For lots of entrepreneurs, the path to business starts with an original idea. But franchising can be a fantastic option for those with a professional heart, too. But how do you figure out which franchise choices are out there and which is perfect for you?

Three words.

International. Franchise. Expo.

3 days of raw opportunity

This year, the International Franchise Expo (IFE)--the largest global meeting of the franchise industry--is set to showcase more than 400 franchise concepts for new and current entrepreneurs. Those concepts, which range between $10K and $1M, are expected to draw some 20,000 attendees from all 50 states and 120 countries to the event, which runs May 31st through June 2 at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Tickets, which are available in advance, at the door and online, run between $10 and $20.

Tom Portesy, President of MFV Expositions, which produces IFE, explains that the benefits of the expo go well beyond just seeing and testing franchise choices in a face-to-face platform. It's a chance to learn and rub elbows with experienced executives, too.

"The IFE offers more than 70 free educational seminars and 10 in-depth workshops covering a variety of topics from the A to Z's of buying a franchise to the best ways to finance a business, while actually getting to meet with lenders and industry professionals. Additionally, attendees will have full-access to invaluable resources including an 'Answer Center', where experienced mentors provide free expert advice, coaching, start-up support and more in an informal, roundtable setting. Of course, attendees will also have a chance to explore the franchise industry and discover the vast opportunities to purchase a franchise."

Portesy says that most attendees (60 percent) who attended the 2017 expo planned to invest $50K to $1M+. This year, they present a similarly strong candidate pool for exhibitors and make it possible for the exhibitors to find franchisees who align with the goals, ideals and lifestyle of their brands.

"Our goal for IFE is to match motivated both future and current entrepreneurs with concepts they will not only be successful with, but also enjoy what they do every day. Becoming a franchise owner can be one of the most important decisions ever made in a person's career and we're here to make sure they are equipped with a solid foundation to succeed. Ultimately, we want to help franchisees go into business for themselves, but not by themselves."

As trends emerge, franchising grows overall

Portesy notes that there are specific franchise areas that currently are trending. The areas where professionals expect the most growth in 2018 include quick service restaurants (26 percent), personal services (15 percent) and business services (14 percent). But millennials, who place a strong emphasis on personal wellbeing, also are helping the health industry dominate the franchise space. Boutique fitness, wellness and personal service franchise concepts are all excelling. Internet and technology-based franchises are expanding, as well. Nontraditional venues, such as colleges and hotels, are supporting the expansion.

While some concepts are hotter than others, franchising is seeing growth for the eighth straight year overall, thanks largely to strong economic fundamentals, tax reform and a favorable regulatory environment. More specifically, Portesy credits rising incomes, lower tax rates and a strong job market with keeping the franchise industry on a successful track. By the end of 2018, the industry is expected to reach $451 billion, and Portesy asserts it's creating more jobs than any other type of business.

With those kinds of projections, it won't come as any surprise that IFE saw preregistration for its 2018 expo jump by a healthy 49 percent.

A few pre-expo words of advice

If you think franchising is the right path for you, Portesy has some final grains of wisdom to offer:

"While buying a franchise may dramatically increase your ability to be successful, it still requires hard work--especially in the first couple of years. It is critical that potential franchisees go into a business where their personal and professional values align with the company's. The best way to ensure this is to research--make sure to take advantage of opportunities to meet face-to-face or via phone with industry professionals to learn more about their brand and all that they stand for.

"With so many concepts, support affiliates and resources, the growing franchise industry comes well-equipped to ensure franchisee success. Franchisees should know that it's not likely that they will be able to succeed as a one man show--it's important to realize that building rapport with industry veterans is key to having a successful franchise experience. It's more than okay and even welcomed that entrepreneurs reach out for guidance and advice from those more experienced."

Summarized? You can't do it alone, but you can do it. The exhibitors have faith in you. Now you just have to have faith in you, too.