From the June 2006 issue of Startups

Sanjay Patel and Ron Ackerman were 10 years old when they met. Their friendship continued through high school and college, bonded by similar pasts and shared goals for the future. They both dreamed of owning a business and knew they could make it happen--together. In December 2005, after a year of delays incurred by real estate difficulties and hurricane encounters, they opened their Firehouse Subs franchise, a sub shop, in Lauderhill, Florida.

"We had eaten at Firehouse Subs in Gainesville, where we went to school," says Patel. "We just wanted a product that we believed in. This was it."

Since opening, they have been doing all they can to whet people's appetites. They have personally visited local businesses with menus and coupons, reached out to area residents through a direct-mail campaign and are even working with schools by offering free meals to students who have received certificates of achievement from their teachers. The hard work is paying off. Business has consistently been running at break-even or above since opening, and the franchise is on track to meet the pair's goal of $12,000 per week in sales for the first year.

With corporate jobs in IT and finance behind them, the 29-year-olds are focused on Firehouse Subs, and they're burning a blazing trail to secure it as their future. "We have a big territory," says Patel. "If corporate approves us to have more stores within our territory, we definitely want to [expand]." They have plans to open four locations in the next two to three years.

Says Ackerman, "We are doing everything we have always wanted to do."