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This franchisee uses her own disability to her advantage.

Why did Audrey Ribero, 41, leave her job as a systems analyst for a biotech firm in Northern California to become the owner of three wheelchair- and scooter-accessible van-rental franchises? A paraplegic as a result of a car accident, Ribero understands the challenges disabled people face when traveling. "If I can make it easier for them when they get here, that's what I try to do," she says.

Ribero first discovered Wheelchair Getaways on a business trip to Boston. It was her first time traveling as a disabled person, and Ribero was able to rent a wheelchair-accessible van and travel in comfort like anyone else. "I was impressed that it was so easy for a disabled person to travel and thought 'This would be great in the Bay area.'"

Having no prior entrepreneurial experience hasn't hindered Ribero's success. Since opening her first Wheelchair Getaways in Millbrae, California, in 1998, Ribero has expanded to two more locations-in Hawaii and Southern California-and sales have nearly quadrupled. The transition from corporate worker to franchisee hasn't slowed her down, either-Ribero loves being her own boss. "I work more now than ever," she says, "but it doesn't feel like it because I'm satisfied with the work."

Managing this franchise isn't a one-woman show. Ribero works alongside her parents, children, cousins and in-laws. Working with her family is only one of the joys she has experienced. "I get more pleasure doing this job than I would [doing] any other," Ribero says. "I'm giving back to the disabled community, and it's a good feeling. What more could you ask for?"

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