The Fruits of Their Labor
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Franchisees: Rafat and Stephanie Musallam, 35 and 46, respectively
Number of franchises: One in Tucson, Ariz.
Franchise: NRgize Lifestyle Cafe, a smoothie bar focused on health and nutrition with 71 locations in 14 states. The franchise operates 63 units in gyms like LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness.
Before franchising: Stephanie worked in retail, health-care administration and aviation HR. Rafat also worked in aviation as a lead for emergency response teams.
During the research phase: The Musallams first considered a coffee franchise but were reluctant to buy into what they felt was becoming a saturated market.
Why they chose NRgize: An enthusiasm for health and fitness led the couple to NRgize, which had a franchise location available in an LA Fitness gym where they worked out. Within two days, the Musallams met with the brand president and began filling out the paperwork for their first location.
Startup capital: About $145,000, from the Musallams' personal savings and family contributions
2008 sales: $65,200 from the August opening to December
Unlike other franchises: The NRgize parent company doesn't limit its franchisees as to what they can sell. So in addition to the brand's smoothie products, the Musallams take advantage of their gym location and sell easily forgotten necessities, from socks to shampoo, which make up a good portion of their profits.
On opening in a location where the previous business went under: "[The first occupants] were in the business for a paycheck," Rafat says. "When we opened in that spot, we were in the business because of the passion. We love what we do. We love helping people."
Next up: The Musallams have two locations, in Irvine and Anaheim Hills, Calif., set to open this year.
Rafat's favorites: Kickboxing, Arab oldies music, Gladiator
Stephanie's favorites: Skating; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey; rock music
Choice NRgize drinks: "Chunky Monkey" Meal Replacement Shake (Rafat); orange strawberry Ice Crush Chiller with blueberries (Stephanie)
Entrepreneurial icons: Donald Trump and Bill Gates
They give back by: Improving the daily lives of their customers and helping them stay healthy. "We try to do anything we can to try to make them smile, make them laugh," Stephanie says. "We're like bartenders without the booze."