From the April 2001 issue of Startups

It was probably difficult enough being the first female business student at Rutgers University, earning a master's degree in education and dabbling in doctoral work in counseling. But add multiple sclerosis into the mix, and things sound unbearable.

For Jean Griswold, though, it was all just fuel for the fire. As founder of Griswold Special Care, a nonmedical health-care service based near Philadelphia, she's built her life-and her business-around matching responsible, honest individuals with elderly and disabled people who benefit from extra assistance with day-to-day living. Griswold franchisees spend their days recruiting and screening potential caregivers, then pairing them with clients. Currently, there are about 7,500 caregivers in the Griswold network.

Kent Griswold, Jean's son and president of the company, sums up the business's philosophy nicely: "Our business is entirely people." It goes without saying, then, that you need to be a people person to be a Griswold franchisee-you'll spend a lot of time gaining the respect and trust of caregivers as well as clients and their families. Familiarity with the health-care industry is also a plus, but it's not necessary-franchisees' backgrounds are diverse, ranging from real estate to education.

So what's so special about Griswold Special Care? "The calls and letters from family members that say, 'What your caregivers did let our father stay at home with the family and die at home, not in a sterile hospital. It made such a difference in his life,' " Kent enthuses. "All the hard work that goes into [the business] is worthwhile because of the number of people you can impact. It's not just the clients; it's the family members, too."