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Beanie Boy

Caffeine kick, smart ads, blind games

At the age of 29, Ramin Kamfar had everything he needed. Or so one would think. He had an MBA from Wharton and a job he loved--vice president at a large Wall Street banking firm. So why give up financial stability and security to open, of all things, a coffee store?

"What I saw happening in the coffee market was something that happens to a segment of the U.S. food service market every decade," says Kamfar, who dove into untested waters in 1993 when he left Wall Street to start New World Coffee. "[The coffee market] was going from mom and pop stores to being branded. I wanted to create an East Coast alternative to Starbucks. At the time, everyone said starting a coffee chain in New York wouldn't work."

But Kamfar has sent the naysayers packing--probably with a cup of his brew--with the success of his business, New World Coffee & Bagels Inc., which now has 45 locations (15 franchised, 30 company-owned) in 19 states along the East and West coasts.

Kamfar's initial investment of $250,000 came from his own savings. But besides building a chain of stores, he also managed to pick up a coffee plant along the way--oh, and he acquired Manhattan Bagel (a franchise company with 290 locations) and two bagel plants in 1998, too.

Despite the incredible growth of his company, Kamfar remains grounded. "The businesses were never about money," he says, "they were always about building something."

And while rapid growth might intimidate entrepreneurs who prefer to be hands-on, Kamfar welcomes the challenge. "Some entrepreneurs have trouble making the transition from running a small business to managing a company where they can't do everything themselves. I'm fortunate because I have a business background and I'm used to that."

Kamfar isn't through conquering the world, though. Upcoming plans include co-branding future New World Coffee & Bagels and Manhattan Bagel stores as well as signing up more franchisees.

Average start-up costs to open a New World Coffee & Bagels franchise begin at $175,000; Kamfar says the planned expansion will target both coasts.

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