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Franchises Takes Center Stage in Reality TV

The company, launched in 2004, has about 160 stores. Eighteen months ago, the company imposed a franchise sales moratorium so that infrastructure could catch up with the amount they had already sold, but the company is now looking to start selling franchises again.

"I was really hoping that we'd come off exactly as who we are. We are a young, successful, energy-driven brand that is about changing people's lives. We're not selling shoes or sandwiches. We're changing people's lives through fitness and goals," Zink says.

With Complete Nutrition putting up the $150,000 to $200,000 in start-up costs for the winner (which won't open for a few months), another major concern was the quality of the prospective franchisee in the show. Despite being a current employee, that doesn't automatically mean they were qualified to run their own store, Zink says.

Being part of a show can hurt productivity and put the corporate team at risk of ridicule from viewers.

Molly Maid President Meg Roberts says the company was willing to take the risk.

"We were willing to show some of our blemishes on national TV" with the hope of coming out of the experience as a better company, she says, adding that the brand was picked for its strong female leadership team, which would appeal to the show's target audience.

Molly Maid is a leading residential cleaning franchise with more than 450 locations nationwide. It is a subsidiary of Service Brands International . The Molly Maid episode airs Dec. 23.

"At a basic level, brand awareness was the biggest opportunity for us," Roberts says. "We don't advertise on television. But the benefit we're hoping to achieve was to lift the sales of our local franchisees" and see the brand on such a high-profile show.

And to cover their bases, the companies offered cash prizes in case winners didn't want to run a store. Zink says Complete Nutrition offered $30,000. Molly Maid says the winner would have also received a monetary "reward" of some kind.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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