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Taking on a Sports Franchise... and More

An entrepreneur scores a new career in one of his favorite pastimes.
March 1, 2007
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/174772

Larry "Bo" Stewart has worn many career hats in his 33 years--from semiprofessional golfer to a worker in the oil industry to his most recent position in pharmaceutical sales. But it was his hobby of playing video games that ultimately inspired Stewart to pursue entrepreneurship.

When he heard about Play N Trade, a new and used video game retail franchise, he was instantly drawn to the business. Stewart felt it offered everything a customer could want from a video game retailer: Customers can try games before buying, and franchisees hold in-store tournaments and offer extra services such as console repairs.

Stewart immediately called the franchisor and was invited to the Newport Beach, California, headquarters last July, where he learned more about the opportunity.

By December, Stewart had opened his first location in Lake Charles, Louisiana. To spread the word before his store's grand opening, he advertised in several cost-effective ways: wrapping his car in logo-printed vinyl, securing a billboard in front of the mall where his store was located and giving out promotional items the day after Thanksgiving. On the morning of opening day, nearly 50 people were waiting nearby to get inside.

Stewart made it a priority to hire a manager and an assistant manager with experience in video game retail. "It's really important that you have employees with experience in the video game industry," Stewart says. "[Video gaming] is like its own world." Their 12 collective years of industry expertise is especially helpful to Stewart right now, because he has decided to keep his job in pharmaceutical sales until the store is self-sufficient.

With first-month sales of $80,000 and plans to open up to four more stores in the next five years, Stewart has stayed busy with Play N Trade. "Life's been pretty hectic the past few months," he says, "but it has definitely been worth it."

Healthy Returns
Entrepreneurs get their shot at franchising--giving shots.

Ken Bear worked in garment manufacturing for 30 years, but when the work started going overseas, he didn't want to follow it. Instead, he found a way to help people who were going overseas, in the form of a Passport Health franchise.

Bear had been looking for a business to start, and he discovered one while vacationing in Tahiti with his wife, Anita. Another vacationing couple told them about Passport Health, which offers immunizations, counseling and medical supplies for international travelers. Bear liked the idea so much that he called the corporate headquarters upon his return. He launched his East Brunswick, New Jersey, franchise just a few months later, in May 2002.

Bear's daughter, Stacy Socha, happens to be a nurse, so she manages the medical aspects of the franchise, while Bear handles the marketing. "You have to be prepared to work," he says. "You can't just sit back and [not market the franchise] and hope [business success] is going to happen." Instead of marketing directly to potential clients, he targets those who can refer clients to him: physicians and corporations. Bear sends out direct mailings, meets with doctors and has even developed corporate relationships by offering on-site flu clinics.

His efforts have paid off: Bear, 64, has since opened four more locations in New Jersey, with 2006 combined sales of $1.1 million.

What's New
The sunny side of securing talent.

It's no easy task finding the right people to play in a celebrity poker tournament or speak at a convention. That is where Sun Management Group comes in: It's a one-stop shop for companies seeking entertainers, athletes and speakers for events.

Last year, the company launched Sun Franchise Group Inc., which lets franchisees help businesses and universities find talent anywhere in the country just as easily as they can in Los Angeles and New York City.