The launch of the BioLab franchise will enable entrepreneurs to open pool, spa and backyard stores under the “wknd.” brand.

The Lawrenceville, Ga.-based chemical manufacturer currently is offering franchising in Georgia and Texas, with Kentucky and Florida scheduled to follow.

Once the firm has built enough brand equity and amassed enough locations, it hopes to launch a national campaign and put the wknd. brand in front of every consumer in America.

Technology available to wknd. franchisees will include a proprietary touch-screen point-of-sale system; the BioGuard ALEX water-testing service; and laptops in service vans that are linked to the water-testing program. Using the program, technicians can test samples on site and instantly update customer data without leaving the backyard.

By the end of 2009, BioLab hopes to open approximately 14 more locations. “It’s a modest goal. We are conservative about what’s going to happen in the next 15 months,” said Scott Sutton, director of franchising at BioLab Inc.

Some in the industry wonder if it is a good year to launch a franchise because of the current economic challenges.

The initial investment of a few hundred thousand dollars and royalty of 5 percent of gross revenue sounds like a steep price tag for someone starting out, said Brenda Murr, owner of Mermaid Pools & Patio in Anderson, Ind.

“The numbers for the pool business aren’t [enticing you to jump in] right now,” she said.

But, in this case, the ailing economy also may help the fledgling franchise venture. “People who have lost their jobs or are afraid of losing their jobs are looking for something where they have control of their own destiny,” she added.

Still, others remain skeptical. “I don’t know if it means that much to me. Furniture manufacturers such as Drexel Heritage or Henredon have tried [the franchise] concept or opened factory-direct stores. Everybody says they’re going to open stores nationally, but they don’t [necessarily] succeed. If BioLab has some success, that’s great for them,” said Erik Mueller, owner of Cincinnati-based franchiser Watson’s, which has 13 locations in the Midwest.

Nonetheless, BioLab believes there’s strength in numbers.

“We’re not here to convince everybody,” BioLab’s Sutton said. “A dealer who has been in business for 20 years obviously knows what he or she is doing. You can make the reasonable assertion of which is better — someone with 20 years’ experience or 10 people with a collective 200 years of business experience? The essence of franchising is the opportunity to band together.”

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