From the August 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

After receiving numerous requests for donations from charities and Little League baseball teams, Atlanta-based Aaron's Rental Purchase decided it wanted to make an impact in local communities. As a result, the franchise created Aaron's Community Outreach Program (ACORP).

"We could have picked one or two national charities, but it would have been a corporate thing rather than people giving back to [the places] where they work and live," says Mike Hickey, vice president of management and development for Aaron's. "This felt like the right thing to do."

ACORP provides Aaron's franchisees (or store managers at corporate locations) with monthly funds they can donate to charities and worthwhile causes in their communities. The stores receive $500 from the corporate office if they meet performance requirements each month. They're sent ACORP shirts and hats and must elect team captains and set up committees to compile a list of community causes and charities. Each month, a vote is taken to determine which group receives the funds that month. All stores are welcome to take part in ACORP, but participation isn't mandatory for franchisees.

During the first quarter of this year, ACORP donated $37,500 to community groups such as Little League teams, churches and families on welfare. With 325 Aaron's Rental Purchase stores nationwide, total annual giving could reach more than $1.9 million. Hickey would like to see half the stores receive $500 each month and expects donations to top $75,000 per month by year-end.

A Step Ahead

With a new president and a new look, The Athlete's Foot is moving forward.

Successful athletic shoe store chain The Athlete's Foot has a new president and is ready for a new look and a major growth spurt. The company is implementing an expansion plan that calls for 40 additional corporate stores and 80 more franchises nationwide as well as 70 new stores within ten new target countries this year.

"We're a growing enterprise, and there's a lot of room out there for us to grow," says Bob Corliss, president and CEO of the company, which currently has 700 stores in more than 40 countries. "This is a difficult time in the athletic footwear industry, but we offer a unique business solution for the multinational markets we do business in and have a superior offer for our customers."

The new look will be unveiled in Atlanta this month when existing stores begin remodeling. The new design and colors, as well as the stores' integrated technology, will create a unique shopping experience. The two prototypes include a small specialty store format of about 2,000 square feet and a large format that ranges from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet that offers both full-service and self-service shopping.

Says Corliss, "It's a more updated, high-energy, distinctive look for us."

Instant Diner

The business that comes to you

Pizza, Chinese food and sandwiches have been delivery staples for years. The next step? Delivering the whole restaurant.

Diner-Mite Diners Inc. literally brings your new business to you with its "Dinerette" concept. The company makes prefabricated, fully equipped diners for entrepreneurs who want to open a restaurant without building one. Both the Dinerette 40 ($99,500) and the Dinerette 60 ($149,500) come with everything from toasters to bathrooms.

Each Dinerette is specifically designed to meet state and local requirements and can be delivered by truck within 90 days of ordering. Once it's in place, the restaurant can be opened within one week. Diner-Mite president David Bernstein predicts his company will sell an average of 50 to 75 dinerettes each year.

Potential owners are required to have good credit and provide a down payment of at least one-third the diner's purchase price. Financing is available to qualified applicants through a nationwide lender. The company also has consultants on hand to help owners develop their own restaurant concepts and ideas.

"What makes the diners so special is that people can personalize them," says Don Memberg, Diner-Mite's director of marketing. "We don't tell them what to serve or what to offer. We give them the equipment to do what they need to do."

Contact Sources

Aaron's Rental Purchase, 309 E. Paces Ferry Rd., N.E., Atlanta, GA 30305

The Athlete's Foot, (770) 514-4500, http://www.theathletesfoot.com

Diner-Mite Diners Inc., (404) 237-5221, http://www.dinermite.com