Sunday, August 27, 2006

From Zero To Twenty Millions In Four Years

Founder Mike Fitzsimmons Story

http://www.deliveryagent.com/

Those coveting the latest fashions worn by the casts of Desperate Housewives or General Hospital need look no further than Delivery Agent Inc. Founder Mike Fitzsimmons saw a need for an easy way to sell products seen on TV, sports shows and films, so he built a business to do just that. Now, four years after its 2002 inception, sales are projected to reach $19.3 million for 2006.

Essentially, Delivery Agent enables TV show production crews like wardrobe and set designers to catalog the products used in shows. Delivery Agent then makes contact with the vendors of said products and provides the e-commerce platform to sell them through each show's official website. When viewers desire Martha Stewart's crocheted poncho or a particular Swarovski crystal ring worn by Teri Hatcher's Desperate Housewives character, the show, the vendor and Delivery Agent all profit. The company hopes to make it even easier for viewers to find on-screen fashions with the recent launch of its consumer brand, SeenOn.

Getting his foot into the entertainment universe, says Fitzsimmons, 32, was possible largely because he brought on team member Kim Marder, now chief marketing officer, who had an entertainment industry background and serious connections. Creating an advisory board full of entertainment industry veterans helped open even more doors. "We're sort of a slow-growth, high-growth story," says Fitzsimmons. "For the first three years, we got to $1 million in revenue on three full-time employees and six [contract workers]. The challenge in that phase was sticking with it--there were so many temptations to quit." The company secured a round of financing last year and has since grown the business to 44 employees.

Continuously adding to its already high-profile roster of 70 properties such as Will & Grace, The View and even Monday Night Football, Delivery Agent's big challenge now is training employees quickly enough to handle the growth. Says Fitzsimmons, "You need to find people who are self-sufficient and can hit the ground running."

Ever up for a challenge, Fitzsimmons and his crew are looking for even more growth and revenue opportunities. "We take a balanced, score card approach to how we set strategy and measure ourselves," he says. With plans to increase awareness of SeenOn shopping and roll out applications for the mobile market to allow consumers to purchase from their cell phones, Fitzsimmons sees a stellar future for Delivery Agent. Good thing--he's used to life among the stars.

Friday, August 25, 2006

How A Starving Musician With 78 Cents Started A Million Dollar Business

Billy Cuthrell Story

http://www.progressivepercussion.com/

In 1992, Billy Cuthrell says, he was starving and had 78 cents to his name. He knew he needed to find a steady income since he wasn't making any money being in a band. Teach-ing drum lessons seemed like a smart way to capitalize on his talents.

After a breakfast of pork and beans one morning, Cuthrell walked to Kinko's, where a friend printed copies of his hand-drawn fliers decorated with magazine clippings. "This thing was ragtag," says Cuthrell, 32, of his business's first ad.

Despite its looks, the ad drew several responses. At first, Cuthrell drove to students' homes, loading his run-down Isuzu Trooper with drum equipment. "I was like the musical ice cream man," Cuthrell says. "The only thing I didn't have was the music playing outside the truck."

Eventually, Cuthrell rented space from a local music store and found he could teach more students at a physical location, so he opened his own. As business grew, Cuthrell hired instructors. He now has two locations offering lessons in guitar, bass, piano, drums and percussion, with 2006 sales projections of $1 million.

Despite Progressive's growth, Cuthrell still relies on word-of-mouth marketing, though he's branching out with a commercial that will run like a preview in local movie theaters. And his marketing materials have come a long way: The hand-sketched fliers have evolved into brochures-which Cuthrell hires someone else to design.

More on how musicians can go from being broke to being well off:

The Business of Getting More Gigs as a Professional Musician

The Self-Promoting Musician

Thursday, August 24, 2006

How To Make A Few Million Dollars Transproting Kids Luggage From Summer Camps

Stuart Seller Story

http://www.camptrucking.com/

This week, thousands of kids will be returning home from summer camp -- without suitcases, duffel bags, tennis rackets, or even their dirty clothes.

Much of the baggage will be delivered back to their homes by small firms that have made a business of transporting campers' bags to and from the camps.

Typical is Camp Trucking, based in Denver. Employing an army of college students on summer break, the firm picks up baggage at the homes of campers and delivers it to camp just before a session begins. It charges a flat rate, with no restrictions on size or for bulky athletic equipment and duffel bags that sometimes weigh more than 100 pounds. At the end of the session, bags are returned -- with some parents even arranging drop-offs at laundries and dry cleaners along the way.

"We really are service companies that happen to be trucking companies," says Camp Trucking's 39-year-old owner, Stuart Seller.

The service is useful to the camps, too. They receive bags for a session all at once, a few days before the kids arrive, allowing the camp staff to focus on getting kids settled in, rather then keeping track of arriving luggage. The services often deliver the bags directly to a bunkhouse and the bunk assigned each camper.

For younger children, the camps have a chance to unpack the bags, and make "them feel like they're coming home," says Cole Kelly, director of Camp Wicosuta, a girls' camp in Bristol, N.H., which uses R&B Camp Baggage, of Plymouth.

There are 10 million children attending about 12,000 resident summer camps around the U.S., according to the American Camp Association, a nonprofit industry group, but Camp Trucking, and firms such as R&B, and Camp Baggage, of Tequesta, Fla., concentrate on serving higher-end camps where parents can spend thousands of dollars for a full summer session.

The camps are concentrated in the Northeast where the population is denser, making it more economic for the firms to serve, especially with the high price of gasoline. Campers from outside the region usually have their bags shipped by other delivery services, but the companies do pick up baggage for a growing number of kids in Florida who attend summer camps in New England.

Although based in Denver, Camp Trucking is the largest camp-delivery operator in the Northeast, and Mr. Seller expects that by the end of summer his company will have transported 30,000 to 35,000 bags for 12,000 to 15,000 kids attending several dozen camps.

With the average delivery price ranging from $120 to $150 a child, Camp Trucking's revenue will be $1.4 million to $2.3 million.

Mr. Seller has seen steady growth since he took over the business in 1998. "It used to be you didn't need to turn on your phones till April and then turn them off in September," he says. "Now it's almost a year-round business," talking to camps and sending out mailers in late November, and starting hiring in January and mapping routes in May.

At R&B, Rick Bogin, 52, started his business 37 years ago with his brother Robert, using the family station wagon and a U-Haul trailer to tote 60 bags. This year, R&B will transport 7,500 bags for 3,200 kids at 14 camps, at a cost ranging from $145 for New England residents to $175 for Florida families. A smaller operator, Camp Baggage, founded by former camp counselor Hal Sheppard, 45, in 1993, will transport more than 2,000 bags for 1,000 kids across eight camps, for an average cost of $150 a camper.

The firms usually have agreements with the camps, and, although campers aren't required to use the services, the camps either recommend them exclusively or include information to the campers in their packets. The firms don't charge camps anything; in fact, says Camp Baggage's Mr. Sheppard, shippers give the camp owners a commission in exchange for exclusive access to camp rosters. The other companies didn't disclose contractual arrangements.

With nearly all of the delivery work in the summer, the companies mainly use temporary employees. At Camp Trucking, much of the work is done by college students. Camp Trucking starts first-year drivers at $115 a day. Mr. Seller has a summer crew of 120 to 150, of which a quarter are women. Camp Baggage pays college students $115 to $200 per day depending on experience.

R&B's main staff of 35 is made up of educators, former executives and other professionals who have been with the company for a decade or more.

All three companies place a driver and navigator in trucks rented from companies such as Ryder System, Penske Truck Rental and Budget Truck Rental.

For camp haulers, one hurdle for the businesses has been streamlining the baggage-tracking process with its mounds of paperwork trailing from doorstep to bunk and back again.

Technology has made the process easier over the years, with computers, walkie-talkies and cellphones, to software and GPS systems to map out the runs.

It used to take R&B workers four days to pick up bags for 40 campers, but now they can pick up 80 to 90 campers' baggage per truck each day.

As the season nears an end, the work at R&B provides a separate benefit. Yesterday, Chuck Lenahan, head football coach at New Hampshire's Plymouth Regional High School, and his assistant coaches, put aside their game plans to direct nearly 100 football and baseball players on loading camp-baggage trucks. They'll receive a $4,000 check for their only fund-raiser, and, Mr. Lenahan says, they know that today he'll give them an easier practice.

The 100 Best Businesses to Start When You Don't Want to Work Hard Anymore

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fixing Firefighters Boots As A Business

Mike Flood Story

http://www.shoetechinc.com/


Running into burning buildings is hard on the sole. That's where Mike Flood comes in. Though not a physician, Flood is a healer of sorts. As owner of Shoe Tech Inc., Flood heals ailing footwear for firefighters across the country. Wilmington, Del.-based Shoe Tech (http://www.shoetechinc.com) is one of just a handful of shops that specialize in warrantied fire boot repairs. Following pre-established fire-safety guidelines, Flood and two employees re-sole, repair and restore this critical gear.


This business niche resulted from a random drop-in by a salesman for a fire boot manufacturer in the mid-1990s. He asked whether Flood would consider warrantied fireman boot repairs. One job led to another, and the specialty grew. Firemen ship their boots directly to Flood, who repairs, bills the manufacturer and returns the boots to their owners. Repairs range from $20 to $50, depending on the job.


Much of Shoe Tech's boot work is straightforward, except when the waterproof inner bootie must be moved. Flood explains that, after repositioning the bootie, gluing it from the outside is difficult. Through trial and error, Flood discovered that an unlikely surgical instrument-a heavy-gauge hypodermic needle-solves the problem. The needle delivers glue perfectly through the leather upper to the bootie. "The needle looks like the size you'd use on a rhinoceros," says Flood. "I feel like a doctor, sometimes."


Flood admits his process leaves a bit of glue on the upper. "But these guys don't wear their boots to church," he says.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fashionable Fanny Packs

Kristy Sobel Story

http://www.laneigepurse.com/

What began as a solution to her chronic back and neck pain is now a line of purses for women who share Kristy Sobel's condition--or simply want a fashionable fanny pack. After three car accidents that resulted in extensive back and neck surgeries, the 35-year-old entrepreneur realized she couldn't do the traveling her then-job required. That's when "life took a very different direction," she says, and even the simplest tasks, like holding her favorite purse over her shoulder, became a burden.

To ease the weight on her shoulders, Sobel searched for a fanny pack that would accommodate her condition, but realized fashionable ones were nonexistent. So she created one. Before long, family, friends and even strangers were requesting this one-of-a-kind purse. She approached boutiques with her design after successful test runs at her friends' shops, but the door-to-door routine eventually took a toll on her body. Sobel continued her venture from home, found a rep to promote her bags at a trade show and used her and her husband and co-founder Eric's savings to launch LaNeige Purse. Her woven nylon bags appeal to a wide scope of women, from teens to those in their 80s. Sobel has since added larger bags to the collection and, in 2004, she introduced a leather line. With items priced between $54 and $200, LaNeige had sales of $210,000 in 2005.

"The most wonderful thing about LaNeige is being able to help people with chronic back pain," she says, pointing out that the product is also ideal for active women who need both hands free. Her bags are sold in over 60 gift shops and boutiques across the country, and on her website, www.laneigepurse.com.

Despite the physical struggles she faces daily, Sobel's entrepreneurial spirit is anything but broken. "It's a huge challenge for me to get up each morning, let alone run a company," she says. "But I take it one day at a time and create as I go along."

More on homebiz success:

Getting Rich in Your Underwear: How to Start and Run a Profitable Home-Based Business

Monday, August 21, 2006

$5 Million A Year, Selling ‘Ice Towels’.

Mike Fanning And Bill Sammon Story

http://www.himaicetowels.com

There's nothing like a hot product--or, in this case, a cold product with hot sales. Just ask Mike Fanning and Bill Sammon, founders of the Hima Ice Towel Corp., which sells prepackaged cotton towels soaked with refreshing mixtures of essential plant oils that promote evaporation and cooling.

Sammon got the idea after a trip to Asia, where he noticed mothers wiping down their babies with towels dipped in isopropyl alcohol to cool them off. With the help of another partner, Koy Thummaskra, Fanning and Sammon developed their own version of the towels, which come in different sizes and colors. Says Sammon, "It gives your average person an affordable luxury in hot climates."

Fanning and Sammon marketed the towels, which need to be frozen for 12 hours prior to use, to amusement parks and sporting events. The towels sell from $1.29 to $4 each, depending on the venue. The pair also markets to corporate clients. Now that sales are expected to hit $3.5 million to $5 million, it's clear these entrepreneurs have cornered the market on cold relief.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Richest Piano Player You've Never Heard About

Lorie Line Story

http://www.lorieline.com/

After ten years of university training in classical piano, Lorie Line finally landed her first job as a professional musician. For $40 a day she was hired to tickle the ivories every afternoon at Dayton's department store in downtown Minneapolis. Wedged between handbags and lingerie, she serenaded shoppers with a seamless stream of pop tunes--and occasionally gave directions to the restroom--without missing a note. But the young pianist in the glamorous black gown was definitely resourceful. After noticing shoppers lingering around the girdle racks listening to her play, she figured she had the start of a fan club. So she cashed in her husband's 401(k) and used the $2,000 to record a CD, which she stacked on a corner of the piano to sell. It proved to be as popular as the push-up bra. Within three years she had sold more than $1 million worth in Dayton's.

From that unglamorous start more than a decade ago, Line has built an unlikely little music empire as the piano phenom of the Midwest. In towns and cities from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Appleton, Wis., the 47-year-old entertainer is packing thousands of fans into concert halls for 80 lavish music and dance productions a year. Since releasing her first CD in 1989, she has sold more than five million through her independent record label. Her sheet-music books are popular too. Released in 2003, Line's $35 Music From the Heart has been a bestseller for two years; her 17th songbook, it features her arrangements of show tunes and movie themes such as "Phantom of the Opera" and "Wind Beneath My Wings." She brings in annual revenues of $5 million, netting about $350,000, working out of her palatial home on the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Orono, Minn.

Like many other artists (even gravelly voiced Rod Stewart), Line is cashing in on a baby-boomer craze for lush, soft-jazz versions of classic romantic standards that were popular in the '30s, '40s, and '50s. Without "Moon River," she'd never be such a star in Sheboygan. But Line knows that the music is only half the appeal for her target market, which largely consists of women between the ages of 35 and 70. "Fans aren't coming to my concerts just to hear my piano," she says. "They want two solid hours of spectacle, and we give it to them." The theme for last year's holiday show--her biggest show every year--was Old Hollywood, and it was loaded with razzle-dazzle.

Line wore seven costumes during the two-hour show, including a strapless black sequined gown with a fishtail train, topped off by a ten-foot-long black-fox stole. Even the 12-piece orchestra had five costume changes, from tuxes to velvet smoking jackets. The show's annual costume budget alone comes to $190,000. Line's stage sets are just as elaborate. On every tour she brings one of her two concert grand pianos, as well as a massive ballroom-sized crystal chandelier that hangs over the piano at center stage.

Line has built her business without any help from the music industry establishment, which snubbed her early on, deeming her too square for the big time. She performs, publishes, and produces her CDs through her company, Lorie Line Music. She has a payroll of 30, including a choreographer, musicians, a costume designer, a dressmaker, and a staff of five who run the small retail shop where she sells her music, books, and tickets. Tim Line, her husband of 19 years, is president. Lorie Line is CEO. "I am the talent," she says. "At Christmastime, when we sell a lot of CDs, I'm also a shipping clerk in the backroom if necessary."

Cutting her first CD provided Line with a quick education in the business side of music. When she called to rent time in a recording studio in San Francisco, she innocently asked the manager how much time she would be allotted to make the CD. "Till your money runs out," he said, laughing. "It's your dime, lady." She assured him, "I'm a department store pianist. I have to get it right the first time." She cut the CD in two days. Total bill for studio time: $9,558. When she got back to Dayton's, she asked the department store manager for permission to sell her music. He refused. Undaunted, Line found a higher-up willing to let her give it a try. The deal proved a moneymaker for Dayton's, which got a percentage of sales.

After that success Line decided to stage a concert to test her appeal outside the lingerie department. Several months later she rented a small hall in Minneapolis for $5,000 and sold out all 400 seats. (That's when her husband resigned his sales job to help her manage her business.) Now her shows sell out regularly in 2,500-seat concert halls in Denver, Fargo, Indianapolis, Omaha, and Toledo. She has tried to broaden her fan base by appearing on the East Coast and in Florida, but ticket sales were low, and the concerts were costly missteps--as was an attempt to gain national recognition through a concert on PBS.

Her fans in the heartland remain loyal. Every Aug. 1, when tickets go on sale for her 47 holiday concerts, fans start lining up outside her Wayzata, Minn., store before the box office opens at 8 A.M. Last year police had to be called in for crowd control because the line disrupted traffic downtown. The star served the crowd coffee and doughnuts.

Line has successfully leveraged her fans' passion into a merchandising opportunity. Ten years ago she sent out a mass mailing announcing her holiday concert series. "Be there with bells on!" was the merry tag line on the brochure. Then she had a thought: Why not sell commemorative bells for her fans to jingle during the show? In fact, why not a new bell every year? She ordered up a set of small silver-plated bells with her name and the year engraved on them and sold every one. Last year Line sold 30,000. At $5 a bell, she rang up $150,000.

Shortly after finishing her spring tour, Line began rehearsing for her holiday extravaganza. So what if she never does get to see the klieg lights of Carnegie Hall in New York City or the neon jungle of Vegas? "I could live happily ever after as the most popular entertainer in the Midwest," she says. "If I have to choose between being rich or being famous, I'd rather be rich."

You can listen to Lorie Line's CDs here:

Lorie Line - Music from the Heart

Open House by Lorie Line

Lorie Line - Now and Then Songbook

Friday, August 18, 2006

A $2 Million A Year Admobile Business


James Riseborough Story

http://www.turtletransit.com/

Here's something that will catch your eye--a grown man driving a larger-than-life green turtle up the highway. The driver is James Riseborough, owner of Turtle Transit, which brought in $2 million last year by transforming ordinary cars and trucks into promotional vehicles.

Riseborough, is the talent behind a company that specializes in 3-dimensional graphics and mobile display. In short, they transform unassuming cars into eye-popping, sculpted advertisements.

"Anything you can imagine, we can build," says Riseborough. And he's not kidding. To date, the company has created a rhinoceros, a fleet of monster cars, and a mechanical chair-sized hand replete with gaudy fingernails for local rockers Aerosmith.

Only a year from its inception, Turtle Transit boasts a formidable client list that includes among others, Monster.com, Arnold Brand Promotions, Harley-Davidson Café and Stonyfield Farm. The company cleared $500,000 the first year and expects to triple that in the next three years.

"I never think of myself as an entrepreneur. That's more of those guys who drive into Boston and sit behind a desk and call the shots--the guys in three-piece suits," says Riseborough.

As an industry, outdoor advertising includes billboards, wrapped buses, taxi tops and other promotions in public spaces. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America estimates that it's a $4.8 billion industry and growing.

Riseborough pulled together a small-business plan and sought the advice of accountants. He came up with the name Turtle Transit because, "I wanted something with some playfulness--turtles are slow, they creep along and they have a big back for advertising,".

With his own funding and talents, he created marketing materials including "Cecil," their turtle car. Cecil is a Volkswagen Beetle refashioned, or morphed, as the Turtle Transit team would say, with layers of sculpted foam and fiberglass to create dimensional turtle-shell detailing. Add to that myriad green paints and a larger-than-life reptilian turtlehead poking out from the hood, and you've got turtle transportation.

With Cecil on the road, Turtle Transit is turning some heads. "To wrap the graphics is very safe, everyone is doing it. We wanted to take it to the next dimension. The turtles and the monsters are definitely catching people's eyes over any wraps," says Riseborough.
"There is risk in creating a monster or a turtle, but without risk there is no reward. You've got to stick your neck out sometimes."

For a full morph, the company estimates projects at approximately $20,000 to $30,000. That excludes the initial price of the car, which the client assumes. Smaller projects, such as adding a 3-dimensional element to a vehicle can be in the ballpark of $10,000 to $15,000.

That's not a lot of money when you consider the cost of traditional advertising, says Michelle Silk, account supervisor at Boston-based Arnold Brand Promotions. "With the state of the economy, budgets are slashed and people just don't have the money to spend on a 30-second commercial. We try to think of different ways to bring brand to the consumer," she says.

Together with Scott Betty, director of nontraditional marketing at Maynard-based Monster.com, they came up with the idea of a fleet of monster-morphed vehicles. "The program, for us, is a way to localize the brand and bring the brand to life."

The Monster cars are stationed across the country and tow interactive workstations with unique IP addresses. Monster.com can be virtually anywhere, including career fairs, public events and even in neighborhoods that happen to have high concentrations of health care workers, for example.

The program provides Monster with flexibility and something even more cherished by marketing executives and that's data. "We can track it from the broad stroke and look at overall account registrations and resumé posting monthly by markets we are present in. We can also go granular and look at specific events," explains Betty.

The cars themselves are real "head-turners" says Silk, who credits Turtle Transit with "A-plus quality." "These guys don't know how to say `no,' " she adds.

Turtle Transit attributes its success to hard work and an intense commitment to quality. All the work is done in-house using foam, fiberglass, auto paint and a variety of creative techniques. The company guarantees its work for the life of the vehicle.
This attention to detail has led to some pretty long hours for the team. Riseborough reflects that the many late nights cost him precious time with his newborn son. "He's the biggest event of my life, and I couldn't be there. But you know, I can put him through college, and that matters too," he adds.

Further Reading

Internet Profits in Your Pjs: 36 Secrets to Creating Multiple Income Streams on Autopilot

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bald Is Beautiful?

Rick Mikles and Joe Acebal

http://www.idealimage.com/

Chiropractors Rick Mikles, 49, and Joe Acebal, 48, sensed that they could build a business with staying power by focusing on laser hair removal. After all, the process for removing hair permanently is the top nonsurgical cosmetic procedure for folks under 35. In 2005, Ideal Image's sales grew to $50 million from $8 million the year before.

The co-founders had been selling Ideal Image franchises one by one since 2004. That approach "now seems about as smart as selling individual sticks of chewing gum instead of the whole pack," says Acebal. The Tampa entrepreneurs soon switched to a cluster strategy requiring franchisees to simultaneously open numerous stores--a more efficient use of marketing dollars.

The former school pals expect franchisees to nearly double the number of units, to 75, this year. Company-owned units will grow from six to 25. Bald really is beautiful.

Media is Ideal Image's highest expense at a whopping 25 percent to 30 percent of sales. It has a five-person creative department that can produce TV and radio spots and marketing collateral.

The company does extensive market analysis and demographic research. It wrote software to tell it where to place locations. It's more than just census data. It focuses on buying habits and other details and uses Arbitron TV ratings.

"We know where they hang out and what they do," Akers said. "But it's really important to have points of sale open to cover that media buy."

To get the locations open, the company spends a lot on infrastructure, dropping $200,000 on hardware to support its homemade proprietary clinic management software. It has developed detailed training systems and manages its own financial group.

Recommended Reading:

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth

No B.S. Wealth Attraction for Entrepreneurs

Laser Hair Removal by David J. Goldberg

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How To Make Money Selling School Spirit



Linda McMahan Gunning Story

http://www.bagalogos.com/

Linda McMahan Gunning was inundated with compliments on the University of Texas handbag she used to carry to university events. Though the bag, which she picked up at a local store, was roughly made and not properly licensed with the college, it drew a lot of attention from other women and fans.

As an attorney, McMahan Gunning soon realized that if she could obtain the licensing rights for collegiate logos and design her own line of high-end handbags emblazoned with school emblems, there would be quite a demand for her products. She decided to cold-call the University of Texas to pitch her unique concept.

"They said, 'If you can do all this, we think it's a great idea. We'll take a chance with you,'" recalls McMahan Gunning, 55. With those encouraging words in mind, she enlisted the help of her sister-in-law and avid fashion lover, Sue Craft McMahan, 36, to join her in the logo handbag venture.

Interestingly enough, obtaining licensing agreements wasn't the biggest challenge during start-up; finding a manufacturer and researching what women really want in a handbag proved to be the major hurdles. They canvassed not only college-age women, but also alumni and families of students.

When the pair designed four different types of bags—a large tote bag, a smaller baguette bag, a crescent-shaped handbag and a bolder game-day bag—all marked with the University of Texas emblem, the favorable responses they received were overwhelming.

Today, with sales into the mid-six figures, Bagalogos! bags can be found at www.bagalogos.com and at high-end boutiques and college bookstores. Schools on the company's roster include the University of Alabama, Oklahoma State University campuses, Texas A&M University campuses and Texas Tech University. They've also set their sights on other big-name schools with high-profile and loyal alumni. Talk about higher learning.

More on the subject of homebusiness

The 30 Second Commute : The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Operating a Home-Based Business

And

The Fashion Designer Survival Guide: An Insider's Look at Starting and Running Your Own Fashion Business

Monday, August 14, 2006

How Broken Arm Led To A $2 Million A Year Business

David Reynolds Story

http://www.showersleeve.com/

David Reynolds, a contractor by trade, had broken his arm while remodeling a bathroom in 1998. Keeping the cast dry proved to be very difficult, and when he tried looking around for a product to help, he was unable to find anything that was both effective and affordable. That's when the light bulb went on.

After doing a patent search for such a product and finding nothing, Reynolds, an inventor since childhood, designed a plastic covering with an adjustable fastening mechanism on one end to keep arm and leg casts dry. He enlisted the help of his longtime friend and fellow contractor, Marty Ceccarelli, to build Mar-Von LLC and the brand.

But even with their innovative product in hand, it wasn't easy to get it on store shelves. "I just started going to the local drugstores," says Reynolds. "I had a real hard time. Most people don't want to give you the time of day."

Determined to succeed, Reynolds and Ceccarelli continued to develop the Cast Cover and sales strategies for two years, and eventually landed their product on the shelves of Albertson's/Osco Drug and 12 local Walgreens stores. The reaction from consumers spoke volumes-their product was a fast seller.

Today, the pair sells not only Cast Covers, but also the waterproof Shower Sleeve-open on both ends, they are designed for patients with IVs. Today, the products are sold via wholesalers and distributors and on their Web site. Reynolds, who expects $2 million in annual sales by the end of the year, has this advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs: "I had a vision of inventing something, [but] it didn't happen overnight. Don't give up, and don't take no for an answer."

How to License Your Million Dollar Idea: Everything You Need To Know To Turn a Simple Idea into a Million Dollar Payday

Sunday, August 13, 2006

How A $4,200 Domain Name Investment Brings In $900,000 Each Year.



John Drummond Story


http://www.unicycle.com


Unicycling enthusiast John Drummond, a technical writer at IBM, decided it might be fun to sell a few cycles over the Internet. Seven months after unicycle.com debuted in 1999, Drummond, of Marietta, Ga., was so overwhelmed by demand that he enlisted the help of his wife, Amy.

The pair soon sped sales up from $150,000 in 1999 to $900,000 this year. No, there wasn't an inexplicable uptick in the clown population. They attribute their success to a straightforward Internet domain name.

"Customers found us at the top of their Google searches," he says. So in 2003, when Drummond looked to profit from his other hobby, banjos, he naturally sought to pluck banjo.com. He had paid $4,200 for unicycle.com, but the owner of the banjo address wanted $150,000.

Drummond won't say how much he ultimately paid, but he's happy with the deal. Banjo.com pulled in $120,000 in sales in 2003 and is on track to reach $450,000 this year.

P.S. If you are interested in investing in domain names, read Domain Names for Dummies first

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Small Houses Can Make Your Rich?


Jay Shafer Story


http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/


Bigger isn't always better. Just ask Jay Shafer, founder and owner of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company (http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com), who lives in a 70-square-foot freestanding home. No, that's not a typo-his entire house has less space than most people's bathrooms.


"I had a hard time finding a place that suited my needs without exceeding my needs," says Shafer, who built his first tiny house in 1997. "So many American houses are so huge-they're oversized for the actual needs of the occupants."


Longing for less space, Shafer first designed a 100-square-foot house that was recognized in a home of the year contest by Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Exposure from the award prompted Shafer to go into business-suddenly he found a market for miniature mansions. Today, Tumbleweed offers more than 20 floorplans ranging from 70- to 500-square-feet. Half the customers use the buildings as their primary residences. Others buy them as freestanding additions to their existing homes, for use as an office or studio.


"Almost no assembly is required," says Shafer. "The houses arrive in one piece. All you have to do is connect the utilities."


A bonus to living so little: It forces you to be neater, says Shafer, who even works out of his 70-square-foot abode. Downsizing also makes you reevaluate your concept of home sweet home.

Friday, August 11, 2006

$300 Hot Sauce

Nick Lindauer Story

http://www.hotsauceblog.com/

Hot sauce enthusiast turned entrepreneur Nick Lindauer is on fire. In 2001, while still in college, he launched the online store Sweat 'N Spice out of his Springfield (Ore.) apartment. He sold a few dozen types of hot sauces, packaged each order by hand, and shipped everything from his local post office, barely eking out a profit during his first year of operation.


Today, Lindauer sells over a thousand products from some 300 manufacturers. His inventory goes beyond sauces to include seasonings, relishes, and snacks with clever names, oddly-shaped collectible bottles, celebrity-endorsed offerings, along with concoctions that are so blisteringly hot customers must sign a liability waiver upon purchase.


Prices run from $4 for El Yucateco brand sauces to $300 for hand-signed, limited-edition bottles of Blair's 16 Million Reserve, the hottest chili powder extract known to man. Lindauer and his two full-time employees operate out of a Midtown office in New York City. In 2005, the business grossed around $130,000. He forecasts $200,000 in 2006.


Lindauer says he owes much of his success to his blog (http://www.hotsauceblog.com/) where he dubs himself "Sultan of Sauces," and offers the hot sauce community news, reviews, recipes, contests, and interviews with prominent vendors.


He explains that the blog is a separate entity from his online shop—it has its own domain name and advertising—but it helps build his credibility and drives traffic to his store through a few strategically placed links on its navigation bar. Lindauer also establishes relationships with many of his vendors in person at industry events and helps in the creation of smaller manufacturers' sauces before they go to market.


Making a living from hot sauce wasn't his original goal, says Lindauer, a longtime champion of spicy foods and an avid collector of exotic hot sauces. The whole enterprise was more a labor of love. "I got really into collecting and decided if I'm doing this, there's got to be other people out there doing it," he says. He figured they'd want a place to trade opinions, and perhaps order a hard-to-find bottle.


Lindauer was right. At industry gatherings like the annual National Fiery Foods and Barbeque Show, in Albuquerque, N.M., he discovered a subculture of superhuman eaters who call themselves "chileheads;" a class of connoisseurs with a passion for rare and intense hot sauces.


Lindauer felt right at home. He had also stumbled onto an industry that is worth close to $2 billion, according to the estimate of leading spicy foods authority Dave DeWitt, editor of Fiery-Foods & BBQ magazine.


Lindauer is now making plans to open a brick-and-mortar shop, even though he and experts in the industry acknowledge that the niche market is too small to make it a sure success. "You've got to sell a lot of hot sauce to pay rent in Manhattan," says Dave Hirschkop, owner of hot sauce and specialty foods manufacturer Dave's Gourmet, one of Sweat 'N Spice's premier brands.

More info for hot sauce lovers:

The Hot Sauce Collector's Guide: A Book for Collectors, Retailers, Manufacturers, and Lovers of All Things Hot

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Helping Former Military Personnel Find Civilian Jobs Can Be A Six Figure Business

Karin Markley Story

http://www.militaryexits.com/

Finding a job is one of the biggest challenges for people coming out of the military. Karin Markley, founder of Military Exits, knows this well—she has 15 years of experience working in a civilian employment agency. She knows companies value employees with military backgrounds, and she wanted to provide a one-stop link between the two.

Setting up MilitaryExits.com out of her home, Markley, 40, contacted the Department of Defense for permission to use its seal on her Web site. It took months to get it, but MilitaryExits.com is now linked to all the military bases.

It costs nothing for servicemen and women to post their resumes and search for jobs; employers pay for the listings, which reach service personnel in the United States and overseas. The site also includes information on relocation and education, as well as military support chat groups.

Markley, who projects annual sales of $600,000, points to her biggest reward: "Helping the military. Getting the letters and phone calls from these people thanking me so much for what I'm doing for them."

Job Search: Marketing Your Military Experience

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Incredible After-Prom Business That Generates $1 Million A Year

Yoel Silber Story

http://www.promtix.com/

Ah, remember the prom—the limos, the dresses, the late nights spent wandering around town looking for after-prom fun? Well, Yoel Silber has found a way to cash in on that market with Promtix (www.promtix.com), his one-stop shop for after-prom adventures. He sells tickets to cruises, comedy and dance clubs, and the like—and has made many a prom-goer happy with set plans for after prom. Says Silber, "In New York, especially, kids went to Manhattan for their after-prom partying, but they couldn't get into the nightclubs because they didn't have ID."

Silber combats this common problem by booking clubs and cruises specifically for the underage high school crowd. "Now they have a place to party, and the parents know where they're going," Silber explains. Parents can sleep even better knowing that all Promtix events are nonalcoholic.

With a background in party promotion, Silber knew there was an underserved market of high school students who spend big bucks on prom night. He markets his events via fliers at local malls—where he's likely to find lots of prom-goers—but he's also found that word-of-mouth really helped to grow sales to $1 million a year.

He notes that teenagers were fast to buy into the Promtix concept—and luckily, Silber's received nothing but positive responses from club owners. He's currently in New York City and Philadelphia, and would like to make Promtix a presence in 10 major U.S. markets, including Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles.

Tripping the Prom Queen: The Truth About Women and Rivalry

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How To Make Millions From Happy Campers

Ari Ackerman Story

http://www.bunk1.com/

Happy memories from his childhood days at summer camp inspired Ari Ackerman to come up with the idea for Bunk1.com. He originally wrote the business plan for the company for his MBA training, but it seemed like too good an idea to pass up.

His initial concept was to provide a Web service that parents could use to watch their children's camp activities online, with camp administrators posting photos for the parents to peruse. Ackerman then added an e-mail service (called BunkNotes) and an online newsletter service, as well as a search engine to help parents find a camp for their kids.

At first, says Ackerman, 33, the camp directors were difficult to persuade. "To sell them on this concept wasn't easy," he says. But with his camp background, he knew the market well. He knew parents would be willing to pay for this convenient connection to their kids—and he was right. The first camps he sold his service to got good response from parents immediately—and the number of concerned phone calls from parents (the "What's my child doing?" sort) to the camps decreased, as moms and dads had tangible evidence that their babies were alive and well.

Word-of-mouth started to build demand for the concept, and, to date, the Bunk1.com service is offered to close to 2,000 camps nationwide. Camp directors either purchase the service and include it in the price of the camp or simply offer parents the option to purchase Ackerman's Bunk1.com service a la carte.

Revenues are projected to reach more than $3 million, and Ackerman has already expanded into other Web services, like CampAlumni.com (a service to reconnect old summer camp friends).

P.S. For those who make money with AdSense, here is a list of AdSense niches that make from $0.30 to $1.20 per click on average.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Wooden Doll Millionaire

Alexander Krilov Story

http://www.newcrafters.com/

Alexander Krilov was a medical doctor by trade, but when he emigrated from Ukraine 15 years ago, his thoughts turned to entrepreneurship. After running a variety of businesses, ranging from athletic shoes to international distribution for online florists, Krilov landed on the idea for sports-themed Russian nesting dolls while working as a business manager for Los Angeles Lakers star Stanislav "Slava" Medvedenko.

Krilov, 40, and his wife, Julia Butler, 45, noticed sports fans would buy anything featuring their favorite player's likeness, so the pair decided to create a traditional-looking Russian nesting doll with the modern twist of a superstar's face. Obtaining licenses from the NBA took perseverance, but in the end, Krilov and Butler were able to make dolls with the renderings of Kobe Bryant, Rick Fox and Shaquille O'Neal.

Manufacturing the dolls in high-quality plastic with almost portrait-quality artwork, Krilov and Butler have since secured licenses from the NHL and Major League Baseball, in addition to Elvis Presley and I Love Lucy properties. With these unique collectible alternatives to bobblehead dolls now being sold nationwide in arena stores, specialty stores and online, sales passed $1 million in 2004.

P.S. Looking for a profitable AdSense niche? Try Franchising

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Making A Profit From Sleepy Co-Workers

Arshad Chowdhury Story

http://www.metronaps.com/


While working grueling hours as an investment banker in New York City three years ago, Arshad Chowdhury noticed his colleagues' heavy eyelids and bobbing heads during meetings.


"Everyone was tired all the time," he says. "Some people were even sneaking off to the bathrooms to take a nap."


Knowing there must be a better way to combat workplace drowsiness than sleeping in a toilet stall, Chowdhury created MetroNaps.


Located inside the Empire State Building, MetroNaps (http://www.metronaps.com) offers rows of futuristic-looking sleeping pods, specifically designed for 20-minute "powernaps." From a $14 one-day pass up to a $65 one-month unlimited pass, sleep-deprived New Yorkers can refresh during their workdays in an individual pod, which features ergonomic design and an upper hood for privacy. Nappers are gently awakened by a combination of light and vibration. Patrons can also opt to order lunch to be ready when they wake.


"When all of your employees are tired, your workforce is losing productivity," Chowdhury says. "But most people don't have the real estate or the culture to have a separate area for resting. So employers can send their employees here."


Neuroscientists agree. In a recent study at Harvard, researchers found that adults who take short midday naps experience heightened mental performance, better alertness and improved mood.


Chowdhury hopes to expand the business by selling the pods to offices that don't have a lot of extra room, but want to offer a way to boost productivity.


But until MetroNaps pods become a widespread phenomenon, heavy eyelids will continue to flutter in cubicles across America.

The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night's Sleep

Friday, August 04, 2006

How To Make $300,000 A Year With Card Stunts.


Joe Kivett Story

http://www.cardstunts.com/

Have you ever wondered who's the brains behind those nifty card stunts at big stadiums-where each member of the audience holds up a card to create massive pictures and messages for the world to see? Joe Kivett, 40, organizes these fan-friendly events with his company, CardStunts.com. Kivett learned the card-stunt business as an employee of another company and branched out on his own in 1991 when word about his successful Super Bowl card stunts started to spread.

Armed with less than $1,000 in startup cash, he landed his first client by virtue of his reputation. Kivett says most of his startup money was for travel expenses to examine the site in Minneapolis where he was doing the card stunt.

His serious startup-cash coup was drafting an agreement with the organizers of Super Bowl XXVI to pay him half his fee upfront and half on the day of the event-this way, he was able to organize the event with no out-of-pocket costs. "I paid all my bills and had my little profit left over," he says. "I took that profit and used it to market my company."

Word-of-mouth is still a key element of his marketing efforts, and the years have seen him grow CardStunts.com from planning one to two big card stunts per year to about 10 yearly today. In addition to doing card stunts for two Super Bowl half-time shows, he's coordinated events for the World Series and the Daytona 500. With about $350,000 in annual sales, Kivett is definitely playing his cards right.

Profiles of American / Canadian Sports Stadiums And Arenas

Thursday, August 03, 2006

How To Make $130,000 A Year As A 'Screenplay Coach'

Lloyd “Skip” Press Story

http://www.skippress.com/

As a screenwriter, Lloyd Press has known only modest success. He has written scripts for children's TV shows and instructional videos since the late 1980s. His biggest claim to fame is a matter-of-fact 1987 video called A Woman's Guide to Firearms.

Nonetheless, he has had better luck in his second act as a guide to the masses who yearn for stardom. Some 4,000 students have taken his $129 online screenwriting course, offered through 1,040 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Europe. Bookstores have sold 40,000 copies of his Complete Idiot's Guide to Screenwriting. Aspiring writers pay him to edit their scripts and offer tips for selling them. A basic read-through costs $250, but an extensive rewrite goes for about $5,000. If a project seems promising - like the recent television pilot by a former Senate staffer about life on Capitol Hill - Press will cut a deal: a lower fee for a piece of the action.

But even if his clients never get their films produced, they can still make a living - or at least supplement one - when their scripts get optioned, sometimes over and over, every 18 months, for as much as $2,000. Clay Heery, a former comedy-club owner in Philadelphia, at Press's urging retooled a script he had been working on for years. Since then, Heery says, several producers have optioned it.

For Press, 55, coaching is a lucrative niche. In 2005, he says, he pulled in about $130,000, triple what he was making in the 1990s when he wrote children's books and magazine articles for Boy's Life and Disney Adventures. Then, in 2001, his Complete Idiot's Guide was published in the U.S., then in Russia. The book listed his personal e-mail address: skippress@charter.net. Weeks after the book hit store shelves, pleading messages started pouring in and his career as a coach took off.

P.S. If you make a living as a writer, you probably know how you can make money through AdSense. If you want to know what topics are currently most profitable with AdSense, visit NicheGeek.Com

Otherwise, read

The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

How To Make One Million Dollars A Year Selling Ecosystems In A Bottle.



Dan And Michelle Harmony Story

http://eco-sphere.com/

Ecosphere Associates sells what appear to be plastic eggs full of bilge water. But look closer. Inside each Ecosphere you'll find a self-contained ecosystem - replete with shrimp, algae, and bacteria -that requires only sunlight to thrive.

The average Ecosphere lives for three to five years, says Dan Harmony, 53, who runs the Tucson company with his wife, Michelle, 51.

The Harmonys created Ecosphere Associates in 1986, after Dan - a former technical designer - learned that NASA was developing ecosystems that could survive in space and bought the right to commercialize the technology.

Last year they sold $1 million worth of Ecospheres - which retail at $58 to $450 - on their website, eco-sphere.com, and through retailing partners such as Brookstone. The Harmonys sell Ecospheres in Europe and are looking to grow the business in Asia.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cashing in On Your Inventions

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How An Ex-Prisoner Makes $2 Million A Year, Selling Frozen Water.

Carl Rupp Story

http://www.snowie.com/

In the late 1970s, Rupp, a Salt Lake City teenager at the time, launched a wildly successful snow cone business, only to lose it all 15 years later to drug addiction. After a bitter divorce, a year in prison, and buried in debt, Rupp cleaned up and began rebuilding his life. Last year, Snowie, a second snow cone business he and his brother started from scratch, grossed over $2 million.

"There are a lot of things that will knock the wind out of your sails," Rupp says. "But you just have to keep plugging away."

Like many great ideas, Sno Shack, Rupp's initial venture, started with a simple question. On a hot summer day back in 1979 in St. Louis, Mo., Rupp, a young Mormon missionary who was the fourth oldest of seven brothers and a younger sister, came across a crowd lined up at an outdoor snow cone stand. "Why would anyone line up for a snow cone?" he asked dismissively. After hours of pounding the hot pavement all day, he tried one and soon had his answer. Rupp immediately went back to Salt Lake City and built his first shack out of old cedar boards.

For the first few years, Rupp not only built the shacks and ice shaver machines himself, he often manned them, too. But business, as they say, was snowballing. By the time he'd setup 13 outlets around town and hired a crew of local teens as attendants, things were getting unmanageable, he says. Luckily, by then, others were approaching him with offers to buy a single shack and shaver to run it themselves.

"It went from me thinking I was going to own and operated a ton of shacks, to me setting folks up to run their own business," Rupp recalls.

At its peak, Rupp had rolled out some 150 shacks, all with his custom-built shavers and stacks of containers with several dozen home-made flavors--from blue raspberry and cotton candy to a sweet red concoction called Tiger's Blood, all developed in his own experimental kitchen. At about the same time, Rupp--a born tinkerer--developed carpal tunnel syndrome building a new house for his wife and kids. Eventually, he got hooked on the pain killers prescribed by his doctor. When those ran out, he turned to heroin. "I started playing with it and played with it too much," he now says.

After failing to complete a court-appointed stint in rehab, Rupp was sentenced to a year in prison. There, he says, he had plenty of time to reflect on everything he'd lost: "I woke up one morning and thought 'hey, I remember Carl, I liked him and want him back.'"

In 1996, with his time served, Rupp tried working for his now ex-wife back at Sno Shack. When that didn't work out, he started rebuilding his own business with help from his little brother Gordon--this time calling it Snowie.

Concentrating on special events, like the local weekly farmers' market and nearby college football games, Rupp and his brother have sold almost 500 shacks--many outfitted with air-conditioning, hot and cold running water, and a retractable roof to load supplies.

Rupp also includes "Tips and Tricks," a 40-page booklet that walks operators through everything from scouting out locations to getting a business license. "These are the baby steps," says Rupp. "We do as much as we can to help make it work."

Today, Rupp's entrepreneurial advice, which might otherwise sound trite coming from anyone else, resonates with a kind of hard-earned wisdom: "You gotta hang in there and be persistent," he says. "Don't get knocked down by a mistake."

P.S. If you are using AdSense to monetize your site, check out this free resource that lists Profitable AdSense Niches

Monday, July 31, 2006

Wedding Insurance Millionaires.

Karen and Roger Sandau Story

http://www.wedsafe.com/

When planning their wedding in late 1999, Karen and Roger Sandau were struck by how risky it was to give large, nonrefundable cash deposits to vendors without any protection if something were to go away on the wedding day. From a vendor going out of business to an important family member being stricken ill and unable to attend, the Sandaus thought of all the things that could possibly go wrong on their wedding day and wished they could find some way to protect their investment.

Finding wedding insurance available overseas but not in the United States gave the couple a great idea—they figured there were many people like themselves who would feel much more calm before the big day if they knew they were covered for unforeseen circumstances. Karen, had a background in catering and event planning, and had heard of event cancellation insurance; and Roger, had a background as an entertainment attorney, so he knew the ins and outs of events in general.

The newlyweds combined their expertise and started detailing the types of things the insurance would cover, such as severe weather emergencies on the wedding day, a damaged or stolen wedding gown, and lost or damaged wedding rings, to name just a few. They also decided to offer liability insurance for any damages incurred at the wedding site (something many venues require).

They went about finding an underwriter for the policy as well as developing software that would enable them to organize and sell their insurance cheaply. Their product has resonated with couples and especially wedding planners.

In fact, marketing to wedding professionals has helped the Sandaus grow their business to between $2.25 million and $2.5 million in sales. "Everyone has heard of a wedding story gone awry," Roger says. But now, with WedSafe at the helm, mishaps don't have to spell catastrophe.

How to Have an Elegant Wedding for $5000 (or Less) : Achieving Beautiful Simplicity Without Mortgaging Your Future

Friday, July 28, 2006

Making Dough Selling To Fratboys.

Joseph Tantillo Story

http://www.greekgear.com/

Reading a business magazine in the doctor's office inspired Joseph Tantillo to try his hand at online retailing. At the time, he and his wife were expecting their first child and wanted to work from home. An article about starting an online store jumped out at him, he recalls—and, as a member of a fraternity in college, he decided to sell personalized Greek apparel to that market.

After setting up shop for just $79.95—the cost of a merchant account with Yahoo!— he began researching what kind of products his former fraternity brothers might like. Tantillo then located suppliers who would work with him on a drop-ship basis and began selling. He opened his online doors in May of 1999 and had his first three sales by June.

He and his wife moved into a farmhouse owned by their family so they didn't have to worry about a mortgage. That gave Tantillo the freedom to go full time and research the market. "I spent a lot of time online—hours, all through the night—e-mailing people about linking to our website, e-mailing people about our products, asking friends for criticism and suggestions," says Tantillo, 36.

His persistence helped him become the preferred vendor for a few national Greek organizations. Tantillo then secured partnerships that would allow him to advertise on their websites in exchange for a sales commission to the organizations for every click-through purchase.

Using the strong Greek network worked, as he's built GreekGear.com's yearly sales to $1.9 million. In addition, the company recently moved into its own 5,000-square-foot facility, complete with its own screening, embroidery and printing equipment. With success like this, Tantillo's frat brothers should be proud.

If, on the other hand, you hate fraternities and sororities, you'll love reading this:

Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities, Hazing, and Binge Drinking