The X-Treme Files

The Alternative Scene

The relationship between the leading edge and the bulging middle is uneasy at best. Yet, it may also be a necessary one. If your entrepreneurial goal is to reach a wide market--but your entrepreneurial resources dictate a modest start--homing in on a (potentially alternative) niche may be your best shot. If your demographic allegiance is to the so-called Speed Generation, so much the smarter.

Similarly, entrepreneurs with an edgy perspective don't have to restrict themselves to a small circle of like-minded clients. Tattoo artist Slafter, for example, has won a reputation for innovative, artistic work that makes her popular with the local cognoscenti. But she's also known for working well with the less-than-bold.

"A lot of young girls don't want to go to some big biker guy and expose themselves [in order to get a tattoo]," Slafter explains. "And the pain factor is important to people, too--you don't have to murder them to give them a tattoo." While some in the body art industry are becoming increasingly outrageous--surgically implanting items like BB's under their clients' skin--Slafter sees herself going in the other direction: "We have a nice, comfortable place, with faux finishes on the walls that the artists did themselves and a small art gallery where we feature local work."

Walking the line between hip and hapless takes some maneuvering--and you don't always know which way to lean. When the principals at San Clemente, California-based World Oceans Media--publishers of Launch Wakeboard, Pit Bodyboard and Wave Action Surf magazines--decided to reorganize and launch their own Web site, they chose the URL and changed the company name to e-X Inc. Co-founder Tracy Mikulec, 34, admits to some trepidation about associating the company with the "E-word."

"The word `extreme' does tend to be overused by the mainstream," Mikulec says, "but our main goal is to reach as many people as possible--and the fact is, a lot of people know what `extreme' is."

More important, says Mikulec, who founded the business with Jake Knight, 31, is the company's ability to walk the walk--to stay in touch with a demographic that isn't served by more polished, upscale publications. "We're not a big publishing group targeting wealthy, literary people who happen to surf on weekends," Mikulec says. "We're in the [surf] shops, not on newsstands where the mainstream is looking for magazines. Most of our submissions are freelanced, so we get all the young talent to put their own spin on things. We're understaffed, so we do everything ourselves. We get a raw product that doesn't have all the checks and balances associated with bigger publications--and that's good. Being loose has resulted in at least a couple of disasters, but overall, I think it works to our advantage."

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This article was originally published in the March 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The X-Treme Files.

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