From the March 2009 issue of Startups

Steven Dwyer caught the entrepreneurship bug early: At age 20 he started selling tools as a Cornwell Tools dealer and then, a few years later, he took over a wholesale floral route and sold $1 roses to 7-Eleven stores in Long Island, N.Y.

By 27, Dwyer had started his own insurance agency, but he sold it five years later after a federal law passed that allowed banks to get into the insurance game. He then spent five years in the home inspection industry as the owner of Homeview Systems. "But the real estate market began to take a nose dive," says Dwyer, 42.

Looking for a new entrepreneurial venture with less risk--and having enough capital to finance a business purchase--Dwyer decided to look into buying a rent-to-own franchise. While conducting research, Dwyer found three established ColorTyme franchisees who let him spend time at their rent-to-own stores and offered any advice and answers he needed.

That support gave him the confidence he needed to become a ColorTyme franchisee. Dwyer says having a network of people to help him enter into a business he knew nothing about was a nice change from being a solo entrepreneur for 23 years. "[After all], two heads are better than one, and 20 heads are better than two." On his own, he felt like he had no one to turn to. "It was difficult to find anybody to help and ask, 'Hey, do you have any idea about this or any idea about that? I'm struggling here,'" Dwyer says. "There was nobody to call."

In August, Dwyer opened his own Color-Tyme store in Waterbury, Connecticut, and saw 2008 sales of about $110,000. With his first store well on its way to success, Dwyer plans to open two more locations in the next five years.