#74: Nationwide Financial Services Int'l.

How Haiti became the impetus for this entrepreneur to finally launch his own business

Company:Nationwide FinancialServices Int'l., a Chicago mortgage, insurance, investmentand tax services firm
Founder: Jacob Francois
Began: September 2001
2002 Sales: $4.7 million

Why did you start thisbusiness?
Jacob Francois: I felt tremendously unaccomplished workingfor a Fortune 500/Chicago 100 financial institution. Theresponsibility and compensation were dismal, and the atmosphere foradvancement was extremely limited. I was qualified to hold anofficer position but remained in an hourly position with likeduties and compensation.

When did you know you'd madeit?
Francois: The government of Haiti invited me to participatein a summit on Haiti's upcoming bicentennial independencecelebration. My former employer wouldn't honor a request fortime off for me to attend. I went anyway. When my plane took off,it was a metaphor for what was to come for me. While I was away, myemployer pink slipped me . . . I never felt so free and I'venever regretted going!

When did you think you'd blownit?
Francois: I found that I needed more capital than I had toeffectively start my business. Without employment, I didn'thave access to the traditional sources of capital I needed. Ididn't despair though. I liquidated my 401(k) and maxed out mycredit cards to get life off on this business the way it needed.I've since paid off all that debt, and my business runs in theblack.

What's been your biggestchallenge?
Francois: Recruiting. It's very difficult to get drivenpeople like me to work for anyone other than themselves.

What's your business advice forothers?
Francois: Be ready to work harder than you ever had before.Follow your business plan and keep tweaking it.

Where do you see yourself and yourbusiness in 10 years?
Francois: Nationwide Financial Services International Inc.will be a publicly-traded company. Its founder will finally beenjoying the best life has to offer.

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