From the May 1999 issue of Startups

During their first few years in business, Roy and Teresa Gonzalez didn't tell anybody they were entrepreneurs. Why? Because at ages 23 and 21, respectively, the Signs Now franchisees feared that if customers knew their ages, they wouldn't be taken seriously.

"On our business cards, I was the sales representative and she was the store manager," recalls Roy. "When someone asked `Are you the owner?' I would typically say `I'm one of them' or `I have a partner.' We did that for about five years."

Roy was just out of college--and Teresa was still in college--when Roy, looking for a business he could turn into a career, read about sign-making franchisor Signs Now in Entrepreneur magazine. He started working at a franchise in his hometown of Boise, Idaho, where he found he liked working with his hands and using computers to create graphics. But because there was already a Signs Now franchise in Boise, the Gonzalezes decided to relocate to Sacramento, California, where a franchise was available.

"We were both scared," admits Roy of the 1990 move. "Our families were against it because she had to drop out of college."

No one's complaining now. At 32 and 30, Roy and Teresa have two Signs Now stores in Sacramento that currently rank 10th and 25th in systemwide sales. Their combined sales for both stores reached $850,000 last year.

Signs Now is seeking franchisees nationwide. Start-up costs begin at $36,820.

For The Records

Working for a record company, to those not in the business, often brings to mind glamorous images of parties, stars and concerts. But people who've experienced it know it's not all it's cracked up to be. That's why Jeff Hooten decided he'd rather spin records than help make them for a living.

In his job at a record company, "I traveled three weeks out of the month, and with three kids and a wife, that was really tough," says Hooten, 31. "I was tired of being on the road all the time, and I wanted something that would keep me at home."

The record company agreed to let him work from home, but that proved to be just a short-term solution. When Hooten quit to take a job at a local disc-jockey franchise, he realized he'd found his niche. He turned to the American Disc Jockey Association for more information about starting his own DJ business, and that led him to American Mobile Sound, a mobile-DJ franchise based in Santa Barbara, California.

Hooten and his wife, Tammy, 35, decided to take a risk and, in September 1997, opened an American Mobile Sound franchise in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During their first year, the Hootens averaged 13 parties a week, logged in 580 events for the year, reached sales of $135,000 and grew their franchise into the largest disc-jockey business in Albuquerque. They plan to open a second franchise in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this summer.

Although Jeff had experience, he says it isn't necessary. "You don't need any DJ experience [for] this franchise," he says.

Start-up costs range from $10,000 to $90,800. The company is seeking franchisees nationwide.

Bone Appétit

When humans crave a treat, they might go to Starbucks. When canines crave a treat, they might head to Three Dog Bakery. (Of course, unless Fido's got his own stash of cash, he'll have to find a human to handle the transaction.)

The pet project of founders Mark Beckloff and Dan Dye, Three Dog Bakery's retail stores feature freshly baked dog treats with names like Mutt Muffins, Great Danish and Snickerpoodles. The company's whimsical marketing approach, combined with the prevalence of pampered pooches, has earned it media attention on The Today Show, CNN and more.

Started in 1990, the Kansas City, Missouri, company has 20 locations to date and seeks licensees worldwide to open additional stores. The initial investment ranges from $100,000 to $200,000.

Contact Sources

American Mobile Sound, (800) 788-9007, http://www.amsdj4u.com

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

Three Dog Bakery, (800) 487-3287, http://www.threedog.com