Name: Ann Beiler.
Age: 48 yrs.
'Foolish' Small Business Idea: Cooking pretzels with different ingredients to her competitors.
Start-up Capital: $6,000.
How small business idea was launched: Ann purchased a farmer's market booth.
Sales: Started in 1988. After perfecting her pretzels, sales were $1,500 a weekend.
By 1989, Ann Beiler had opened 8 stores throughout Pennsylvania, including her first mall location.
Next, she franchised the concept. There are now over 400 Auntie Anne's pretzel stores across America and in several other countries.
Earnings: $80million-a-year empire.
The turning point in Ann Beiler's meteoric rise in small business was the result of a mistake, which eventually led to an empire of over 400 stores.
The 48 year old, mother of two, took a low-paid job, managing a pizza and pretzel booth at a farmer's market, to financially help her husband's new counseling service. Another farmer's market booth came up for sale at $6,000 and Ann decided to buy it. She borrowed the money from a family member.
At first, her sales were just steady, but that all changed when a supplier delivered the wrong ingredients. Ann had to make up her pretzels with different ingredients and sales quadrupled to $1,500 a weekend. Her ingredient mixtures are still a trade secret, known only to the franchisees.
Auntie Anne's was ranked as the top franchise in the pretzel industry by the Entrepreneur magazine in 1996. Today, Auntie Anne's produce freshly baked pretzels in cinnamon sugar, sour cream and onion, whole wheat, garlic, sesame, caramel almond and raisin flavors. The pretzels sell for less than $2, and Auntie Anne guarantees her pretzels will never be out of the oven more than 30 minutes.
Ann Beiler believes her secret to success is making a difference in business by giving of yourself. Today, Ann donates $100,000 a year to the counseling service her husband started, and built an $80million-a-year empire - all from a mistake which led her to the simple small business idea of cooking her pretzels with different ingredients.
For all the latest in Pretzels, visit http://www.auntieannes.com/