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Cafe Ala Carte With a cart-based coffee business, you can create a buzz in more ways than one.

By Devlin Smith

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Finding a business that would allow Denise Merrill the flexibilityto travel with her husband, Dan, wasn't easy. She checked out agift store, but the long hours and weekend shifts just weren'tfor her. And then, at a franchise convention, Merrill found exactlywhat she was looking for: Café Ala Carte, a cart-based franchisethat serves up cappuccino and other coffee drinks at privateparties and events. "It was something different that wedidn't have here in our town or the surrounding area,"says Merrill, who started her Mishawaka, Indiana, business inSeptember 2000. "Nobody around here does gourmet coffeecatering."

The uniqueness of her franchise, and her husband's businessconnections through the pharmacy he owns, has brought Merrill hermost loyal clients: pharmaceutical companies, which hire Merrill toserve drinks to doctors and their employees during productpresentations. "They're looking for something different totake to a doctor's office instead of the same old doughnuts orlunch," she says, "and this is really atreat-employees and the doctors have really enjoyedit."

Merrill is also enjoying the business, especially when she makescappuccino lovers out of uncertain customers. "We've evenoffered it to non-coffee drinkers," she says. "Theydon't like coffee, but when they taste our cappuccinos,they're like, 'We didn't realize these are sogood.'"

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