From the April 1999 issue of Startups

For most married couples who start businesses together, seeing each other too much can be a problem. For Laura and Jonathan Crawford, however, seeing each other at all was the dilemma.

In 1997, a year after getting married, the newlyweds, both 31, opened their first CD Warehouse franchise, which sells new and used CDs, in Mobile, Alabama. Laura, a former bookkeeper for a high school, initially started the venture because she wanted to take her career in a different direction. After financing most of the $120,000 in start-up costs with personal savings and the sale of a home, Laura moved to Daphne, Alabama, to live near the business, while Jonathan continued his high school teaching career back in Selma, some 150 miles away.

"He really sacrificed," Laura recalls. "He would take off from work on Thursday night and drive down to help me at the store. Then he'd get up at 4 a.m. on Monday morning to get back to his job."

When the Mobile store succeeded beyond the couple's expectations, the Crawfords opened another location, in Daphne, in September of last year. Jonathan quit his teaching job and moved to Daphne to run the new store, while Laura continues to run the Mobile location.

Despite the distance, Laura says, they both appreciate the rewards of entrepreneurship. "It's been a real growing experience for the two of us," she says. "We learned how to work together and be apart at the same time. And I love being able to put the work into [my own business] and see the results for myself." And since they hit total sales of $400,000 last year, the Crawfords plan to open a third location in Pensacola, Florida. (No word yet on who will run that one.)

CD Warehouse Inc. has 275 franchised locations and is seeking franchisees nationwide. Total start-up costs range from $123,300 to $150,300.

Just For Kicks

Bruce Lee did it. Ally McBeal did it. Now you can do it (and teach it, too). Power Kickbox, a new franchise company in Austin, Texas, is spreading the gospel of kickboxing with its franchise opportunity.

Franchisees learn kickboxing as well as business techniques; they can either hold classes in community centers or open their own Power Kickbox locations. Because most classes take place in the evening, says owner Steve Doss, it's an ideal part-time business.

Power Kickbox is seeking fitness-oriented, motivated franchisees in the United States and Canada who enjoy working with people. Total start-up costs are $900.

Self-Maid Men

It's no surprise that Mark Kushinsky's MaidPro Inc., which specializes in residential cleaning, developed from the 33-year-old entrepreneur's own efforts, with help from business partner Richard Sparacio, 31. Whether it was writing his own software program, MaidSoft, or building a franchised company, Kushinsky has always been self-reliant.

What prompted two young guys to clean up in the maid-service industry, you might ask? Kushinsky, a former department manager at a retail store, points to his dissatisfaction with the quality of service he received from two maid companies. Convinced he could do better, Kushinsky split the start-up costs with longtime friend Sparacio, and they began the business in 1991 with a mere $2,000. "I'd been thinking about [entrepreneurship] for years," Kushinsky explains. "I wanted a business I could run better than the competition."

As the business grew and the number of customers and employees increased, Kushinsky found he needed a software program that could manage all the fluctuating schedules. Finding nothing suitable on the market, Kushinsky, with the help of a computer consultant, wrote the code that would become MaidSoft.

MaidPro began franchising in 1997. The Boston-based company has nine franchised locations and recently filmed its first TV commercial. MaidPro is seeking franchisees nationwide; start-up costs range from $18,000 to $35,000.

Contact Sources

CD Warehouse, (405) 949-2422, http://www.cdwarehouse.com

MaidPro Inc., (888) 624-3776, http://www.maidpro.com

Power Kickbox, (800) 758-3122

Signs Now, (800) 356-3373, http://www.signsnow.com