Brian Carter first saw Wheelchair Getaways, a wheelchair-accessible van rental company, advertised in a disabled services directory in 1995. When Carter, who has spina bifida, called the Versailles, Kentucky, company, he realized it offered more than a transportation solution.
"We help disabled individuals who may feel trapped at home by providing them the opportunity for [business ownership]," explains Stewart Gatewood, president of Wheelchair Getaways, which has 31 franchises in the United States and Puerto Rico.
Carter had used a power wheelchair as a student at the University of Kentucky. "With no way to transport the chair, there was nowhere I could [go] but to classes and back," says Carter, 25.
In 1996, he, his mother, Noretta von Helm, and friend Norita Rowe became partners in Getaways' only Kentucky franchise.
Thanks to advertising and referrals, Carter's fleet has grown to three full-sized vans and four minivans. "It's fantastic when you see people who can't get out, and all of a sudden they've got this van and they can travel and do what they want," says Carter. "That's where the real joy in this business comes in."