Better Safe. . .

One mom hopes child ID cards mean parents will never have to be sorry.

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This story first appeared in the May 2004 issue of Startups. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Her daughter's traumatic car accident in 1993 propelled Denise Johnson to quit a successful corporate position and pour all her savings into purchasing an Ident-a-Kid Services of America franchise. The company sells identification cards that include a child's physical description, color photograph, fingerprint and parent/guardian address. Denise, 49, recalls her own personal crisis when the hospital had difficulty locating her after her daughter's accident: "What if there had been [fatal injuries], and I had been too late? I never would have been able to live with that. If those cards can save just one parent from that hell, you're darned right I believe in them."

In addition to being used to identify a child involved in a car accident, the cards are used in a myriad of situations, from simple airport check-ins to child abductions. Franchisees sell Ident-a-Kid cards at local day-care centers and elementary schools to parents of infants to eighth-graders. The franchisor provides equipment, copyrighted software, supplies and hands-on training.

Denise's husband, Timothy, 47, was initially skeptical about her new business endeavor-she says he thought she "had gone crazy." When he was forced to leave his job as a broadcasting engineer, however, he joined her crusade. Today, the husband and wife are a team, with Timothy in charge of scheduling and compiling informational packets to send to parents, and Denise using the PR skills she gained as a former sales manager to network with schools.

Despite missing the camaraderie of co-workers, Denise would never give up the freedom and convenience of working at home. "I'm so spoiled," she says. "If I ever have to go back to the corporate world, it's going to be a sad day for me."

After nine years as franchisees, the Johnsons cover a 10-county area in North Carolina and have developed long-standing relationships with their community. What makes them shine is their deep belief in the franchise. "I genuinely know these cards are important," says Denise. "It's a very [inexpensive] insurance policy. I believe in the program wholeheartedly. I love what I do."

Denise's confidence and dedication to the program haven't gone unnoticed-the franchise named her Program Director of the Year in 1999 and 2002.

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