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Shooting for the Stars

Think the sky's the limit? Not when fireworks are involved.

This story appears in the June 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As a young boy, Ken Lantis dreamed of going into space, until cutbacks made him rethink the possibility. So he reached for the stars the only way he knew how-through fireworks. He learned about the colorful, explosive world of the fireworks industry at the age of 5 by helping his father clean up their family-run fireworks stand. Now, 54 years later, he has taken over his father's and holds the title of vice president of Lantis Fireworks & Lasers, a fireworks/laser business that puts on displays for events ranging from concerts to funerals.

The company has warehouses in ; Phoenix; , ; and Salt Lake City and has done shows in nearly every state and in approximately 20 countries. However, with the tendency to dream big, Lantis is taking his father's small business to new heights and is hoping to have franchisees in 40 states within the next five years.

The startup costs, which include and an initial franchise fee, run approximately $180,000. Franchisees get started with a bang by completing four weeks of training covering regulations, setting up the fireworks and conducting displays. No previous experience with fireworks is necessary, but a personal touch and the right attitude are keys to success. "If you stay at home and don't call people to see how the show went, you're not going to make it," Lantis says.

Looking back, he's proud of the way he and his team have developed the business his father started. Most of all, he's proud of the effect his displays have on spectators-even at funerals. "They'll be sobbing, then you shoot off the fireworks, and they'll say 'Martha would love that-that's the only way to go' and walk to their cars smiling," says Lantis. "That really makes a difference."

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