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After Decades of Hard Work, This Couple Is Living the Entrepreneurial Dream. Here's How They Achieved Generational Wealth. Nadine and James Middleton's journey shows what can happen when hard-working people are matched with the right franchise.

By Carl Stoffers Edited by Jessica Thomas

Key Takeaways

  • The Middletons' transition from stable but unsatisfying jobs to owning a franchise illustrates the classic entrepreneurial dream.
  • Central to their business success was their ability to tap into a previously overlooked labor pool.
  • The support they received from the franchisor was crucial during both the growth phases and challenging economic times.

Every new entrepreneur has a vision when they invest in a franchise. The details differ, but the common themes are freedom, financial security, peace of mind and generational wealth. The idea is that after investing good money and working hard — usually for decades — the franchisee has built something valuable enough for them to realize all of those core factors.

James and Nadine Middleton have been Anago Cleaning Systems franchisees for the past 20 years. After taking a leap of faith into the franchise cleaning business in 2004, the Philadelphia-area couple is living that entrepreneurial dream today.

"The Middleton family's story is a testament to the power of perseverance and the rewards of hard work," says Anago Cleaning Systems CEO Adam Povlitz. "Their longevity in this industry serves as a shining example of unwavering dedication."

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

Difficult decision

In the early 2000s, Nadine Middleton had a secure — if difficult — 911 dispatcher job with the City of Philadelphia. "We got paid well," she says, "but it was really stressful getting cursed out every day. People don't usually call the police for good things." In late 2003, James came home from his job in the environmental services department at a hospital and said he wanted to start a business. Nadine was skeptical because the couple had four children and a mortgage to worry about.

But James didn't just come up with the idea out of the blue. He wanted to start a cleaning franchise because he saw quality people repeatedly rejected by the hospital — mainly because they spoke no English — and recognized a large pool of reliable workers he could hire. Soon, the Middletons were doing a deep dive into the franchise cleaning industry.

They quickly went beyond the numbers. Nadine felt that of the companies they narrowed the search to, only one possessed an essential trait. "I went to three different meetings and presentations," she says. "These other companies seemed like I was being hired for a manager's job. Anago was an actual business I was owning and running."

The couple opened their Anago franchise in the Philadelphia area later in 2004.

Related: Find Out Which Brands Have Ranked on the Franchise 500 for Longest, Earning a Spot In our New 'Hall of Fame'

A leap of faith

When they started operating, one of the first things the Middletons did was tap into the labor pool that James identified. "This business is based on opportunity, and these were good people, and they wanted to work," he says. The franchise, fueled by James and Nadine's work ethic and their new workforce, took off.

The venture did so well that they both left their full-time jobs within a year to focus on the franchise full-time, despite many telling them they shouldn't take the risk.

"We just took a leap of faith. The same people that told us we shouldn't do it now ask us for work," Nadine says.

Related: See Where Anago Cleaning Systems Ranked on This Year's Franchise 500 Listing

Franchise support

Although their story has a happy ending, the road to get there is rarely easy. Like many entrepreneurs, the Middletons went through ups and downs as they expanded the business and dealt with economic downturns. One of the factors that helped during the tough times was the support that Anago delivered, both from corporate and the Anago of Greater Philadelphia master franchisee. "I've seen other people fail because they didn't have the support," Nadine says, "and we have a great partner in Anago."

Although they have had accounts in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Middletons have primarily targeted an affluent part of the Philadelphia area. "Once we started to really grow, we focused in on the Main Line, and we try to stay in that area," Nadine says.

Related: How Investing in This Unorthodox Business Strategy Can Produce Strategic Results

Enjoying life

Now that they have built the franchise into a seven-figure business, the Middletons, who are in their 60s, are beginning to slow down, but that doesn't mean their business has followed suit. "My 20-year-old grandchildren help out sometimes," Nadine says. "They have their own things going on, but they're always here to help."

They have also taught their adult children the business. "If they want to run it someday, that will be their choice," James says. The Middletons worked hard for two decades to achieve that choice. Now that the option is there for their family, they're savoring the next stage.

"Right now, James and I just want to enjoy our lives," Nadine says. "Do a little traveling, that sort of thing."

The Middletons also take comfort in the fact that, although they continue to make money and live comfortably, they have also helped their community. "We took multiple people off public assistance, which is a big thing for me," James says. "To give them a chance to work."

But the accomplishment they're most proud of? "A few of our former employees now own their own franchises," James says.

Carl Stoffers

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Business Editor

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