By Lourdes Aguila
Like most entrepreneurs, Stephen Hanulik, 36, had to overcome obstacles to business ownership. Unlike most, the Springdale, Pennsylvania, man had to triumph over one extra obstacle--getting people to look past his wheelchair and see him, not his disability.
Hanulik, who has muscular dystrophy and is a quadriplegic, was working at a hospital when a colleague told him about Business Enterprise Venture. The federally funded program, run by the Pittsburgh Blind Association, helps people with disabilities become entrepreneurs by providing guidance with feasibility studies, business plans and financing.
Hanulik didn't waste any time. "I've always dreamed of owning my own business," he says. Through the program he met advisory board member Jim Fox, founder of Fox's Pizza Den. Then fate stepped in: A Fox's Pizza Den franchise right down the block from Hanulik's home was up for sale.
"I knew that this deal was going to work," recalls Fox. "[Hanulik] is a very inspiring person." With business start-up assistance from Business Enterprise Venture, plus a home equity loan, Hanulik bought the franchise in May 1995.
Today, with 1996 sales projected at $100,000 and eight part-time employees, Hanulik is living his dream. And his enthusiasm has been contagious: Fox has added a whole subdivision to Fox's Pizza Den to attract franchisees with disabilities.