For 20 years, Patty Zacks had enjoyed connubial and entrepreneurial bliss alongside her husband. They'd created not only a family together, but a Providence, Rhode Island, camera business as well. In 1994, however, when their marital union became a divorce statistic, Zacks watched helplessly as her ex opened a competing camera store across the street from Camera Werks.
"I felt crushed," says the 45-year-old mother of two. Under the divorce agreement, she had only paid a moderate amount of "goodbye" money to her former husband. But her happiness at exclusive ownership of the business was short-lived. "I should have demanded a noncompete clause," she reflects. "I was extremely naive in dealing with the legal system, [and] he had a good attorney."
Due to a sagging local economy and competition from her ex, Camera Werks' sales took a 20 percent dip the following year. Then an IRS agent showed up at Zacks' door with a bill for nearly $20,000. Adding insult to injury, she found herself solely responsible for a business debt she hadn't even known existed. "It felt like a sword through my heart," she says. "But you do what you have to do to survive." For Zacks, that meant refinancing her home to pay off the IRS debt.
She also decided to revamp the store. What started out as more of a camera repair facility under the former couple's joint ownership has branched out in some new directions. "I'm concentrating on education," says Zacks. "We promote and nurture the art of photography." Annual sales have risen back to about what they were before the partners' split. "I didn't want to become a bitter person," says Zacks. "You have to be willing to grow."
Annabelle Candy Co., 27211 Industrial Blvd., Hayward, CA 94545, (510) 783-2900
Camera Werks, 764 Hope St., Providence, RI 02906, firstname.lastname@example.org
Habana Florida Cigar Co., (305) 529-0700
National Home Office & Business Opportunity Association, 92 Corporate Park, Ste. C-250, Irvine, CA 92606