You're the Boss

From Corporate Life to Franchise Freedom

Steve Telaroli decided to branch out into something completely new. Formerly a sales and marketing executive with Compaq, Telaroli started looking into finding another job or buying a franchise when his company was acquired by Hewlett-Packard and layoffs began.

"I had been looking within the high-tech area, and the job market was just really, really soft. [I also] worked with a few headhunters and went to the Internet job boards and wasn't getting a good response at all," says Telaroli, 38. "In the meantime, I went to the franchise business opportunity show here in Houston and picked up information on various franchise companies."

While still employed at Compaq, Telaroli got a job offer from a company in San Diego but didn't want to move his family. Franchising was increasingly looking like his best option, and after some research, Telaroli discovered The Sports Section, a youth and sports photography franchise.

So when Telaroli was finally laid off, complete with severance package, he was up and running with his new franchise within a week, opening his homebased business in March 2003. Though taking pictures of Little League teams seems a far cry from creating marketing programs for a hardware manufacturer, Telaroli did see some connection. "I'm a creative person--an artist, really. I like to color and draw and paint," he says. "When we take pictures, every product is special and unique to that individual, so this business has a creative side to it."

Telaroli also takes advantage of his past experience when selling and marketing his franchise. He hires art students from local community colleges in the Tomball, Texas, area to handle the photography, giving him more time to call on athletic directors, coaches, schools and churches to line up clients.

Though just a few months into this venture, Telaroli is certain his corporate days are over. The corporate world "is a pretty challenging and stressful environment, and I didn't feel passionate about the job and really in touch with my customers," he says.

His new business not only brings Telaroli closer to his customers, but also gives him more time with his family. "I have my boys helping me in the business," he says. "[As a sales and marketing executive], it was hard for them to understand what I did in a business management position. But now they can see Dad carries a camera and has an office in the home . . . and they think it's pretty cool."

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This article was originally published in the September 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: You're the Boss.

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