From the February 2001 issue of Startups

When "Texas" Terry Bell and Larry "The Iceman" Hubbart played pool during the '70s, they encountered games and rules that were as diverse as the many locales they competed in across the country. Both players, recently ranked in Billiard Digest's "50 Greatest Players of the Century," recognized the lack of uniformity in the system and administration of these tournaments as well as the need for an organization that would undertake such a task.

An opportunity arose for these competitors-turned-businessmen in 1979, when they decided to direct their passion for pool into the American Poolplayers Association (APA). But don't be misled by the name-this business is no spectator sport.

With the founding of the APA, the partners established officially recognized rules and formats as well as national championships that provide amateur members with a place to play in a structured, competitive format. More than $1 million in prize money is given away annually, with the help of various sponsors (currently Camel cigarettes, Molson beer and Jack Daniels). "You might think of pool as fun and good times-people have a good time on a cruise ship, too, but down below deck, there are people working," asserts Bell. "Recreation has to be as structured and organized as any other business activity."

As a franchisee, you would be visiting every establishment in your territory, public or private, that has a pool table in order to initiate and promote APA activity. There is no other national organization that competes with your business.

According to the Billiard and Bowling Institute of America, more than 10 million people play pool frequently, making pool leagues your core business. Franchisees administer the activity much like a bowling league secretary and earn a portion of the fees participants pay to compete. The APA created three 14-week sessions, so the activity is nonstop.

Looking back on the institution of the APA with co-founder Hubbart, Bell surmises, "Forming a business with people you enjoy and putting something out there that has benefited the communities is a labor of love. But it seemed easy, because we've always enjoyed it."