From the May 2005 issue of Startups

As the owner of a sports marketing and consulting firm, Mark Gatto was already intimately involved with the sports industry. Herman's World of Sports Inc. first entered Gatto's life not as a franchisor, but as a client. As he helped the company with its business plan and strategies while navigating it through the sports industry, Gatto's professional interest in Herman's grew into a personal one, and he decided to become a Herman's franchisee in 2004.

Herman's offers sports equipment, apparel and custom imprinted apparel targeting businesses, organizations, schools and sports leagues. With his established relationships in the local sports scene, Gatto felt Herman's made perfect business sense. And while Herman's is relatively new to franchising, Gatto is not at all worried. "Our franchise is one of the first, and it's going to be rewarding when we show that this model can work," says Gatto.

Still running his other business, Gatto, 32, considers being a Herman's franchisee truly entrepreneurial in spirit. "The parent company doesn't insist on all these protocols normally associated with franchises. You do your own marketing and promotional programs and attack your territory in a way you see best suits your customers," explains Gatto, whose territory encompasses about three-quarters of northern New Jersey. And since Herman's isn't a brick-and-mortar franchise, he says to flourish you have to get out in the field and network, sell and provide personalized service to your customers.

Since officially launching his business in January 2005, Gatto has been pleased with the initial response: "[Customers] recognize the company's name and understand what we're trying to accomplish as far as trying to consolidate everything and get one source of supply for teams' and organizations' needs."