John and Wilhelmina Hargrave had known for years that they wanted to own their own business, and in July their dream came true when they opened West Coast Video in Mount Vernon Center.
Mrs. Hargrave, 47, is owner/manager of West Coast Video in Mount Vernon Center, a small shopping center at Guilford and Madison avenues. Mr. Hargrave, 48, is director of advertising and marketing for the store and a 30-year employee of Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.
Their plan was for him to remain a metropolitan affairs representative at BG&E until his retirement. She would continue to work as a personnel officer for the Maryland Department of Agriculture until they became entrepreneurs.
Wilhelmina Hargrave, a Baltimore native and a 1960 Eastern High School graduate, attended Morgan State University. She stopped her studies to pursue a career in personnel, but later went back to college and graduated from Towson State University in 1974 with a degree in psychology.
John Hargrave's family moved to Baltimore from North Carolina when he was a child. He graduated from Baltimore City College and immediately began working for BG&E. He also attended Johns Hopkins Evening School for 12 years before obtaining a B.A. in business administration from a one-year program at Morgan.
One day, on his way to a business meeting, Mr. Hargrave planned to stop in at a fast food restaurant. A West Coast video store had taken its place, and Mr. Hargrave was interested in a franchise.
The Hargraves knew nothing about franchising or the video business, so they had to learn. They attended seminars on small business sponsored by the Small Business Administration, they researched the video industry, and they researched financial sources.
The typical start-up cost for a West Coast franchise ranges from $215,000 to $270,000. The Hargraves sent in the application and the $22,500 franchise fee in the fall of 1988.
It took no more than two weeks to get approved, says Mrs. Hargrave. The second leg, finding funding sources for the rest of the start-up costs, took a lot longer.
The Hargraves' business plan was eventually accepted by the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority. This meant that the major portion of the capital was guaranteed.