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Beanie Boy

Caffeine kick, smart ads, blind games
June 1, 1999
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/17874

At the age of 29, Ramin Kamfar had everything he needed. Or so one would think. He had an MBA from Wharton and a job he loved--vice president at a large Wall Street banking firm. So why give up financial stability and security to open, of all things, a coffee store?

"What I saw happening in the coffee market was something that happens to a segment of the U.S. food service market every decade," says Kamfar, who dove into untested waters in 1993 when he left Wall Street to start New World Coffee. "[The coffee market] was going from mom and pop stores to being branded. I wanted to create an East Coast alternative to Starbucks. At the time, everyone said starting a coffee chain in New York wouldn't work."

But Kamfar has sent the naysayers packing--probably with a cup of his brew--with the success of his business, New World Coffee & Bagels Inc., which now has 45 locations (15 franchised, 30 company-owned) in 19 states along the East and West coasts.

Kamfar's initial investment of $250,000 came from his own savings. But besides building a chain of stores, he also managed to pick up a coffee plant along the way--oh, and he acquired Manhattan Bagel (a franchise company with 290 locations) and two bagel plants in 1998, too.

Despite the incredible growth of his company, Kamfar remains grounded. "The businesses were never about money," he says, "they were always about building something."

And while rapid growth might intimidate entrepreneurs who prefer to be hands-on, Kamfar welcomes the challenge. "Some entrepreneurs have trouble making the transition from running a small business to managing a company where they can't do everything themselves. I'm fortunate because I have a business background and I'm used to that."

Kamfar isn't through conquering the world, though. Upcoming plans include co-branding future New World Coffee & Bagels and Manhattan Bagel stores as well as signing up more franchisees.

Average start-up costs to open a New World Coffee & Bagels franchise begin at $175,000; Kamfar says the planned expansion will target both coasts.

Blind Spot

When the five founders behind Budget Blinds became dissatisfied with the blinds company they had been working for, they jumped ship, started their own business and today head a franchise system 175 locations strong.

An inspiring story, no doubt--which may explain why Steve Thackerson, 30, now owns a Budget Blinds franchise. You see, Thackerson also worked for the aforementioned blinds company. But when that company started having financial problems, Thackerson knew it was time to move on. After reading about the window-covering company in Entrepreneur magazine, he began investigating Budget Blinds.

In 1994, he and his wife, Michelle, signed on and opened a franchise in Birmingham, Alabama. Like all Budget Blinds franchisees, Thackerson is homebased. But because Budget Blinds was not established in the South at the time, Thackerson had to spread the word himself. "Getting Budget Blinds' name out in the community was my big challenge," he recalls. Coupon mailers, fliers and an ad on a local Christian radio station did the trick. Today, his franchise hangs steady, earning $500,000 in 1998.

Budget Blinds is accepting applications nationwide. Start-up costs are approximately $20,000. For details, call (800) 800-9250 or visit http://www.budgetblinds.com

Ad About You

Are you an advertising or marketing pro who loves the challenge of developing ads that sell--but hates having a boss? Maybe you should try being the boss, as owner of a Creativworks franchise.

The St. Louis-based company provides "one-stop shopping" for creative services, ranging from logo design to public relations; media buying; Web site development; print, radio and TV advertising; and more. The franchise's retail store format means clients--primarily small and midsized businesses--can walk in, no appointment necessary, for help with their advertising or marketing campaigns.

Start-up costs begin at approximately $268,000; the company is seeking franchisees nationwide.

Contact Sources

Budget Blinds, 3412 Sagewood Trail, Birmingham, AL 35243, (205) 970-1766

Creativworks, (888) 304-IDEAS, http://www.creativworks.com

New World Coffee & Bagels Inc., (732) 544-0155, rkamfar@nwcb.com