A business development agency has called on budding Northern Ireland entrepreneurs to join a new scheme to help them tap into the £400m franchise market.
Ortus said it hoped to stimulate entrepreneurship levels and create new employment opportunities by putting businesses and individuals through their paces in a series of training and mentoring classes.
Belfast and Lisburn city councils have teamed up to support the initiative, aimed at expanding the franchising sector.
Melanie Fitzpatrick, business services coordinator at Ortus, called for entrepreneurs to consider the franchise option.
She said: “Franchising can be an attractive route to self employment for a new-start business and it certainly has a number of advantages over setting up a totally new enterprise from scratch.
“While it is not without risk, the steep learning curve which all new businesses go through does not apply.''
The programme aims to teach participants how to buy a franchise and develop the necessary skills and expertise to improve competitiveness and profitability.
Ms Fitzpatrick said Northern Ireland had low levels of uptake for franchising, despite the large number of opportunities available.
“In delivering this programme, we aim to help local businesses and individuals in Belfast and Lisburn to explore the potential in buying a franchise.''
The programme will run between February 2010 and May 2010 and will include a series of up to 12 workshops for the Franchising Programme and 15 hours one-to-one support.
Only those living in Lisburn and Belfast council areas should apply.