From the January 1999 issue of Startups

Your best pal just ditched a posh MIS job in favor of offering computer consulting from home, and your cousin started a coffee-bakery. So you're thinking now might be the time to step into your proprietary pants and give it a go. After all, they're doing it--why can't you? Perhaps fear of failure is holding you back.

The pages of this magazine tell copious success stories. But you want to know the nit and grit--the hard truth behind "getting there." Well, we've got what you're looking for. "Real Life" will follow one entrepreneur through his first year of business, for a behind-the-scenes look at the steps to success. This month, we'll reveal the concept he hopes will spark like wildfire. In coming installments, we'll tell you how he started, where he got the money to do it, how he picked a location and the "learning experiences" (as we like to call them) he encounters along the way.

Au Naturel

Meet 31-year-old Scott Fiore, the subject of our yearlong peek into the life of a first-time entrepreneur (a.k.a. our guinea pig). Since high school, when Fiore worked as a pharmacy delivery boy, he's known that trying to alleviate ailments with the right drugs was what he wanted to do. "[In pharmacies], people come in, they're sick, they need help and they [want to know what] you recommend. It puts you in a wonderful position," he says.

Fiore's enthusiasm for helping others continued throughout his education at Rutgers University College of Pharmacy in Piscataway, New Jersey, where he graduated in 1990. He experienced a different side of the industry working for Rosemont Pharmaceutical Corp. in Denver, where he coordinated research and development efforts and formulated new drugs for FDA approval from 1993 through August 1998.

With such a solid resume, the obvious progression was for Fiore to strike out on his own. "I went to pharmacy school thinking that at some point, I [would] open my own pharmacy. That dream was sort of shattered as the [big drugstore] chains got bigger. All the independent pharmacies I'd worked for were starting to do poorly, and the owners started to sell them," he says. The threat of competition may have made him a tad leery, "but it didn't put out the entrepreneurial fire."

So what grand idea has led Fiore to quit a stable pharmaceutical job in hopes of building his own mini-empire? Natural medicine. Those two words virtually took him by storm four years ago when he first heard about the healing power of echinacea. His research revealed that Americans spent $2 billion last year on natural products--an especially impressive figure considering the products aren't covered by most insurance plans.

Fiore has witnessed the herbal craze sweep the country from his current part-time job at Walgreen's drugstore. "I field more questions at the pharmacy about natural medicine and herbs than about prescription medication--a couple hundred a night," he says.

Any good businessperson knows it's wise to capitalize on a trend at the apex of its popularity. But Fiore's niche isn't so much founded on the trend as on his desire to offer customers quality advice from trustworthy authorities. The Herbal Remedy, his business-to-be, will be a natural "pharmacy" equipped with three certified herbalists who can offer extensive patient care and service. Fiore feels his pharmaceutical background and desire to help give him an edge over larger health-food chains that can't lend the same level of expertise and personal service to customers.

But his confidence doesn't blind Fiore to pitfalls he may encounter on the way. Big-name health-food stores in the Denver metro area where he wants to locate have vitamin sections bigger than his proposed store. And though the average pharmacy customer will benefit from his services, nutrition-savvy health-food customers might be a harder sell.

Will this independent herbalist conquer Denver's natural product giants? Find out here, all year long.

Contact Source

The Herbal Remedy, (303) 795-8600, http://www.theherbalremedy.com