Balancing Act

The kids may keep them busy, but these franchisees make sure they’re hands-on owners.

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Ann Hasselberger began working at a Nature's Table Cafe 18 years ago while still in high school, serving soup, sandwiches, wraps and smoothies. There she met her future husband and business partner, Dave, who was then an assistant manager. The pair went on to work at the franchise's corporate headquarters, where they helped many others open Nature's Table locations before deciding to try their hands at owning one themselves. In 2001, they opened a Nature's Table Cafe in an office building in Orlando, Florida, and have since opened three more, including two locations in strip malls in their hometown of St. Cloud, Florida.

Being an organized team helps the Hasselbergers balance their franchises and their family of three kids under the age of 6. Dave, 38, gets up at dawn and goes off to one of their locations or his office to pay bills, do the payroll or order food for the restaurants. Meanwhile, Ann, 33, gets the kids to school and day care, then heads to one of the restaurants to help make smoothies and sandwiches and interact with customers. "It's really important in these restaurants to have an owner presence," she says.

At the end of the day, after their children are in bed, Ann and Dave meet for "garage time"—to discuss what happened in their restaurants during the day and plan for the next. For one night each week and on most weekends, they leave the restaurants in the hands of their employees and enjoy family time. Thanks to their balancing act, their four restaurants brought in $2 million in 2007.  —E.W.

When Bruce Westenfelder says he and his wife, Janie, are "very hands-on" with their Color Me Mine franchises, he means it. The most popular projects at their paint-your-own-ceramics studios are created with children's handprints, and the Westenfelders are right there painting little hands and helping kids make a good impression.

They were also very hands-on when researching the franchise. They spoke with franchisees and even worked at studios in Beverly Hills, California—close to corporate headquarters—and Crystal Lake, Illinois, near their home. "You can only learn so much reading about it or talking about it," explains Bruce. "You want to live it and see it firsthand and decide, is this something I'm going to love?"

Bruce and Janie, 44 and 45, respectively, wanted to make sure their son, Chase, loved the business, too. With his stamp of approval, they opened their first location in Glenview, Illinois, in 2004 and their second in Naperville last March. Now Chase, 11, helps his parents choose inventory that will appeal to older boys.

The Westenfelders try to appeal to children of all ages. Their weekly Paint Me A Story program brings younger kids in for a themed story time and painting project. And when Janie's not in the store, she's out donating their products and services to school fundraisers.

The Westenfelders' active approach has generated average annual sales of $350,000 for both stores, but the franchises have been rewarding in other ways as well. Says Bruce, "It's fun to work with people who’ve come in to have a great time."  —T.S.

—By Tracy Stapp and Emily Weisburg

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