From the June 2006 issue of Startups

When husband and wife Ty and Jane Branam decided to become entrepreneurs, there was nothing that could sway their decision. Jane, a professor at Johnson C. Smith University, was seeking financial independence. Ty, a team coordinator with the local Department of Social Services, was unhappy and wanted a change. They were ready to take a leap of faith, but they knew that they needed the support of a franchise. "My Ph.D. is definitely not in business," says Jane, 53. "We needed something where someone would show us how to be successful in business."

After six months of research, they decided on ServiceMaster, a commercial cleaning franchise. "We kept coming back to ServiceMaster," says Ty, 48.

In 2001, they set up shop in their Charlotte, North Carolina, home and immediately started offering services, ranging from carpet cleaning and tiling to post-construction cleanup.

But as with every franchise, there have been challenges. One major hurdle was something even corporate training couldn't have prepared them for: The Branams had gone into business with each other--for better or worse--and there was no turning back. "I was not used to working with my husband 24/7," admits Jane. "That's pretty challenging, even though we love each other and have been married 18 years."

In the end, the Branams have proved good business partners. While Ty takes care of company operations, sales and customer service, Jane manages the administrative work, HR and bookkeeping. They expect their franchise's sales to exceed $500,000 this year, have expanded to three vans and moved the business into their own warehouse. Having the extra space has certainly come in handy. Says Jane, "His office is on one end, and mine is on the other."