With the nation's unemployment rate still near record highs, would-be entrepreneurs are turning to franchises and the chance to be their own employer.
"The number of franchises grew significantly last year, registering a 13 percent jump between 2000 and 2001," said Pierce Chiang (江慶鐘), director of the Franchise Promotion Association in Taiwan.
There are over 64,066 franchise outlets in a variety of sectors in Taiwan. Such businesses include restaurants, food stalls, coffee shops, convenience stores, book shops, real-estate agencies, video shops and Internet cafes.
Chiang said that with many factories in Taiwan closing their doors, people are searching for other ways to make a living.
"Becoming a franchisee and learning know-how from the parent company is a quick and easy way to enter the market," Chiang said.
Last year over 50 percent of new franchises were small-scale operations, such as breakfast shops and cafes.
The amount of capital needed to establish one of these outlets ranges from NT$300,000 to NT$500,000, and they are easy to operate, Chiang said.
"We opened 200 new franchise outlets last year," said Lu Cheng-yi (
But he warned about intense competition.
"Since so many people jumped into the market last year, competition has become very tough and sales may begin to slow."
Lu's promotion was part of the third annual Taipei International Chain and Franchise Exhibition yesterday at the Taipei World Trade Center. The expo is open from 10am to 6pm daily and runs through March 3. Admission is NT$200.
One unemployed gentleman came to the show in the hope of creating his own job.
"I came to look for business opportunities and ideas," said a 38-year old father of two surnamed Tseng. Tseng lost his job in a shoe factory last year after the company moved to China.
"I have a family with two children to feed, so I have to start a small business and make money as soon as possible," he said.
One franchise option that has become popular in Taipei recently is "coffeemobiles."
Growing numbers of "Starbucks on wheels" can be seen caffinating visitors to nightmarkets, tourist locations, shopping areas and business districts.
"Enjoying coffee at a outdoor coffee van is a new trend -- the business outlook is promising," said Tseng Guang-tang (
Equipped with the latest in coffee, espresso and cappucinno equipment, these trucks also cart tables and chairs for creating an on-the-spot coffee shop.
The initial investment for a coffeemobile is around NT$2 million -- including the vehicle, Tseng said.
While the rent-free aspect of the business is an attraction, mobile businesses are classified as street vendors in the eyes of the law and are therefore likely to face fines.
But at only around NT$1,000 per citation, one coffee-van operator in Taipei said the police only issue an occasional ticket and then "let us go about our business."