Dan Fleyshman & Edon Moyal, both 25
Who's Your Daddy Inc.
Projected 2006 Sales: $13 million to $15 million
Description: Company that designs and licenses a variety of products under the Who's Your Daddy brand
Teen Spirit: Back in high school, Edon Moyal simply loved to yell "Who's your daddy?" on the football field, at parties and when greeting classmates, but enterprising buddy Dan Fleyshman saw business potential in the popular phrase, suggesting in 1999 that they emblazon it on T-shirts. The venture seemed promising when their first 100 shirts sold out in just hours at school. After graduation, the pals found a manufacturer and set out to get their line carried at major retailers. When a big-time deal fell apart in 2001, Moyal and Fleyshman were forced to halt the business temporarily so they could work to pay back the family and friends who had invested in their idea.
Packing a Punch: In 2002, a bit older and wiser, Moyal and Fleyshman were ready to pursue Who's Your Daddy again--this time with help from a friend's father, who had a background in the apparel business and agreed to come onboard as director of development. He successfully landed their Who's Your Daddy-branded clothing line in Kohl's and Mervyn's stores, and even inked a three-year licensing deal in Europe.
Buzz-Worthy: "We saw [that] the name has much more brand recognition than just apparel," explains Moyal, who oversees in-house licensing of the trademarked Who's Your Daddy brand on hundreds of products ranging from greeting cards to barbecue grill sets. The company's commitment to building brand awareness has the Who's Your Daddy logo popping up just about everywhere--from the logo-wrapped car they sponsored on the Nascar speedway to the phone booths adorned with Who's Your Daddy advertisements in and around Orange County, California. Sponsoring events like car shows and rodeos also helps them promote recognition of the brand.
Branching Out: After a friend suggested they look into the growing energy-beverage market a year ago, the partners' business took a new turn. Moyal and Fleyshman developed a special concoction: a cranberry-pineapple formula that's outsourced to production facilities. Dubbed "King of Energy," the drink, available in grocery and convenience stores nationwide, has since become a major focus of the business. A green tea flavor has even been added to the mix.
Jessica Iclisoy, 39
Beverly Hills, California
Projected 2006 Sales: More than $10 million
Description: Manufacturer of an all-natural line of baby shampoo, lotion and body wash
Mother's Intuition: When she had her first child, Jessica Iclisoy went into full protective mom mode. Like all new moms, she wanted her baby to live in the safest environment possible, so when she discovered some of the questionable ingredients in many mainstream baby toiletry products, she sought healthy alternatives. In 1993, this former fashion buyer began researching ingredients at the local library and canvassing chemists for information. Before long, she was mixing natural ingredients in her kitchen to create her own line of safe, natural and gentle baby-care products.
Natural Order: Getting the industry to listen to her all-natural message was a challenge at first, says Iclisoy. Confident that there were other parents like her who feared the possible dangers of chemical irritants, she marketed her products directly to healthfood stores, explaining to them the benefits of all-natural baby skin care, as well as the dangers of some common product additives. "For the first eight years, my time was spent educating," she says. Her in-store demonstrations and informative Q&As established her as an expert in organic baby products.
Thinking Green: A pioneer in the natural products scene, Iclisoy remains unfazed as she watches giant companies launch their own natural baby product lines. "How we stay competitive is that we stay true to ourselves," she says. "We don't try to run around competing with other people. We are who we are, and we just try to do the best we can." Her line, which is sold online at www.californiababy.com and at Whole Foods and specialty stores around the country, includes the popular staple product California Baby Shampoo & Bodywash, as well as aromatherapy bubble baths with names like Overtired & Cranky and Chamomile & Herbs.
Mommy Talk: This mother of two is particularly keen on the needs of other mothers--especially those whose children fight peanut allergies or skin conditions like eczema. In fact, Iclisoy stopped using nut oils in her products at the request of parents who feared the allergen. Moreover, Iclisoy is routinely asked for her baby-care expertise, a role she gladly accepts. "I'm a mother and I went through everything," says Iclisoy. "[Customers] call us, and sometimes it's just for us to be supportive."
Follow Her Lead: Demonstrating your product in stores will help you educate customers, generate word-of-mouth buzz and establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Loud and Clear: Though Lunden De'Leon doesn't consider herself musically gifted, she's always loved music-from the rock 'n' roll of her youth to her father's gospel band. "The minute I saw my dad onstage and the lives he touched through his music, I knew I wanted to be a part of the music industry," she says. In 2003, with $20,000 cash, some private investors and a business plan, she launched Dirrty Records.
I Love Rock 'n' Roll: Dirrty Records represents artists in a variety of rock genres, including punk, metal and hardcore metal. De'Leon doesn't foresee broadening the record company's genre base but admits she's been pressured to specialize in other markets in the past. "Because I'm African-American, everyone said, 'You should do rap and hip-hop and R&B.'" But De'Leon, who was born in Barbados and raised in South Carolina, stayed true to her passion, finding inspiration in music industry icons like Jimi Hendrix, who also managed to break through racial barriers. Today, some of Dirrty Records' rock projects include The Fades from London, OnOff from Ireland and Athanator from South America.
Words of Wisdom: Despite meeting resistance as a black woman in rock and as a businesswoman in the music industry, De'Leon never let that hinder her on the road to success. "My mom would say, 'Use every stumbling block as a stepping stone,'" she says. "Entering the music industry was a risk, but every obstacle I met I used as a stepping stone." Early on, De'Leon also experienced difficulty in getting investors to believe in her company. Today, that's no longer a problem-and plans for a joint venture with a major record label are in the works.
Follow Her Lead: Persevere when you meet resistance, and learn to turn negatives into positives.
Mike Malin, 36, & Lonnie Moore, 34
The Dolce Group
Projected 2006 Sales: More than $20 million
Description: Sophisticated restaurants and entertainment lounges; restaurant consulting services
Bon App�tit: Good friends Mike Malin and Lonnie Moore, actor and TV executive, respectively, always dreamed of opening a bar together. When both became fed up with the bureaucracy within the TV industry, they decided to take the leap with Belly, a hip tapas lounge and bar in Los Angeles designed to look like the inside of a genie bottle. The success of Belly (which the partners have since sold) inspired them to open additional concept restaurants, each offering world-class cuisine, a sophisticated ambience and a celebrity following.
Sensory Impact: Though their properties are all unique in their own right, the common thread between them is the progressive design, which offers customers a hip and innovative dining experience. "Modern diners want more than just a good plate of food," says Moore. "It's about all the senses being aroused, from the sights and sounds to the sexy DJ spinning." Whether it's a two-story fireplace or a bar with empty bottles encased in flames, each location has something unique to offer. For instance, Geisha House, in Hollywood, features Tokyo street scenes and obscure Japanese movies playing on TV screens, while geishas walk around to interact with diners.
Growing Strong: The partners have eight restaurants in Los Angeles and Atlanta; themes include French, Italian and Japanese. Says Malin, "We filled a few voids we saw missing in L.A. and subsequently realized it could translate across America." Next year, they plan to expand to Dallas, Las Vegas and Orange County, California, with clones of their already established restaurants, and they'll launch an entirely new concept--an upscale adult bowling lounge. They've also added consulting services for would-be restaurateurs.
Lucky Stars: Though they've secured the support of celebrity investors such as Ashton Kutcher, The Dolce Group is about more than having a rich and famous following. "Expanding on a national scale legitimizes us," says Malin. "Our restaurants can stand on their own regardless of whether a hot young celebrity was here last night."
Follow Their Lead: Create a concept so unique, alluring and different from the competition that everyone will want to be a part of the action.