HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — If Tammy Bomberger’s life were a novel, its theme might be, “Never give up.”
Or it might be “When people do good to you, do good to others.”
Bomberger’s life looks pretty good right now — a nice house, a loving husband, three grown kids and a three-store franchise that draws out her creative and executive skills.
But once upon a time, when her story began, her life was not rosy.
“I grew up in Northwest Pennsylvania, in Corry, Pa.,” Bomberger said during a phone interview from her home in Walkersville, Pa. “I grew up in a steel(manufacturing)-type town. My parents were without jobs frequently, because it was a small town. I grew up very poor.”
Bomberger now operates three Papa Murphy’s pizza stores, one in Frederick and two in the Hagerstown area. And because her parents often relied on local food banks to feed the family, Bomberger decided to return the favor. She held a nonperishable food drive in May to benefit other families in need.
The food drive collected 178 pounds of food, Bomberger said, all donated to the Maryland Food Bank-Western Branch, formerly known as Food Resources Inc.
Bomberger continues to support the local food bank network. She plans to place daily collection boxes at her three stores by the end of June, so customers can donate when they come in. Also, Bomberger volunteers with the Frederick County office of Maryland Food Bank-Western Branch.
She knows there’s an ongoing need.
“I just want people to be aware that everybody, no matter what stage you are, you may need the assistance of food banks,” she said. “Executives who have been pulling six figures are now out of a job because the economy is so bad. They need a way to feed their children. All the food (at food banks) is free. It’s not judgmental.”
But there’s another side of Bomberger’s efforts to make a difference to people in need. She wants to help people do as she did, and learn to build their own business.
Bomberger had to find herself pushed to the wall before she took the initiative to start her business. After high school, she joined the U.S. Air Force. She met and married her husband, had two children and tested for a staff position in the Air Force. Her life was looking good.
Then things went south. Bomberger and her husband divorced, she left the Air Force and she moved to Tennessee. She landed a job, but in short order, she was let go. The company folded. Once again facing no income while caring for her children, Bomberger decided to go with Plan B.
“I had a house cleaning job in the works,” she said. “I didn’t really like the (sales) job I was doing. I knew I could clean houses very well. And so, within the first one to two weeks, I was completely booked. I took that house-cleaning job and grew it to about $10,000 a month.”
She built a customer base through word-of-mouth marketing, and the business thrived. She said she cleaned houses for five and a half years, then met Mark, her husband, and they moved to Rocky Ridge, Md., east of Thurmont.
Right away, Bomberger launched another business.
“I started a pet-sitting job. I started it from one client and built it to 100 clients. It kept me busy, but it also allowed me some freedom,” she said. “You know, it’s the small jobs you start on your own — it gives you satisfaction. But you really can make a higher hourly wage by developing your own business.”
The low overhead of the pet-sitting business kept her initial investment down, she said. That was a lesson learned from another business venture she tried, which didn’t go so well.
“I tried several businesses that didn’t work,” she said. “When the Internet started, my husband invested in me — $10,000 for product; $3,000 in web design. We were going to sell products online.”
The business flopped, Bomberger said. That was painful.
“I sold one product. One thing! The rest I sold at garage sales,” she said. “After putting in all that time and effort, it just didn’t work. But customer service, working with my hands, that worked for me.”
Bomberger said she found out there was a need for trustworthy pet sitting in the Rocky Ridge area. So she started her business with one client and built it to more than 100.
“That kept me busy. It also allowed me some freedom to do things,” she said. “And I love animals, so I was able to bring money into the family that way.”
Eventually, Bomberger sold her pet-sitting business to a friend, and she and her husband started a Papa Murphy’s franchise. They built their business to three stores, and now are growing the business.
That’s often a challenge with businesses.
“Sometimes it’s difficult. You think, `It’s not working.’ (But you) sit down, re-evaluate, brainstorm. Don’t give up,” she said. “You’ve got to be determined to make something grow.”
The story of Bomberger’s life is still being written. But with her business chugging along, Bomberger hopes she can help others as others helped her. Most of all, she hopes to inspire people to find financial stability by starting their own businesses.
“You’ve got to get up and get moving, and say, `I need to feed my family. I need money in my pocket just to put gas in my car,”‘ she said. “If you’re afraid, it’s not going to happen. If you’re just sitting on your butt, waiting for something to come to you, it’s not going to happen. You’ve got to put fear aside and do it.”
Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)