job of helping us tell that story.”

The mobile tutoring service enables franchisees to operate from the comfort of their own homes. As they grow, an executive model helps them identify and hire key positions to scale their business. To foster the growth mindset, the company continues to charge forward with unique training and development initiatives, like hiring an instructional design person to ensure they’re really hitting the mark.

With big goals on the horizon, Milner says they won’t stop until they get there, and franchisees are a critical part of their success. “There’s no ivory tower here at Tutor Doctor. We want to be better today than yesterday, and tomorrow, we want to be better than today. Our ultimate goal is to turn Tutor Doctor into a household name across the globe, and we’re well on our way to doing that.”

Milner’s recipe for success is to do your homework, work hard, and love what you do. “When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. Follow through on the commitments you make to yourself. Understand why you are getting into business. Understanding your why will lay the foundation.”

Learn more about Tutor Doctor franchise opportunities

By Gina Makkar