Top This

Novel Idea

By Brian Ng

How often have you been stuck on the freeway, barely moving, while seemingly every radio station is playing Hanson? Richard Simtob has an alternative to giving in to Hanson-inspired road rage: Listen to an audio book.

Simtob, 28, is the president and co-founder of Talking Book World Corp., a franchise company whose locations rent and sell books on tape.

The inspiration for Talking Book World grew from Simtob's two loves: his passion for listening to audio books, and his love for his wife, Aimee. Before getting married, Simtob moved from Ontario, Canada, where he ran a successful window-tinting business, to Michigan to live closer to his then-fiancee. He wanted to start a business locally, and Aimee suggested he start an audio-book business since he loved listening to audio books so much. That suggestion was enough for Simtob, and in 1993, he and high school friend Tyrone Pereira, 30, teamed up to open their first Talking Book World store in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

Success wasn't immediate, though. The partners' inexperience led to poor inventory selection and availability. "At the beginning, we had a lot of people walking out [of our store] empty-handed because we didn't have anything for them," says Simtob. But the partners eventually worked out the kinks and in 1994 (their first full year of operation) generated almost $200,000 in sales. Now business is booming, with 13 company-owned stores and 10 franchises.

Talking Book World is looking for franchisees nationwide who "love books, [are] financially stable and love selling," Simtob says. Total start-up costs range from $150,000 to $225,000. For more information, call (800) 403-2933 or visit http://www.talkingbooks.com.

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This article was originally published in the January 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Top This.

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