Romantic-Minded Entrepreneur: Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway, 50
Name of Business: WeddingGoddess.com
What the business does: Romance coaching and wedding preparation/officiating. Brockway also has written numerous books, including Wedding Goddess: A Divine Guide to Transforming Wedding Stress into Wedding Bliss
Location: New York City
Employees: 0, unless we count a part-time cyber assistant
There's something about this business: "Since I specialize in marrying couples of different faiths and cultural backgrounds, I feel like a cheerleader for love," Brockway says. "People who are meant to be together are not always from the same religion or culture. I celebrate the common denominator between them--love--and try to help them blend their families and traditions as they blend their lives."
Brockway, who says it's "very happy work," has married hundreds of couples, each with "such unique and amazing stories." She adds that weddings between people of different faiths and cultural backgrounds are touching and often healing for the couples and their families. One of the most memorable weddings for her was marrying a Hindu groom and a Jewish bride in a ceremony that she had written for them that included many rituals from both faiths. "Both of their moms were so religious and so concerned about the marriage," Brockway recalls. "However, when they witnessed the ceremony, they realized the two faiths had many similarities and that this couple had found a way to blend their faiths, their lives, their families."
Romantic-Minded Entrepreneur: Kathy M. Newbern, 51, and J.S. Fletcher, 56
Name of Business: YourNovel.com
What the business does: Writes romance books, starring you, the paying customer, as the intrepid hero or heroine
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Employees: One office manager, who works full-time during their busy seasons and part-time during the down times
There's something about this business: Once upon a time, or more precisely, 15 years ago, Newbern was on a panel at a public relations conference, and the ice-breaker question was, "What would people be surprised to find out about you?" She answered that she had written a yet-to-be published romance novel. Later, at the PR luncheon with her then-boyfriend, Fletcher, accompanying her, Newbern was wistfully asked by a woman at the table, "Wouldn't it be great to read about yourself in one of those romance novels?" Driving home, Fletcher and Newbern looked at each other and said, "You know, we could do that." And they did. Now you can order 21 different books from them.
Customers submit personal details about their lives--everything from occupations, pet names, perfume and so on--and for anywhere from $50 to $120, depending on whether you want a hardcover or paperback, or a photo of you and your beloved on the cover, you and yours can star in a romance novel. Meanwhile, Fletcher and Newbern--whose books are written under the pseudonym, Fletcher Newbern--have been living happily ever after since starting their business. Fletcher has been working on YourNovel.com full-time since 1992, and Newbern has since 2001. And they've long since married. "Writing about love with the one I love and promoting love to the world--what better job descriptions could you ask for?" Newbern says.
Romantic-Minded Entrepreneur: Mary Loomis-Shrier, 40
Name of Business: Trashy.com
What the business does: Sells lingerie, shoes, hosiery and alluring costumes
Location: Los Angeles
Employees: 50, including employees from the company she runs with her husband, Trashy Lingerie
There's something about this business: Surprisingly, Loomis-Shrier's business has nothing to do with sanitation issues, unless you count the fact that what some think is trashy may be another's treasure. Her husband, Mitch Shrier, began Trashy Lingerie in 1974. Eighteen years later, Mitch met Mary, who quickly had ideas for a sister company: Trashy.com. Eventually, the couple married and had a son, and as their small family unit expanded, so did their business.
Mary created Trashy Girls five years ago, which is the entertainment side of their company. "I hire models to do television appearances for us, host massive parties all over the country," she says. "I have my own channel on broadband and cable networks. There is no limit to what you can do with a brand image." But as glamorous or as trashy as her brand's image may seem, Mary concedes that she has plenty in common with other enterprising entrepreneurs: "Beautiful clothes, beautiful models, photo shoots--it's all sexy. But where the real work takes place is downtown L.A. in a 10,000-square-foot warehouse with hand sewers and pattern makers and bolts of fabric, people pulling from bins, and paperwork up to the ceiling, [all] to make sure the customer gets their lingerie on time and is looking great."
Romantic-Minded Entrepreneur: Delmond R. Newton, 33
Name of Business: Fever Beverage International
What the business does: Sells an all-natural libido stimulation beverage and is in the process of marketing the product at nightclubs and other hotspots across the country
Location: West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania
There's something about this business: Just as an apple once fell on another Newton's head and inspired him to come up with the concept of gravity, Delmond Newton had his epiphany when considering all of the energy drinks on the market. What if, he thought, there was a drink to enhance one's sexual energy? Pretty soon, he was contacting an herbalist and looking into creating a beverage and a company around it. Newton relishes his new life. "We live for challenges," he says. "Because we are pioneering a new category, everyone tells us it won't work, and we are constantly proving them wrong." And, of course, we had to ask what Newton tells his friends and family when they ask him about his new business. "Everyone wants to enhance their sex life, but when grandmom asks me," admits Newton, "I just tell her I have a fun company."
Romantic-Minded Entrepreneur: Andrea Miller, 35
Name of Business: Tango
What the business does: Produces a magazine all about romance. Tango's subtitle is, "Smart talk about love."
Location: New York City
Employees: 10 full-time; 15 part-timers
There's something about this business: Miller was reading a book about relationships called Soulmates with her now-fiancé, Sanjay Bhatnagar, when she suddenly had a realization. "This type of smart, practical relationship content would be invaluable to other young, educated professionals," she says. "I knew that creating a multimedia brand, which catered to women who were seeking to build a life with someone--something like Sex and the City meets Oprah--we could become the premier media brand for women 25 to 45." Whether that happens or not, Miller is having the time of her life being immersed in love and relationship issues, and you have to like the title of her magazine. She admits she's always pleased when people she meets suddenly "get" the name. After all, this is a magazine about love, and it takes two to tango.
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.