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Better Safe. . .

One mom hopes child ID cards mean parents will never have to be sorry.

Her daughter's traumatic car accident in 1993 propelled Denise Johnson to quit a successful corporate position and pour all her savings into purchasing an Ident-a-Kid Services of America franchise. The company sells identification cards that include a child's physical description, color photograph, fingerprint and parent/guardian address. Denise, 49, recalls her own personal crisis when the hospital had difficulty locating her after her daughter's accident: "What if there had been [fatal injuries], and I had been too late? I never would have been able to live with that. If those cards can save just one parent from that hell, you're darned right I believe in them."

In addition to being used to identify a child involved in a car accident, the cards are used in a myriad of situations, from simple airport check-ins to child abductions. Franchisees sell Ident-a-Kid cards at local day-care centers and elementary schools to parents of infants to eighth-graders. The franchisor provides equipment, copyrighted software, supplies and hands-on training.

Denise's husband, Timothy, 47, was initially skeptical about her new business endeavor-she says he thought she "had gone crazy." When he was forced to leave his job as a broadcasting engineer, however, he joined her crusade. Today, the husband and wife are a team, with Timothy in charge of scheduling and compiling informational packets to send to parents, and Denise using the PR skills she gained as a former sales manager to network with schools.

Despite missing the camaraderie of co-workers, Denise would never give up the freedom and convenience of working at home. "I'm so spoiled," she says. "If I ever have to go back to the corporate world, it's going to be a sad day for me."

After nine years as franchisees, the Johnsons cover a 10-county area in North Carolina and have developed long-standing relationships with their community. What makes them shine is their deep belief in the franchise. "I genuinely know these cards are important," says Denise. "It's a very [inexpensive] insurance policy. I believe in the program wholeheartedly. I love what I do."

Denise's confidence and dedication to the program haven't gone unnoticed-the franchise named her Program Director of the Year in 1999 and 2002.

This story appears in the May 2004 issue of Startups. Subscribe »