From the November 1998 issue of Startups

Professional and college sports teams spend lots of time on the road--but finding hotel accommodations for them isn't always easy. Athletes often have special needs, like large-sized shower stalls and extra-long beds. The presence of zealous fans creates special security concerns, too.

As a former coordinator for sports-related accommodations at the Hyatt Regency Denver hotel, Andrew Lahana, 38, knows how difficult it can be for sports teams to find the proper lodging. This was especially apparent to him during the 1990 Collegiate Final Four basketball playoffs: As he struggled to find accommodations for teams and their staffs in the Denver area, Lahana decided, "There just has to be a more efficient way for teams to decide where to stay."

Now there is: Lahana's annual hotel guide, Sports On The Road, which he launched in 1995 with $50,000 in start-up capital. Hotels nationwide pay to be included in the guide, which tells teams all they need to know to pick the right hotels. Lahana contracted with graphic designers to produce the first edition, then sent free copies to sports teams and sold copies to selected travel agents.

The results have been very positive: The guide is now in its second edition (10,000 guides have been produced so far), and a third edition will be released early next year. Lahana plans to introduce another guide in January, this one for sports-media personnel, and will also launch a Web site for both guides.

Have An Art

It's a common parental dilemma: You want your children to do something besides watch TV after school, but you don't always have the time or energy to provide them with constructive educational activities. But for Deirdre McDonald, 36, a former marketing consultant and a mother of two young boys, this problem was the impetus for a business.

"I wanted to provide wholesome activities for my kids," explains the Wayzata, Minnesota, mom. "I had plenty of ideas [for arts and crafts projects], but I didn't have time to go get the materials."

Realizing other parents probably had the same complaint, McDonald started a "craft of the month club." For $14.95 per shipment (plus $3.50 for shipping and handling), parents receive monthly packages containing supplies and directions for crafts projects, such as scrapbooks, collages and even tie-dyed T-shirts.

In 1996, with $40,000 in start-up capital, McDonald began assembling the packages in her office, advertising through direct mail and by sponsoring local crafts fairs. By the end of 1997 (boosted by strong holiday sales), My Own Mail had quadrupled its customer base.

Note Worthy

Ask Bonnie Schachter what inspired her to create her line of pocket-sized journals, designed for recording personal information like medical histories, and she might describe her need to create order from chaos. "Every time I asked my mom about my health history, it was pure confusion," explains Schachter, 45, owner of Informative Amenities Inc. in Los Angeles. "She never knew where the papers were. I thought if I had this situation, other people probably did, too."

When Schachter began publishing the journals in 1984, they were sold at gift shops and pet stores. Soon, however, she began marketing the journals as advertising specialties that companies can use as promotional premiums. Since start-up, Informative Amenities has sold nearly 3 million journals, and Schachter hopes to reintroduce them to the retail market soon.

Contact Sources

Informative Amenities Inc., (800) 553-3886, n4mative@cyberverse.com

My Own Mail, P.O. Box 31, Wayzata, MN 55391, (888) 757-7363

Sports on the Road, 8174 S. Holly St., #508, Littleton, CO 80122, fax: (303) 740-0375