As the old jingle for the McDonald’s restaurant chain used to ring: “You deserve a break today, so get up and get away to McDonald’s.” But you won’t be getting that break if what you are looking for at McDonald’s is franchise ownership.

Own a McDonald’s franchise, and you will be fully involved. You will work long and hard. But you will most definitely be rewarded for that hard work.

Famed columnist George Will recently said it best: “McDonald’s has made more millionaires, and especially black and Hispanic millionaires, than any other economic entity ever, anywhere.

Getting a bit long in the tooth, and think it’s too late for you to start into such a venture? Think again, and we can go back to the beginning to prove it.

Way back in 1954, a 52-year old man by the name of Ray Kroc mortgaged his home and invested his life savings in a product called ‘The Mulitmixer‘, a five-spindled milkshake maker. Kroc learned of a California hamburger stand named ‘McDonald’s’ that was running eight Multimixer’s at one time, and saw an opportunity.

Kroc packed up his life and headed west, saw how popular the business was in the area, and met with owners Dick and Mac McDonald. He pitched to them the idea of opening several restaurants, with the intent of selling eight Multimixers to each of them. The McDonald brothers asked who would open the restaurants for them, and Kroc responded “What about me?” The rest, as they say, is history.

A year later, Kroc opened the first franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, and made $366 on the first day. As Kroc opened the subsequent restaurants, he preached service and cleanliness to his employees: “If you can lean, you can clean” was his mantra.

In 1963, a clown named Ronald McDonald made his first TV appearance as a company mascot, with current national weatherman Willard Scott as the first ‘Ronald’. Kroc then set about designing the current logo and restaurant building that would become famous the world over. The biggest and most influential? Changing the former (and well-known at the time) red and white tile configuration of the restaurants into the Golden Arches theme.

In 1965, McDonald’s went public, offering their first stock. Twenty years later, in 1985, they were selected to the 30-company Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Back in 1968, a man named Jim Delligatti was a Pittsburgh-area franchisee. Delligatti owned 12 restaurants in that area, and came up with an idea for a new bigger burger. He called his new burger the “Big Mac”, and a worldwide sensation was born.

In 1973, another owner-operator, Herb Peterson, developed a sandwich to be called the “Egg McMuffin”, and the franchise jumped into the breakfast market.

The year 1979 saw the introduction of the kid-friendly “Happy Meal”, a staple now for two generations of youngsters. It would include a burger, small fries, a drink, and a small toy. Kids loved it, and parents loved the ease and price.

In 2005 the company celebrated it’s 50th anniversary by opening up a massive flagship restaurant in Chicago.

McDonald’s currently has over 11,000 U.S. franchises, and another 13,000 around the world. Approximately 2/3 of those are run by independent owner-operator franchisees, many of those entrepreneurs owning multiple restaurants.

Okay, you’re sold, you’re ready to throw up some Golden Arches yourself, and open up that drive-thru window in your neighborhood? Slow down, big fella’! You are gonna need to get your act together first.

You will need a $45,000 franchise fee and will need to be able to access between $500,000 and $1.5 million in start up costs. You will need to make a 20-year legal commitment to the company. You also need to be experienced in the industry, including business and marketing.

Owning a McDonald’s isn’t necessarily for everyone. But if you have a background and are willing to commit your time and resources, you can make this happen.

Don’t be discouraged by the dollar investment, because the ultimate payoff is real if you are willing to work hard. There are sources out there willing to lend you that start-up money. They know that McDonald’s is a winner, and that they will get repaid on their loan.

The real bet for them, and in the end for you, will be you. Do you have what it takes to be a Mickey D’s millionaire? Then you should, as their old jingle used to say, get up and get away to McDonald’s.