Sunday, September 10, 2006

How To Convert Multiculturalism To A Cool $1 Million.

John and Cynthia Ham Story

When John and Cynthia Ham were expecting their first child in 1997, they knew they wanted to decorate the baby's room but couldn't find exactly what they were looking for. But when Cynthia saw celebrity mom Holly Robinson Peete in a TV interview talking about the multicultural mural she commissioned for her children's room, inspiration struck. Cynthia also wanted a border on her child's walls that would reflect their African-American heritage.

The Hams hired an artist to make that vision a reality, and when friends and relatives saw the beautiful multicultural border, they all wanted it for their own children. It was then, says Cynthia, that they knew they had a business idea. Cynthia researched the market and found that the leading wall-covering companies weren't interested in the concept. "They said it wouldn't work," she recalls. "And I thought 'How do you know?'"

Armed with passion for their idea, Cynthia, 35, and John, 38, enlisted the help of their friend Steven V. Jones, 36, to get the unique product off the ground. Their first offering was an alphabet border featuring different African-American characters for each letter. Marketing was the next order of business-so they took the product to their college sororities and fraternities and began to spread the word through that network of alumni. They also attended the national Black Expo, a trade show for African-American products and services held by the National Minority Supplier Development Council, to drum up business.

Today, Cultural Hangups, which now includes multicultural wallpaper borders for kids of African-American, Hispanic and Asian descents, can be found on Wal-Mart store shelves in North Carolina and Georgia. Year-end sales are expected to hit $1 million, thanks to a new décor line for teens and the addition of bedding and accessories.

Business As Unusual: My Entrepreneurial Journey, Profits With Principles

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Crazy Motorcycle Jacket Idea Makes Japanese Inventor $1.5 Million Richer.

Kenji Takeuchi Story

Kenji Takeuchi used to drive his car every morning to Mugen Denko, the electrical services company he founded in Nagoya, Japan. One day in 1994, he witnessed a motorcycle accident along the way: The rider flew into the air and landed hard on the ground. Questions flooded Takeuchi's brain: "What if he has a family? How will his wife or girlfriend feel?" And then the one that would preoccupy him for the next decade: "How can I protect someone in a motorcycle crash?"

An airbag on the motorcycle wouldn't do. After all, riders usually fall far from their bikes in a crash. Takeuchi learned that upper-body impacts cause 90 percent of fatalities and serious injuries in traffic accidents, so he thought about sewing an airbag into a motorcycle jacket. But how to make it inflate before the rider hits the pavement?

While he was pondering that challenge, a friend invited him to go scuba diving. Takeuchi declined, but he noticed his friend's unusual vest. It had a key ring that, when pulled, would cause an emergency buoy to inflate and rise to the surface.

Takeuchi's company built its first prototype jacket in 1996. Like eventual production versions, it had an airbag inside that inflated automatically when a pin connecting the jacket to the bike was forcefully pulled from its socket. (A one-touch release button allows riders to get off their bikes without inflating the bags.) But when Takeuchi took his invention to motorcycle shows in Tokyo and Osaka, bike manufacturers shunned him. "They thought the jacket would remind people that riding a motorcycle was dangerous," he says.

Undeterred, Takeuchi began selling the jackets in Japan in 1999 under the name Eggparka; in 2001 he relaunched the brand as Hit-Air. Today, Mugen Denko sells 16 styles of airbag-equipped motorcycle jackets and vests for about $270 apiece in Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America. (Product liability laws have been an obstacle in the United States.) In 2003 the police department of Japan's Ibaragi Prefecture adopted Hit-Air vests for its motorcycle force, and Brazilian motorcyclist Jean De Azevedo, who finished seventh in the 2005 Paris-Dakar Rally, had a Hit-Air jacket custom-made for the race.

Total revenues from Hit-Air products reached about $1.5 million in 2005, and Takeuchi says his interest in safety products hasn't let up: He's currently working on extra protection for people on bicycles, skis, and skates, as well as for medical rescue personnel. But he's proudest of the testimonials he's received from Hit-Air buyers. As one happy Japanese customer reports, "I should be dead."

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

Friday, September 08, 2006

Peer To Peer Fundraising

Louis Helm Story

Like most college students, Louis Helm had a cash-flow problem. He had come up with an idea for a new digital-music distribution service, but he couldn't get the money to launch it. Which gave him an even better idea.

In early 2005, Helm launched, a for-profit website that lets anyone raise money for anything--to make a movie, organize a concert, start a company, or plan a high school reunion. Users can solicit donations from friends, family, or strangers while offering donors a credit in the film, a copy of the album, or tickets to the event they helped finance. Fund-raisers simply create a page explaining how much they need, by when, and for what, and start accepting pledges. If the desired amount is raised by the deadline, Fundable collects the money and forwards it to the fund-raiser, minus Fundable's 10 percent cut. If the total isn't reached, nobody has to cough up the cash.

So far, a Miss Sun Fun USA winner used Fundable to raise $800 for a pageant gown, friends collected $1,200 for a Cayman Islands dive trip, and some open-source programmers fetched $2,300 to upgrade their e-mail management application. In the biggest Fundable campaign to date, residents of a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans neighborhood raised $9,260 to buy a newspaper ad demanding better flood protection. "I knew from experience that there was a need for something like Fundable," says Helm, 24, "but I never predicted the diversity of need."

In fact, Fundable seems like the natural consequence of two important trends: the popularity of social-networking sites and the growth of online fund-raising, which generated roughly $3 billion for nonprofits in 2004, according to consulting firm Kintera.

Preventing scams could be a challenge, to be sure. But Helm notes that most campaigns involve donors and organizers who know each other, and donors can always take steps to verify that organizers are legit.

Helm says Fundable has collected nearly $70,000 in donations so far, despite an average gift size of less than $30. He and co-founder John Pratt attracted users through little more than word of mouth and paid Fundable's $8,000 startup expenses out of their own pockets. Of course, if they need to raise more capital, they probably know where to turn.

Effective Fundraising For Nonprofits: Real World Strategies That Work

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How Scratched CD Made One Man Multimillionaire

Joe Born Story

As an engineering graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin in 1992, Joe Born loved the Clint Black album Killin' Time--but the CD had become scratched, causing it to skip during the song "A Better Man." Born says, "It was like having a stone in my shoe."

While pursuing his master's degree, Born worked part-time at an auto body shop. One day, while trying out an industrial paint buffer, he wondered if the same machine could be used to smooth out the scratches that had ruined the Clint Black CD.

After all, he knew that CDs are made of the same plastic as eye-glasses--polycarbonate--and that eye-glasses can be buffed. He also knew that the data on a CD resides beneath the outer plastic layer, so the music would be safe. After polishing the damaged CD with the car buffer, he popped it into a boom box, and "A Better Man" played flawlessly. Born received a patent for the idea in 1995.

The Payoff: With investments from friends and family, Born spent almost four years perfecting his invention. (An early prototype actually scratched discs while buffing them.) Just after winning the patent, he founded Digital Innovations, in Arlington Heights, Ill., and in 1999 the company released SkipDr, a $30 disc-repair unit that is now available at retailers such as Best Buy, Radio Shack, and Wal-Mart. Today, Digital Innovations markets 50 products that repair and clean CDs, DVDs, videogames, and office equipment. According to the privately held company, 2005 sales were about $25 million.

From Idea to Profit: How to Market Innovative Products and Services

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How To Make Money From Head Bands

Vincent E. Norment Story

There's nothing like a headband soaked with sweat and falling into your eyes to get you off your game. At least that's what Vincent E. Norment thought as he watched a professional basketball game. He saw the players struggling with their athletic headbands and wondered if there was a better way.

Norment, 42, believed a thick strap across the top of the headband, made with the same superabsorbent material as the rest, would not only absorb more of an athlete's sweat, but also stay in place. With a background in sports-related products, he approached headband manufacturers to drum up interest. "They looked at the product and said it wouldn't work," he says. "I didn't let that stop me."

A patent search found nothing similar on the market, so Norment immediately patented his idea for DBands under his DApparel Inc. moniker. He'd been around the sports market long enough to know that the key to success with an athletic-themed product is to get it into the hands (or in this case, on the heads) of professional athletes, so Norment promoted DBands during the three-point shooting contest at the 2003 March Madness collegiate basketball playoffs. After asking athletes for their opinions, he persuaded one player to wear the headband on ESPN. Thanks to the exposure, Norment landed endorsements from professional players-Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers and Brad Miller of the Sacramento Kings, to name a few.

With the $9.99 to $14.99 product coming to sporting goods stores like The Athlete's Foot and Foot Locker, Norment expects to sell between 50,000 and 100,000 DBands by the end of the year. His ultimate goal is to make the DApparel brand a household name-one head at a time.

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

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Ink Refils Millionaire

Dan White Story

Four years ago, Dan White, a naturalist, decided that he wanted to start a company that helped the environment. He founded Rapid Refill Ink, in Springfield, Ore., which remanufactures and sells inkjet and laser toner cartridges at a 40% to 70% savings to consumers.

"There are 1 billion cartridges in landfills," he says. "We can refill one cartridge over 20 times— that's a huge environmental savings." Today the company has expanded to include 70 stores and an additional 300 franchise contracts nationwide.

In addition to creating an environmentally friendly product, White went even further, making sure the stores themselves were made of repurposed materials. Rapid Refill's walls are made of corn stalks, the marble-looking countertops are made of sunflower seed shells, and the carpets are composed of recycled materials like milk cartons.

"There are so many products generated in our culture," says the Green MBA's Stayton. "Consumers are encouraged to purchase more and more, but what happens to all those products? Without being mindful of the final destination, we are going to end up with a world full of junk. We need companies that are creative and innovative and will take products out of the waste stream and turn them into something new." In doing so, they prove that one man's garbage can be an entrepreneur's goldmine.

101 Small Business Ideas for Under $5000

Monday, September 04, 2006

How To Make Money From Old Tires.

Lindsay Smith Story

It is estimated that America produces about 380 million tons of waste a year. This also generates a number of harmful gasses and emissions into the atmosphere and maintains the nation's dependence on landfills. Entrepreneurs who have taken to creating businesses based on the trash of others are not only launching new livelihoods but giving a second life to discarded rubbish while helping the environment.

In 2001, outraged at seeing 26 trees marked for destruction in her Gardena (Calif.) neighborhood because their growth was damaging area sidewalks, Lindsay Smith, a Hollywood screenwriter, unwittingly became an activist and an entrepreneur, soon launching Rubbersidewalks. "These were healthy, mature trees that were being destroyed because the city couldn't afford to repair the broken sidewalks," she says. "We weren't even given the opportunity to weigh in on the choice."

Smith went into action. "It turns out this was a really big problem," she says. And not just in her neighborhood. According to Rubbersidewalks, 330,000 miles of U.S. sidewalks are damaged annually. Moreover, many municipalities simply cut down the trees because it has become too costly to constantly repair the sidewalks.

After doing some investigating, Smith got a grant from the state of California to do research on using rubber pavers as a substitute for concrete sidewalks. Smith spent two years in R&D, eventually coming up with a product made entirely of recycled rubber tires.

The pre-molded, prefabricated rubber squares are cut to fit and are installed over a layer of crushed granite. Interlocking dowels connect the pavers. For repairs, individual pavers can be unlocked and removed.

Smith's rubber sidewalks created a solution to four problems. First, they reduce the number of tires piling up in dumps—according to the Rubber Manufactures Assn., every year more than 250 million scrap tires are thrown out in the U.S.

Second, using rubber pavers, which are unbreakable, reduces the cost of repairing sidewalks, as well as the number of lawsuits resulting from injuries sustained from people tripping on broken concrete. Rubber sidewalks also help preserve trees, and they don't add to what's called heat-island effect, the increase in urban air and surface temperatures due to pavement, asphalt, and building infrastructures.

According to Smith, Rubbersidewalks have been installed in 60 cities across the country and Canada. She says she's gotten requests from metropolitan centers in Asia, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand as well.

Moreover, Smith says she has heard from senior citizen homes interested in installing rubber sidewalks because they are safer and easier on limbs. "We've had 1,000% growth this year," she says. "We will have more growth next year—it has skyrocketed."

Cash for Your Trash: Scrap Recycling in America

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Garbage To Gold

Eli Reich Story

Two years ago, Eli Reich was a mechanical engineer consultant for a Seattle wind energy company when his messenger bag was stolen. The environmentally conscious Reich, who rode his bike to work every day, decided that instead of buying a new one, he would simply fashion another bag out of used bicycle-tire inner tubes that were lying around his house.

Soon compliments on his sturdy black handmade messenger bag turned into requests. "That was the catalyst," says Reich, who obtained a business license, gave up his day job, and quickly launched Alchemy Goods in the basement of his apartment building. The company's motto: "Turning useless into useful."

For a slew of new entrepreneurs, garbage is not just a matter of personal opinion, it is, ahem, their business. In other words, they're creating new companies out of other people's junk.

While innovation has always been the entrepreneur's trademark, a growing interest in the green movement is propelling small business owners to create new products and services that also happen to be inventive recycling solutions for the country's vast waste heaps. "The sustainability and restoring of our environment are providing opportunities in many fields of small business," says John Stayton, co-founder and director of the Green MBA program at San Francisco's New College of California.

Reich's Alchemy Goods grew quickly. At the outset, he worked solo, making about 5 to 10 bags a month. Now there are three employees. "In our first year, we probably made about 125 bags," he says, "since last year we've probably made another 1,000."

Initially marketing consisted of word of mouth, and the products were sold on the company's Web site. Today the bags can be found in retail outlets in Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, California, Montana, and two stores in Japan.

And the products, made from materials found at local junkyards and bike shops, have grown, too. Alchemy now offers different styles. The classic messenger bag ($148) and the smaller Haversack bag ($88) are made from recycled inner tubes and seat belts. The Adbag, a $30 tote, is fashioned from old mesh outdoor advertising banners.

Reich says he is looking to broaden his product line and expand his distribution channels. "After we started the company, I didn't see a lot of other recycling products," he says. "I've learned quite a bit about companies taking similar innovative approaches to product design. It's a niche now, but it's a growing field. People are becoming more aware of what products are made of and where they go after they are done owning them."

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Shoestring Millionaires

Michael And Lewis Story

Start-Up Cost: $583

After eight years of working for others-after he'd owned his own business-Michael Lewis got the inspiration to start The car enthusiast had been chatting on a Pontiac Grand Prix community Web site when he met Brian Marks, 28, and the two commiserated about the difficulty of finding specialty car parts. Both had jobs in the tech industry at the time, yet they wanted to launch a Web site to meet car hobbyists' needs. Says Lewis, 42, "We had this idea we could do this with little risk because we could use the Internet as our catalog."

The partners started part time out of their homes-with Lewis in Sammamish, Washington, and Marks in Raleigh, North Carolina. "We didn't even meet until we'd been working together for three months," says Lewis. Their earliest expenses were $55 per month for Web hosting and application fees for the Internet transactions and merchant bank account. To save money, they didn't stock inventory at first, but relied on drop-shipping from vendors instead.

In 1999, Lewis quit his job to devote himself full time to the growing venture; Marks quit his job in 2000 and still resides in North Carolina. Lewis credits outsourcing with keeping overhead low-even today, with sales in the millions, they outsource warehousing, distribution and shipping. "As much as you want to start with $2 million in capital, keep the day job, and get your toes wet," says Lewis. "Learn when the consequences aren't so high."

Start Your Own Automobile Detailing Business

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Brilliant Twist On A Selfstorage Idea

Kim Akhtar Story

Kim Akhtar was a typical new yorker with a typical problem--too little closet space for all her clothing. "I've lived in New York for 20 years," she says. "You're always complaining about space." She knew her predicament was not unique--plenty of professionals and fashionistas have more designer clothes than closet space. Tired of the massive effort it took each year to switch her closet from spring to winter and store her off-season clothes with the local dry cleaner, Akhtar wanted a readily accessible place where she could store her things and keep them in good condition.

Out of that desire, Garde Robe was born. Akhtar, invested nearly $200,000 of her own money into the idea, rented a Tribeca loft and began to market her clothing storage service. For $225 per month, Garde Robe will photograph, catalog and store clothing and accessories for clients ranging from professionals and socialites to celebrities. A few clients even live outside New York but require storage in New York City for business trips. Akhtar modeled her service after that of a concierge--available 24/7, clothes are delivered to a client's home or hotel room in Manhattan in 90 minutes or less.

In addition to clothing storage, Akhtar provides each of her 35 clients with a leather-bound catalog of his or her wardrobe as well as a secure online clothing portfolio. Akhtar completes the service with wardrobe and image consulting as well as seamstress and repair services. "We don't like to market it as a luxury," says Akhtar, whose sales are currently in the six figures. "For New Yorkers, it's a practical service. We're offering them extra space in their own homes."

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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

How A Business Started With A Credit Card Got To $25 Million In Annual Sales

Elizabeth Elting And Phil Shawe Story

Right after receiving her MBA, Elizabeth Elting was ready to put it to use. With experience at a translation company, Elting saw a need for a one-stop translation service in the fragmented industry. After teaming up with fellow MBA student Phil Shawe, Elting started TransPerfect Translations with a $5,000 advance on her credit card. Shawe's college dorm room became TransPerfect Translations' office, and they bought a phone line, a fax machine and office supplies, and they rented a computer. Though the partners focused on marketing in the beginning, their material was minimal and inexpensive.

With no full-time employees for the first 18 months of business, Elting and Shawe handled all aspects of the company except for linguistics, for which they hired freelancers. Taking no real salary in the first year, the founders took only what was necessary to cover their rent, reaching sales of $250,000.

Now as one of the top five translation companies worldwide, TransPerfect Translations has evolved from Shawe's dorm room to 19 offices on three continents and now includes a network of 4,000 freelancers. The firm specializes in the finance, pharmaceutical and legal industries and is also the world's largest legal translation company.

With projected sales of $25 million a year, Elting, 37, and Shawe, 34, now have a small staff to help out with TransPerfect Translations' daily operations, but they continue to run lean in order to ensure profitability and reinvestment. "That's the culture of our company," explains Elting. "We're very much focused on making sure we have money before we spend it, so we never have to lay off people." In any language, that translates to success.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Making $700,000 A Year By Letting Customers Design Their Own Jewelry

Lindsay Cain Story

Nothing can take away the glow a woman gets when she sees that perfect piece of jewelry-nothing except for an exorbitant price tag, that is. But when customers come to Lindsay Cain's Femmegems store, they're able to bring in pictures of exquisite designer pieces and replicate them at a fraction of the original cost.

Initially, Cain designed and sold jewelry herself, but this 29-year-old found her niche when she realized that other women not only liked to design their own jewelry, but also enjoyed emulating the jeweled adornments they'd see in fancy, high-end department stores. "They'll come from [the department store] across the street and design a piece like the one they just saw," explains Cain, who offers her patrons a wide selection of semiprecious gems. "People feel the value they're getting."

With her Femmegems idea in mind, Cain went hunting for retail space in New York City's NoLIta neighborhood. After finding the perfect location, Cain opened her store's doors in November 2002, and just six weeks later, the store was featured in an article in the "Style" section of The New York Times.

The resulting business kept Cain and her staff busy for weeks-and even garnered attention from buyers at upscale department store Henri Bendel who asked Cain to open a similar setup in one of their boutiques. Now with two locations, Cain expects about $700,000 in sales this year.

Jewelry Making for Fun & Profit: Make Money Doing What You Love!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

How To Makes $2 Million From College Interns

Jason Engen Story

When Jason Engen was an undergraduate student at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, he and his friends knew the challenges students faced in finding worthwhile internships. So for one of his business classes, Engen wrote a business plan detailing a concept for an internship placement service--one that would interview and screen students and match them with local companies that needed interns. "We hit a nerve in terms of the marketplace and focused 100 percent of our efforts on students," says Engen. "We started a week after we graduated, and it took off."

Still, it wasn't easy to peddle the service to local firms in the beginning. For one thing, it was a challenge to uncover how different companies structured their internship programs and how Engen and his partners could sell their service to these firms. "I don't think we were approaching companies the right way," says Engen. But as he began to spend more time learning about the companies' needs, he felt more confident in selling his service. "It's win-win," he explains. "The student gets the experience, and the company gets eager talent."

The real success came in carving out a niche--Corporate Interns Inc. specializes in placing interns only--so the company doesn't compete directly with large staffing firms. "Specialization is important," says Engen. "You have to stay focused on that niche." Especially when that specialization propels you to $2 million in yearly sales.

Best 109 Internships

Monday, August 28, 2006

How To Make $100 Million Selling Other Peoples Stuff On eBay

Rick And Elise Wetzel Story

It's no secret--eBay has become tremendously popular, and strategically positioned right alongside the world-famous online auction site is eBay drop-off store iSold It LLC. Elise Wetzel and her husband, Rick, founded the Pasadena, California, business in December 2003 and started offering franchises just a few months later. They have already sold more than 800 units and expect 2006 gross sales to exceed $100 million. The numbers speak volumes; their story explains how they did it.

Elise was trying to raise money for her children's school by selling items on eBay when she was struck by what she calls "the big aha!" She had been buying on eBay for years, but soon realized that the process of selling an item was much more complex than buying. So she went in search of a business that would sell merchandise for her. When she came to a dead end, she knew she had stumbled on something big.

Selling other people's secondhand items for a fee is a golden idea with endless potential, but how this husband-and-wife team is managing the company's growth is what landed them on this year's Hot 100 list. Aware that the business could take off if given the chance, they knew when to step aside and pull in outside resources.

"We needed somebody who knew how to run this business at the speed it could run at," explains Rick, 47, who already had extensive franchising experience as the founder of fast-growing pretzel franchise Wetzel's Pretzels. "You have to set your ego aside. It was challenging to sit there and say, 'This is too big for me; we need a stronger team.'"

Rick singled out Ken Sully, former executive vice president of Mail Boxes Etc., for his impressive track record of building solid company infrastructures. Rick brought Sully onboard as iSold It's CEO in 2004. Thanks to this decision, the operation is running at top speed. A complex coding system for the stores is in place, and the build-out of each location is impressively standardized, enabling a store to be installed and set up in a mere 48 hours.

The company continues to grow strong with 3,000 franchise applications flooding in every month and recent international expansion to Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The future promises limitless opportunities, and the Wetzels are ready for it. "We've created this brick-and-mortar interface to the internet," says Elise, 40. "E-commerce will continue to evolve, and I think our stores are in an excellent position to capitalize on that."

The eBay Millionaire: Titanium PowerSeller Secrets for Building a Big Online Business

Sunday, August 27, 2006

From Zero To Twenty Millions In Four Years

Founder Mike Fitzsimmons Story

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

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

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

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 ( 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

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,

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

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

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

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,, 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, 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. 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

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

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 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


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

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

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 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 He had paid $4,200 for, 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. 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

Bigger isn't always better. Just ask Jay Shafer, founder and owner of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company (, 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

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 ( 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