The Golden Ticket

Going Solo

Pam Brown, 41, tells her story just like it is. There's nothing glamorous about it, she says. She's just a single parent trying to survive. Three years ago, she was confronted with a major life challenge when her marriage of 15 years came to an end, making her a single mother to three children: Janelle, 21, Gatlin, 15, and Savanna, 12. With the divorce came a need to drastically change the way she had been living her life. Instead of being able to stay at home with her children, she was forced to re-enter the work force and face the pressure of securing a brand-new future for herself and her children. "A lot of women aren't taught about the stability of a 401(k), retirement and building for themselves," she says. "And you don't expect to get divorced after 15, 20, 25 years."

Following the divorce, Brown went back to work as a visual merchandiser but felt limited by the lifestyle her job afforded her. Financially, it was not enough to get ahead, and as the mother of three, she needed to have a flexible schedule and wanted something in which she could involve her family. Two years later, another opportunity presented itself, and she embraced it. A friend who knew about her situation introduced her to the CEO of Snappy Auctions, an eBay consignment outlet/drop-off store. Brown had limited knowledge about eBay, but being part of a franchise system appealed to her. Says Brown, "When you're a single parent, your time is mainly focused on trying to make a living and take care of your kids, so to be able to go out and start a business from scratch on your own is very difficult."

Researching the franchise, Brown determined that the concept was stable and the potential for growth was great. She also believed the franchise would provide her with the support she needed. So after discussing her decision with her children and preparing them for the long hours sure to come in the startup stage, she celebrated the opening of her Hendersonville, Tennessee, franchise in November 2004. She was leaving behind health insurance benefits and a stable paycheck, but she was taking her first step toward true independence and a better future for her children. "I just jumped," says Brown. "There were times when I really prayed. I said, 'Lord, I'm jumping off the cliff, and I hope you're at the bottom to catch me.' What else are you going to do except try?"

Someone was listening. Brown's franchise brought in over $300,000 in sales in its first year. But the true rewards for her leap of faith are her freedom to set her own schedule and involve her children--Janelle works full time in the business--as well as the opportunity to be a role model to her children. Brown is confident that by providing them with an upfront view of what it's like to raise a family and own a business, her children will be better equipped to make the right decisions when facing their own crossroads in life. And she is especially proud of the example she can set for her daughters. "You always see the father in the traditional role as breadwinner," she says. "It helps them see how strong a female can be."

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This article was originally published in the January 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Golden Ticket.

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