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Launch Roundup 07/08

Get your monthly dose of inspiration with these startup success stories.
July 1, 2008
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/194412

Opportunities
Experiment in Success
It was a gamble, but moving to a new state and Starting a business put this couple in the money.
By Emily Weisburg

Scott and Robyn Rosen went all in when they moved from Chicago to Las Vegas to open a Mad Science franchise in 2003. Robyn had just received a master's degree in science education, and Scott was running a successful promotional products business but felt he was away from home too much. The Rosens, both 39, thought Mad Science was a perfect pairing of Robyn's teaching experience and Scott's marketing background, but the territory near their home in Chicago was already taken. Las Vegas, however, was available. They were drawn to how fast Las Vegas was growing and were excited about the adventure of starting something new in someplace new. The process of moving and starting up took about a year, after which they began operations out of the garage of their new home.

Robyn directs operations for their science-themed birthday parties, afterschool programs and summer camps, while Scott handles the sales and marketing. The franchisor allows them to set their own prices and choose the science enrichment classes and experiments they offer based on local demand and school districts' requirements. Scott's main marketing strategy has been to make himself known to and trusted by local school administrators through countless site visits and phone calls.

More than five years later, the Rosens' gamble has paid off, with sales reaching $1.3 million last year and expected to hit $1.5 million this year. Their business was named Mad Science Franchise of the Year in 2006 and Innovative Business of the Year by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce in 2007.

"To start everything from scratch was a little scary," Robyn says, "but also very exciting. We've had wonderful rewards from that risk." Adds Scott, "We're having a blast."

Feed the Need
The breakfast of this champion? A hearty concept and a focus on customers.
By Tracy Stapp

Delia Champion loved being a waitress, but she always dreamed of opening and running her own restaurant. With funding from her friends, she made that dream come true in 1993, opening The Flying Biscuit Cafe in Atlanta.

Champion created the type of restaurant that she wanted to eat at: a hip but comfortable hangout that serves breakfast all day. The made-from-scratch food is both hearty and healthy, with offerings like organic oatmeal pancakes and free-range chicken sausage. And, of course, nearly every dish comes with biscuits.

Champion opened a second Atlanta location in 2000, but she knew that if she wanted to expand further, she couldn't do it alone. "[I figured] other folks would want to have this charmed life that I've had," she says. So in 2006, she sold The Flying Biscuit to Raving Brands, franchisor of Planet Smoothie and other concepts.

Champion, 52, is still involved with her creation. She teaches cooking classes and meets with potential franchisees, "making sure they're committed to bringing their heart, soul and pocketbook" to the franchise, she says, stressing that the pocketbook is the easiest part of that equation. The Flying Biscuit is about making a difference in customers' lives, says Champion, "and as the leader, you can never stop making sure every employee understands that."


Active Duty
One jersey town is setting the stage for the next generation of defense innovation.
By Nichole L. Torres

The future is heating up in Camden, New Jersey, where Drexel University and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center established ACIN Technology Center in 2001. The small-business accelerator is an incubator designed to help launch for-profit companies with marketable technologies--especially those with both commercial and military applications. The center offers office space, on-site mentoring and education programs. Its real boon, however, is the help participating companies receive for contracting with government entities such as the Department of Homeland Security and agencies within the Department of Defense. "[The center] helps businesses navigate through the very complex and very frustrating space of working with government contracts," explains Lou Bucelli, advisor and ACIN Entrepreneur in Residence.

There's even an Army CERDEC representative on site, says ACIN general manager Ed Celiano. "[The entrepreneurs] just walk down the hall and have direct access to the people in the government they need to talk to." Another big draw is the opportunity to network with some of the other companies involved with ACIN, explains Celiano, who says the program is full of like-minded CEOs.
More than 60 businesses work with ACIN today, including SmarterAgent, a company that lets users search for local real estate information on their cell phones via mobile GPS technology. Co-founded by brothers Brad and Eric Blumberg, 44 and 41, respectively, the company has been able to expand rapidly since getting involved with ACIN in 2005. "It really lowered our cost of operations," says Brad. "It's very flexible. We went from a five-person startup to a 25-person startup without having to worry about anything." SmarterAgent, which is also based in Camden, brings in sales of about $3 million a year. Check out acincenter.org/accelerator for information on the application process and criteria.


What's New
Rich Dad Knows Best
By Emily Weisburg

Rich Dad's Franchise is the latest from Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad brand. Franchisees sell the Rich Dad line of products, including books and games. One suggested sales approach is to set up free Rich Dad's Cashflow game clubs, but franchisees are welcome to use their own tactics, too. The opportunity can be homebased and is seeking franchisees interested in spreading the Rich Dad financial philosophy.