From the February 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Like fine wine, Jonas P. Lee's concept of an 800-number delivery service for gift certificates has aged well. In 1992, when Lee first wrote the business plan for 1-800 PRESENT.com while attending Harvard Business School, he thought of it as little more than an idea for a school project. Lee figured someone else might pick up on the idea, because at that time, he didn't have what he calls "the horsepower" to get it done.

In 1997, after stints at a management consulting company and as a manager for a high-tech start-up, Lee finally felt he was ready to give it a go. "I looked at the plan and figured, someone's got to do it, so it might as well be me," recalls Lee, now 32. So he did.

Today, Lee's New York City company, 1-800 PRESENT.com (http://www.1-800PRESENT.com), lets customers purchase gift certificates from more than 30 retailers, restaurants and hotels, including Eddie Bauer, Barnes and Noble, Planet Hollywood and the Ritz Carlton. The certificates are overnighted to the lucky recipient in a velvet jewelry box with satin bow. "It has a lot of bells and whistles around it that make it more of a gift than just an envelope with a piece of paper in it," says Lee, whose company's 1997 sales tripled to more than $3 million in 1998.

"It was difficult getting retailers to believe [in the business] before we actually had it up and running," says Lee. "And then, of course, getting the customers to believe we had the retailers." After signing on a few key chains, however, the rest fell into place. Now the company is constantly adding more companies to its lineup.

"It's fun because you're giving gifts," says Lee. "And the 1-800 PRESENT number really gets stuck in people's heads. I think we have a pretty strong future ahead of us."

Making A Splash

Brand ID equals big business.

After blading in the blazing heat, an incredible thirst hits you. An extreme thirst. What do Xers reach for in this dire situation? If Jamie Humphrey has his way, it'll be H30.

Billing itself as "extreme water," H30 is the first bottled water company to market exclusively to Gen X. "My competition has overlooked a [huge] demographic," says Humphrey, 26, who founded Beckley, West Virginia-based H30 Inc. in 1994. "Everyone was following in Evian's footsteps with the same mountain stream on the bottle."

Humphrey found his niche after looking to the bottled water industry, a fixture in West Virginia's mining communities since the 1950s. By streamlining the bottle and slapping a hyper-colored label on it, H3O has made headway into such grocery chains as Food Lion and Albertson's in 32 states and counting. With meal-replacement beverages and energy drinks in the works, and international markets to conquer, H30 is posed for an extreme increase in its already impressive 1998 sales of more than $2 million.

Leaders Of The New School

Now that Gen Xers are in charge, you can say goodbye to the corporate stereotypes of barking bosses and inflexible upper echelons. Valuing understanding and integrity above supreme power, Xers are proving to be leaders for the new millennium. So which skills do they value most in an ideal leader?

  • Ability to see situations from others' point of view: 94%
  • Getting along well with others: 90%
  • High personal integrity: 85%
  • Empowering/encouraging others to act: 79%
  • Bringing people of different backgrounds together: 77%
  • Setting high standards/holding people to them: 75%
  • Setting a direction/persuading others to follow it: 61%

Source: Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc.

Contact Sources

1-800 PRESENT.COM, (212) 677-8831, http://www.1-800PRESENT.com

H3O Inc., (304) 256-0436, fax: (304) 256-0520