A yearly panel at MSNBC takes part in an economic roundtable discussion, talking about all aspects of the economy for 2008 and projections for 2009. Although predictions are never 100% accurate, and 2008 definitely surprised us with how bad the economy got, the outlook for 2009 is not quite as grim as last year. Most economists on the panel agreed that we will continue to see economic decline throughout the 1st quarter of 09, but the clouds are expected to part somewhat with GDP seeing expected growth in the 3rd and 4th quarters, despite an expected rise in unemployment. While this may not be the glowing light of hope you may have expected for 2009, it’s still a good sign. The fact that the recession hit so hard in 2008 has caused some businesses to collapse altogether, while the ones that have survived have had to learn how to change their strategies in order to succeed in a downward market. There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that the economy will eventually turn around and although we may not see the kind of growth that 2006 and 2007 saw for a while, most economists agree that the worst may be behind us. You may ask, "Where does this leave small business owners?" While the bailouts of 2008 may have helped the larger companies like mortgage lenders and auto makers, many small businesses are still hurting, and the fact is that small businesses make up the majority of the US work force. What many small businesses that are surviving and even profiting in the current economy are learning is that if you want to survive, you have to adapt and make sure that you have a product or service that’s still worth paying for even when money is tight for the average American. If you’ve considered getting into a small business, but don’t want to risk too much, consider some of the following low cost franchises that will get you in the door with a business that can profit in good times and bad and carries much less risk than a traditional small business startup. FiltaFry One of the most interesting statistics to come out in the last few months was that in the midst of worldwide recession, many fast food businesses in the US have reported profits. Whether this is due to depressed investors seeking comfort food or simply because when money is tight, people want to go spend $5 on lunch instead of $15 or $20 at a sit down restaurant, the fact remains that for fast food restaurants, business is booming. FiltaFry is a niche-market business that filters the oil used in deep fryers and will put you right in the mix will fast food restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, basically any business that sells fried food. This van-based franchise requires no central office, but can be run completely mobile, thus greatly reducing operating expenses and startup costs. With a total investment of less than $65K, you can be up and running with your own FiltaFry business and making money in no time. Vendstar Vending is another industry that seems to be fairly unaffected by the recession. It seems that no matter if it’s someone’s last quarter or if they have a pocket full of change, candy vending in good times and bad can earn the vending machine owner an average rate of $70/hour. Vendstar is one of the best options if you’re considering a vending machine franchise. For starters, Vendstar has some of the best machines in the business, with machines that can display and vend 4 products at a time. Probably the best part about this franchise, however, is that you can start small with only one or two machines, grow the business over time and be making six figures in no time, just from selling candy. Rotobrush Air duct cleaning is growing in popularity as more and more Americans are seeing the value and the health benefits of having cleaner air. This van-based business can be owned and operated by one person and each air duct cleaning job takes only 3-4 hours. Rotobrush offers this unique business opportunity for only $10,000 and estimates that an average franchisee working part time performing 1-3 jobs per week can earn up to $75,000/year. Take that number and just imaging how profitable this business can be for anyone working full-time or employing a few people and starting a multi-unit operation. Cruise Planners Despite a lagging economy, it seems that the one thing that inevitably profits during recession is alcohol and entertainment, and what better way to combine the two than with a sunny Caribbean cruise. Cruise Planners is one of the largest cruise travel agents and has earned plenty of awards including the #1 ranking for travel franchises by Entrepreneur. This work from home business is great for anyone with a background in sales or administration, but can really work for anyone who’s passionate about owning their own business and is willing to learn the Cruise Planners system. Each of these small businesses has developed a product or service that people want and has packaged it in a way that people have responded to. In the midst of a recession, the scariest thing in the world can be investing a bunch of money in a business that may or may not succeed, but the low risk of a low cost franchise coupled with the proven track record that each franchise carries makes a winning combination that will be all but guaranteed to succeed in good economic times as well as bad.