Cool Factor

One taste of gelato wasn't enough--so this entrepreneur bought the business.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the May 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When Deven Tanna decided to start a business, the natural choice would have been something that complemented his consulting background. But one day while he was at a mall with his wife, he saw Melt. The shop, which serves gelatos, crepes, coffee and smoothies, lures customers with its mouthwatering displays: mounds of colorful gelato decorated with fruit, candy and other toppings. Although he initially had no intention of opening a dessert franchise, Tanna was instantly hooked by the attractive and unique store display. "There's always a little bit of nervousness when you do something you aren't [familiar with]," says Tanna, 39. But he knew that all the things he loved as a Melt customer, he would love as a franchisee as well.

The first lesson Tanna learned as a franchisee is that success often requires sacrifice. When Melt offered him a location in a new mall in San Francisco, he jumped at the opportunity, moving away from his family in Los Angeles. He purchased the franchise with two college friends, Suhail Zain and Surinder Bhalla, 41 and 40, respectively. "I want to understand the business firsthand," says Tanna, who currently runs the store. "To learn from it, you've got to immerse yourself in it."

Being away from his family isn't Tanna's only challenge. The store opened last September--on the same day the mall opened--so his employees had to train in the midst of the busy season. And because his store was Melt's first in San Francisco, he had to find local distributors for produce and other items that wouldn't survive the trip from Melt's central distributor in Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, the store made six-figure sales in its first four months, so Tanna and his partners are ready for more challenges. They are opening a second location in San Jose, California, and hope to open a third location in Los Angeles.

Staying Afloat
These franchisees forged ahead, despite mother nature's plans.

West Jackson and Phil Holley wanted to buy a boat, but they couldn't agree on what type. Then they learned about Freedom Boat Club. Club members can reserve a variety of boats at any Freedom Boat Club location and experience the fun of owning a boat without the hassles of storage, maintenance, insurance and cleaning.

The pair wanted to join a club where Holley lived in Charleston, South Carolina, but one hadn't been established yet. So they took it upon themselves to open the Charleston Freedom Boat Club in September 2005. Mother Nature had other plans, however. Hurricane Katrina hit, followed closely by Hurricane Rita. With people's minds on everything but recreation, the business got off to a slow start.

They worked to overcome that by doubling their advertising budget. They used radio, print and direct-mail ads; attended boat and home shows; and held promotional and charity events. They even used the storms as a marketing ploy, pointing out that club members wouldn't have to worry about storm damage the way boat owners did.

Despite the slow start, Jackson, 41, and Holley, 42, recruited a record number of new members in their first year of business. In February 2006, they opened Jacksonville Freedom Boat Club in Florida, with partner Michael Moore, 28, who lives there. And with 2006 revenue of more than $1 million between the two locations, they have plans to open at least three more clubs.

What's New
Salon services for stationary seniors

Senior-care franchises aren't anything new, with the wide variety of services available to elders. But hairstylist Scott Fisher saw an area that still wasn't being served: self-image. He founded Paramount Home Beauty in 2004 to deliver salon and spa services to people restricted to their homes, hospitals and nursing facilities for medical reasons. And since Paramount started franchising last November, others have a chance to help homebound folks feel better about themselves, too.

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