From the March 2002 issue of Entrepreneur

Tracey Wills wanted to be a franchisor. She thought it would be a great way to expand her pharmacy and durable medical equipment business. Her next step? Become a franchisee. "I thought, what better way to learn about franchising than to buy one?" the 37-year-old explains.

Four years ago, Wills opened the doors to her Oklahoma City-based The Women's Health Boutique, a women's medical product retailer. The store sells items such as breast pumps, support garments and skin-care products. The boutique also carries prostheses, wigs and hats for breast cancer patients.

Prior to running her two businesses, Wills was a nurse, something she feels made The Women's Health Boutique a good match for her. "Any business that relates to your past experience is probably going to be an easier business for you to enter," she says. "The learning curve for me was probably not as steep as it would be for someone else."

Wills is still interested in franchising her business, but has no plans to let go of The Women's Health Boutique. "I'd still like to be a franchisee once I become a franchisor," she says. "My franchise [would be] in another line of business that would not compete with the boutique."

Even with a medical background, operating two different businesses is hard work. Wills spends one day a week at the store and makes frequent visits, often discussing new products and clinical information with employees.

Though few of her employees have medical backgrounds, Wills says many have personal experiences to relate. "A couple of them have had breast cancer themselves," Wills says, "and therefore have a strong tie to the customers."