Express Employment Professionals, Jersey City, N.J.
College friends Deidra Viney and Holly Winters opened an Express Employment Professionals franchise in Jersey City, N.J., in late 2000 after deciding to leave their corporate finance jobs. "I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit," Viney says. "What really cemented it for me was when I was a corporate lender -- my very first job, I used to lend to small businesses. The people were just like you and me. They were no different than me. They all told me their story of how they started. If they can do it, why can't I?" At the time, Viney says, she was looking to start a business that could withstand downturns in the economy. Outsourcing appealed to her, she says. Express Employment Professionals is a staffing firm that places long-term employees, workers for temporary projects and short-term replacements. "Companies always need people," Viney says. "Staffing is just another component of what businesses don't have time to do. Let them work on their core duties and let the experts" hire for them. But it was tough at first, especially because 9/11 happened less than a year into their venture. "We had to sacrifice a lot to get to this point -- like our salaries! I went from six figures to basically nothing and had to work really hard to get that back up again. But we worked hard, learned a lot and I wouldn't change anything," Viney says. The franchise owners saw their business go through another downturn as the recession gripped the country. The staffing industry took a beating, Viney acknowledges, but once again they stayed on course and made sure to maintain strong relationships with clients to help them through the tough times. As businesses recover and start to hire again, their franchise grows as well. Business was up 25% last year, Viney says. Viney and her partner are now looking to expand their reach into such areas as engineering and home health care. "There are whole host of other areas that we don't do that we can definitely explore," she says. "I don't necessarily look at my race as an indicator of a plus or minus," she says. "I'm doing my best to go out and market my company to provide good people."