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The Candy Man Can

After years of dreaming, this candy lover worked up the nerve to buy a franchise.

This story appears in the February 2005 issue of Start Up.

Following a disappointing series of events in his corporate life, Bobby Hardgrave, a former resort marketing director, learned that it may be easy to be told what to do, but the rewards are sweeter when you follow your own dreams.

Hardgrave, 32, had no trouble dreaming, particularly about sweets. He discovered Candy Bouquet's floral-like arrangements of candies and fine chocolates when he saw one of their gift baskets at a party. Intrigued, he went home and immediately called the franchisor for more information. The seed was planted, but five years of dreaming would pass before Hardgrave would take the plunge and become a business owner. Prior to his corporate career, he ran the gift basket division of a specialty retailer, but Hardgrave was slow to trust in his ability. "Probably the most difficult part of the whole startup was dealing with confidence issues," he explains.

In 2003, Hardgrave accepted a resort-marketing position that required him to relocate his family from their hometown of Branson, Missouri, to Crossville, Tennessee. The business dissolved shortly thereafter. That was a turning point for Hardgrave. His revelation: "If I had the nerve to give up everything and move to chase someone else's dream, then I should have enough self-confidence to chase my own dream." After moving his family back to Branson, he came up with $10,000 and purchased a Candy Bouquet franchise. He opened his homebased business in December 2003.

Since then, Hardgrave has worked to build the business. He reached sales of $8,000 during the Mother's Day holiday and plans to open a storefront in early 2005. And although he works about 16 hours a day, he's having a sweet time. "I don't really consider it a job," he says. "It's that much fun."