Candy Bouquet International CEO Margaret McEntire wants to help build America from within by giving her franchises away to franchisees who set up shop in inner cities. It could be a sweet deal if her proposal passes through Congress.
The Inner City 100
From Magic Johnson's mouth to Margaret McEntire's brain to Bill Clinton's ear. Thus traveled an idea that McEntire, CEO of Candy Bouquet International Inc. (#37), in Little Rock, hopes will revitalize poor neighborhoods and give franchisers like her new reach.
McEntire met Johnson in April 2000 at the Inner City 100 awards dinner, where her company was honored and he was a speaker. Over dinner Johnson told the candy entrepreneur how he was bringing Starbucks and other retail stores to inner cities in unique joint ventures. "That night I said to my husband, 'Jay, we can do better than that!" says McEntire. "We can give franchises away!"
Her idea was elegant in its simplicity. Candy Bouquet and other franchising companies would waive the initial fees (which average $30,000 in the industry) for franchisees who were setting up shop in inner cities. Congress, meanwhile, would modify tax law to give franchisers a tax break for the waived fees. "Most of the people I talked to were all for this because they're not giving up anything," says McEntire, who presented her plan to the International Franchise Association last year. "The company owners gain franchises. The franchisees earn a living. And by concentrating businesses in these areas, we're rebuilding America from within."
Last summer McEntire sent her proposal to Clinton, an old Arkansas pal. ("Our daughters took dancing classes together," she recalls fondly.) The then-president passed the idea on to members of his economic-development staff. The fate of McEntire's idea in a Republican administration is not yet clear, and at press time the proposal was awaiting Senate sponsorship. "A lot of people have been interested in taking it to committee," says McEntire. "It shouldn't matter whether you're a Democrat or a Republican. Saving the cities is a feather in anybody's cap."
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan