From the December 1998 issue of Startups

Splish, splash--when you're taking a bath, wouldn't it be great to have more fun? That's what Elizabeth O'Dowd, 34, thought. "I have two kids, and every time they take a bath, it's so much more fun for them than it is for an adult," explains the former advertising executive. "They have all these toys, foam and bubbles."

Combine that idea with the growing popularity of aromatherapy bath products, and you have the makings of a business. "I thought it would be wonderful to [combine] aromatherapy with a bath book you could take into the tub," says O'Dowd.

O'Dowd shared her idea with friend Cynthia Good, a journalist, and the partners developed The Floating Bath Books Collection, a line of floating, waterproof books that contain soothing affirmations as well as suggestions for relaxing with aromatherapy. They created four different versions of the bath book--for women, newlyweds, new mothers and people seeking better health--then proposed the idea to Long Street Press.

When Bath Books debuted in March in bookstores, they made an immediate splash--within four months, the partners had sold 20,000 copies.

A Wheel Deal

If you own a car, you know all too well what a headache it can be to choose the right model, bargain with slippery salespeople and maintain the vehicle. Taking these time-consuming chores off people's hands has put Todd Rosenthal, 26, on the road to success with his Sherman Oaks, California, company, Spin Doctors. Using a network of car dealerships and auto-care specialists, his agency finds cars for clients, then arranges the servicing and detailing.

Because Rosenthal's father worked for a company that owned a network of dealerships, Rosenthal knew firsthand about selling cars. Eventually, a friend who owned a business management service suggested Rosenthal turn his expertise into a business.

Since its launch in 1991, Spin Doctors has grown to more than 300 clients--all without advertising. Rosenthal's wealthy clients find out about the company by word-of-mouth.

"I find the best car for them, bring it to their house, and arrange to have it serviced and detailed," says Rosenthal. "My clients never even have to leave their homes."

Fit For Children

Watching TV may keep kids busy and out of trouble after school, but staring at the tube all afternoon won't do much to improve their physical fitness . . . unless the VCR is playing "Chicken Fat: The Youth Fitness Video."

Chicken Fat is the creation of Scott Drayer, 40, a father of two who couldn't help but notice his little daughter mimicking kids she saw exercising on TV. Seeking to encourage her, Drayer went to a video store to look for a children's fitness video but could find very few good ones.

Toying with the idea of making his own children's fitness video, Drayer remembered a song called "Chicken Fat" that was popular during his childhood. Written for the President's Council on Physical Fitness in the 1960s to encourage children to enjoy exercising, the song was distributed to nearly every elementary school in the country. After much effort, Drayer bought the rights to the song, wrote a script around it and invested about $20,000 to have a New Jersey production company produce the video.

Since the video's release in December 1996, nearly 10,000 copies have been sold to schools and libraries, thanks to online bookseller Amazon.com and mail order fitness catalogs. Children and parents alike enjoy the video, says Drayer: "Both the exercise [concept] and the '60s [nostalgia] theme are really popular these days." As for Drayer, he's exercising his product line, too, with plans to make more fitness and educational videos for kids.

Contact Sources

Bath Books, (800) 927-1488, http://www.lspress.com

Chicken Fat Enterprises, P.O. Box 687, Aberdeen, NJ 07747, (800) 631-2187