From the June 2002 issue of Startups

Summer means hitting the road with the kids, driving across several states to reach the ocean or an amusement park or to visit relatives. For some, along with the joyous hours in the car, there's also the pleasure of packing the stroller, high chair, playpen, toys and other baby must-haves into the car and schlepping them from car to hotel to car again.

As Ann Brickman discovered, however, not everyone likes the idea of cramming half the inventory of a local baby store into the back of a minivan. For five years now, Brickman has been renting equipment like strollers and cribs to families visiting the San Diego area through her Baby's Away franchise.

Parents contact Brickman, a mother of two, and let her know the ages of their children and what equipment they need. Brickman then arranges to deliver and install all rented equipment, usually having everything set up before the family arrives.

Brickman, whose garage houses all the equipment she rents, buys most of her equipment at retail. "[The franchise] gives us guidelines of what equipment works well, what people have tried," she says. "You have to keep in mind the safety features, and you have to keep consistent on all the recalls." Brickman keeps a close eye on the condition of her products, replacing things from time, but she's had some of her cribs since starting in 1997.

Organization is a key to operating a Baby's Away franchise, according to Brickman, but the business is also physically demanding, as she handles most of the deliveries and installations herself. "Nothing is very heavy, but some things can get very bulky," she says. "I actually went through a full pregnancy [running the business]."