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Cover Story Veronica Weber Lisa Anter, owner of the Curves franchise in Menlo Park, talks to a customer in early December. Small-franchise owners weather turbulent economic times W hile other girls were playing with their Barbies, at 6, Lisa Anter was charging 10 cents a cup at her lemonade stand at a lake near her Montreal, Canada, home. The following year she upped it to 15 cents. It would be another 20 years or so before her entrepreneurial instincts fully kicked in and she left the corporate world to open her own business. But Anter didn’t choose to go it alone. Instead she purchased a franchise — in her case a couple of Curves circuit-training gyms — where she could count on a national organization to back her new endeavors. Amos Wu and his wife were concerned about how the economy was affecting Wu’s career as an engineer in Silicon Valley. Just as the economy was starting to get rocky, Wu opened his first Subway in Palo Alto. And Lewis Knapp, made “redundant” by the Oracle buyout of Sun Microsystems where he’d spent more than 20 years, opted to open his own business — Team Logic IT — which offers computer services to small businesses. All did their research, learning that opening a franchise can take anywhere from $19,000 for Made in the Shade Blinds or Creation Carpets to $1 million for ARCO and AMPM, according to www. And each weighed the pros and cons of going the franchise route, rather than opening an independent business. Most said they found the corporate support — often in marketing and advertising — filled in vital gaps. “You can’t be an expert in everything — design, finance, customer service. Nobody is good at everything,” Anter said. But that support comes with a less flexible side. Franchise owners are locked into an agreement with headquarters and must meet certain expectations, including financial ones. “If you need to close, you can’t. ... If they’re unhappy with you, they might not negotiate with you when something happens,” Anter said. But for those motivated by basic disenchantment with the corporate rat race or by the economy, with its mergers, takeovers and layoffs, opening a franchised business can be an attractive choice. Success rates appear to back (continued on next page) Kelsey Kienitz by Carol Blitzer Amos Wu owns four Subway franchises, all in Palo Alto, including this one on California Avenue. *>œÊÌœÊ7iiŽÞÊUÊ iVi“LiÀʙ]ÊÓ䣣ÊU Page 33

Palo Alto Weekly 12.09.2011 - Section 2

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