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All Work, All Play

Here's a new one: The family that plays together stays . . . in business.

When Jake is feeling under the weather and can't go to preschool, his mom, Nicole Gulledge, brings him to work. But the 3-year-old isn't sleeping under a desk or waiting for Nicole to get out of a meeting. Instead, Jake gets to hang out in a giant playground, the showroom his parents opened last spring when they brought the Woodplay franchise to Tampa, Florida.

With more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience between them, Nicole, 37, now sells Woodplay redwood play sets to families, day-care centers and housing developments, while husband Jason, 34, handles the on-site installation. After nine months in business, the couple is earning nearly $1 million in sales.

"It's a great balance, because we're not necessarily working together seven days a week in the same space," Nicole explains. "Jason is in the field, in the warehouse or meeting with developers, [and] I'm usually in the store."

In and out of the store, family comes first. The Gulledges start business at 10 each morning so they can eat breakfast together before taking Jake to school. Nicole takes Fridays off and Jason has his Saturdays free, allowing each one-on-one time with their son. Sundays are family day.

Jake's play set itself symbolizes the Gulledge family's success in blending their personal and franchise lives. "It has a picnic table underneath, and Jason and I had dinner by candlelight on [it]," Nicole says. "It was just us adults enjoying the play set in a totally different aspect."

This story appears in the March 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »