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THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA JOB MARKET: WHERE THE JOBS ARE : PROFILES : MAKING IT ON YOUR OWN : Can't find a job? Consider creating one for yourself. Staring a small business is risky, but the rewards for success can be great. Pushed out of their old job or unable to find new ones in a sagging Southern California economy, these four workers became entrepreneurs. : Yogurt Franchise Sours; Espresso Saves the Day

March 01, 1993|MARTIN BOOE

Myrna Tellez, a 37-year-old mother of five, was worried. Two of her children were already in private school and two more were reaching school age. How could she and her husband, Fernando, a construction foreman, afford tuition for all of them?

"I would have worked as a cashier, or anything that would have supplemented our income enough to pay the tuition," she says. "But there was nothing, nothing at all."

Then Tellez heard about a yogurt shop franchise for sale in Silver Lake. The idea of going into business intrigued her. She bargained the asking price of $160,000 down to just $20,000, including furnishings and equipment.

She would have to shell out another $15,000 for inventory, plus a $2,500 franchise fee. The Tellezes took a deep breath--and a $50,000 second mortgage on their home in Mt. Washington.

A review of the previous owner's bookkeeping had indicated a monthly profit of $1,000. "I thought if we could just clear $8,000 a year, it would be worth it," Tellez says.

She took over the franchise in November, 1991, and found business awful, just $68 a day. Her patrons turned up their noses at most of her inventory, and she ended up giving most of it to relatives in Mexico.

Obviously, changes were needed. Tellez replaced the sterile decor with colorful handmade furniture. She laid out $6,000 for an espresso machine. An art dealer friend loaned her paintings by internationally known artists.

She also de-franchised, switched yogurt brands and started opening at 7 a.m.. Higby's Yogurt and Treats on Griffith Park Blvd. became Myrna's Espresso and Yogurt. Now, Tellez says, business is up 200% over this time last year, averaging $300 a day. Mornings, the shop bustles with an upscale clientele.

"I think this is going to work," she says. "It's got to."

Myrna Tellez Age: 37 Experience: Homemaker Capital invested: $43,500

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