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For Good Cause

For these entrepreneurs, success means more than just a big bottom line. Meet our 1999 Socially Responsible Franchisees of the Year.

It's 4 a.m. You've just spent the past seven hours readying your business for the big sale you're starting tomorrow, updating your Web site and restocking your shelves, all the while inhaling cup after cup of coffee and yearning for daylight savings time so you could just turn the clock back an hour.

You finally hit the sack, your body still quaking from the caffeine, your eyes drooping with fatigue . . . two hours later, your alarm clock screams, yanking you back into reality.

Sound familiar? We thought so.

That's why we're so amazed by those of you who manage to squeeze anything other than thoughts of business into your overworked brains--and why we established the first annual Socially Responsible Franchisee of the Year award. Of the numerous nominations we received, we found several exemplary citizens who deserved to be recognized, so we established three categories: Philanthropist Extraordinaire, an overall socially responsible franchisee (in this case, a husband-and-wife team); Big-Time Benevolence, a multiunit franchisee whose influential status benefits his or her community; and Oh, Charitable Canadian, a franchisee who carries social responsibility across the border.

Philanthropist Extraordinaire

Judy and Chuck Ruggeri, both in their 60s, were devoted to social responsibility way before it was cool. The co-owners of six Fantastic Sams locations in Pennsylvania have spent much of the past 11 years educating and supporting the public, promoting their industry, and charming customers, rarely pausing for a breather. "Chuck and I are [involved] in the business 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says Judy. "Last year, we had our first full-week vacation in 10 years."

They're able to handle the stress with the help of their son, David Ruggeri, and his wife, Flo, who both work in the business, as well as their loyal staff and customers, who often inspire ideas for helping the community. And let's not forget Fuzzy.

Yes, Fuzzy is a bear. A big, orange bear that journeys to local preschools and hospitals with the Ruggeris' stylists. While Fuzzy entertains, the stylists cut the kids' hair and teach them grooming techniques. "If we teach them while they're young, they'll learn to respect themselves," says Flo, the Ruggeris' director of operations. "The little things we teach them go a long way."

Other efforts include fund-raisers for cancer research and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in-home haircuts for the elderly, Easter egg hunts, and in-salon birthday parties. In the name of social responsibility, Chuck and David even volunteered to do hard time: They spent a few hours in the slammer while stylists collected "bail" money from customers. The Ruggeris matched each dollar given and donated all the proceeds to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

What's next? Wigs. The stylists lop off customers' ponytails and ship the hair to a charity which turns it into wigs for cancer patients. Appropriately, the effort is called "Locks of Love."

"These events allow us to get along with the community," notes Chuck. "They inspire our employees to do more, which inspires us to do more, too. It's a rewarding experience for everyone." Including Fuzzy.

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Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.

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This article was originally published in the July 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: For Good Cause.

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