You could say Marko Babic, 31, has surfed his way to success. As a longtime surfer, "I knew the benefits of neoprene and always dreamed of creating a product out of it," says the Santa Monica, California, entrepreneur of the porous fabric used to make wet suits.
The idea for Cellsuits--a line of sporty cellular phone covers--came naturally when Babic found nothing but bulky, boring cellular phone covers when he shopped for one for himself. Curious whether there was a market for his colorful, wet suit-inspired designs, Babic attended a consumer electronics trade show in early 1996 and learned that accessories were becoming an important part of the wireless communications business. He took his ideas to the drawing board, and soon the Flipper (for flip-top phones), the Banana Peel (which peels back to reveal the keypad) and the Joey (a universal pouch) designs were born.
Reaching $1 million plus in sales in its first six months, Babic's company, GoNeo LLC, quickly garnered a worldwide licensing agreement with ocean-activewear giant Body Glove. Babic and his partners, Sebastian Grande, 27, and Jeff Galant, 31, have seen no letup since they left their full-time jobs in late 1996. Says Babic, "The business didn't really [take off] until we quit our jobs and went for it 100 percent." Spoken like a true surfer.