MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - "Grandma is starting a new business."

That's what Marilyn Betty's grandchildren said about her decision to open her own Aire Serv Heating & Air Conditioning franchise in Murfreesboro, Tenn. But it is no surprise to them that this mother of five and grandmother of seven is tackling another business.

It all started when her husband decided to retire from being a water treatment salesperson to open Aqua Air Technologies, a business that made water treatment chemicals for cooling towers, boilers, and wastewater businesses.

"We had five kids approaching their college years, so I figured I'd better get involved in the business and help it succeed," she said.

Not only did she get involved, but she ended up running the company after her husband suffered a series of heart attacks. The business grew and she was able to pay college tuitions for some 20 years.

When her husband passed away, Marilyn Betty began to look for new challenges and looked into the possibility of an HVAC business. She spent two years researching her options, studying the marketplace, and writing her own business plan. She later met and married an HVAC technician with 40 years in the industry. And she got involved with Excellence Alliance, a group of independent contractors that had formed a business arrangement with the Aire Serv Heating & Air Conditioning franchisor.

"I had looked at other franchise opportunities," Betty said. "I had researched starting a business all by myself. But no route had a solid handle on the financial side of the business, and I didn't want to keep reinventing the wheel and learning things on my own like I did with Aqua Air Technologies."

Aire Serv resolved those issues. "You have all the pieces of the puzzle put together in a way for people to understand," she said.

Publication date: 02/07/2005