Before Al Cabrera owned 258 Burger King restaurants, he owned one. That was in 1985, when he and his father-in-law opened a Burger King on Southwest Eighth Street in Miami.
New to business, Cabrera said he struggled with everything from accounting to employment law. "Just because it's a franchise is no guarantee of success," he said.
But successful he was. And Cabrera's Heartland Food eventually became the second-largest owner of B-K franchises in the nation.
As consumers, we love to drive through franchises, shop in them or order from them, but for entrepreneurs, they represent the rarest of opportunities -- the chance to own a part of a larger corporation or multinational enterprise. And for local innovators, franchises can represent a way to take their ideas national or even global.
In the following pages we'll be looking at companies striving to grow. From firms that have discovered that the road ahead lies in exports to entrepreneurs who are graduating from the spare-room to the boardroom as they outgrow their home-based businesses.
But franchising holds a special place in the Florida business world. The Sunshine State is home to more than 50,000 franchises -- more than anywhere except California and Texas.
Whether it's local companies expanding, or entrepreneurs buying into existing brands, franchising is a growth strategy.
Last December Cabrera sold all but 10 of his Burger King stores for $155 million. Now he's on to new ventures including hotel development and restaurant projects. That kind of growth and success comes with challenges, he said: "A big part of being a successful entrepreneur is being able to endure the pain."
Click the links on the right to read more stories from our Focus on Small Business special section that explore the many ways businesses can expand.