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Survival of the Fittest

Meet an entrepreneur who has survived the struggle of starting a business, and find out what you need to survive, too.

This story appears in the November 2002 issue of

Surviving as a woman in a male-dominated industry wasn't always easy for Mary Ellen Sheets, who started Two Men and a Truck, a moving company, out of her home in 1985. Associations mysteriously raised their rates when she tried to join, and her competitors constantly reported her to the Michigan State Police Motor Carrier Division for no good reason. Despite the opposition, she was able to succeed by "just ignoring it and focusing on our customer," says Sheets.

Sheets took a grassroots approach to marketing by distributing fliers anywhere from laundromats to apartment complexes' leasing offices. Her thick skin and hard work have paid off ( see Survival Tip #6, below ). The company--with her daughter, Melanie, now at the helm--now has 117 franchises and expects sales of $100 million this year.

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