From the March 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

For some entrepreneurs, pairing a lifelong friendship with their budding business can prove highly profitable. Thinking of teaming up? Let these business partners show you why there's power in numbers.

Easy As ABC

Unless you were a spelling bee champ, spelling tests probably weren't a grade school highlight. Former student teacher Judy Currie wanted to change that. "I'd teach spelling by putting alphabet stickers on Hershey's Kisses," says Currie, 30. "It went from there to decorating cookies [with letters]."

After Currie's childhood friend, Elkin Cushman, 30, then a marketing executive, requested some alphabet cookies for a client promotion, the two saw the product's potential. They changed their delectable medium to Swiss chocolate, incorporated as Eat Your Words Inc., and began selling Word Chocolate in March of last year. Today, the New York City company creates chocolate block letters, spelling anything from "Thank You" to "I Love Your `Blank.' "

Clients can find the goods in catalogs like Barney's Corporate Gifts, on the company's Web site, and through its direct marketing efforts to corporate clients and nonprofit organizations.

Eat Your Words brought in $800,000 in sales for 1998, with 41 percent of that generated during the holiday season. This year, the duo is expanding with a Valentine's Day marketing plan featuring Naughty Word Chocolate. Says Currie. "It'll be interesting to see what comes from it."

Cashing In

When Mike Roth and Frank Capan are asked what their first entrepreneurial effort together was, Roth laughs: "Probably selling bubble gum on the playground." After a successful stint in the late '80s providing outdoor advertising and not-so-successful ventures selling sunglasses and diet cookies, Roth and Capan have found their niche marketing nonbank ATMs and providing subsequent management services to retailers and banks.

After seeing ATMs at a trade show in 1992, Roth, 32, and Capan, 31, researched the product for two years before starting Access Cash International Inc. with $30,000 borrowed from Capan's father. With approximately 8,000 ATMs in Canada and the United States, the partners estimate the company's 1998 sales will reach $45 million. They also plan to expand further by introducing their ATMs into more international markets.

When the company began, Roth and Capan marketed primarily to retailers on the promise that ATMs would bring more cash into their businesses. But a fortunate stroke of luck occurred in 1996 when two national ATM networks, Cirrus and Plus, dropped their bans on surcharging. The nominal fees charged on each transaction brought profit as well as convenience to retailers. "ATMs became much more affordable," says Capan. "And we've been fortunate to weather a lot of the competition and continue to improve our business and reach the point [we're at] today--the largest nonbank deployer of ATMs in the United States."

Contat Sources

Access Cash International Inc., (800) 723-2274, http://www.access-cash.com

Eat Your Words Inc., (888) 464-9673, http://www.eatyourwords.com