Name and age: Wyatt Earp IV (yes, he's the third-generation descendant), 35
Company name and description: Burn Out Wear LTD creates high-quality apparel such as T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats bearing authentic rubber tire marks and NASCAR serial numbers used by professional motorsports teams. After ruining many shirts, smashing a mannequin's head (don't ask) and using his mother's couch cushion to test his concept, Earp designed a customized machine to produce the burn-out effect on apparel.
Based: Waterloo, New York
Start-up costs: $100,000
1998 sales: $150,000
1999 projections: $3 million
Yeah, but was it America's Funniest? Earp got the idea for his apparel in 1994 while watching a TV program in which a man shot holes in blue jeans with bird-shot, then sold them for profit. Thinking if someone could sell jeans with holes, he could sell T-shirts with burn-out marks on them, Earp laid shirts in his driveway, then drove over them trying to create the marks. Shirts flew everywhere, and some burned. He decided a special machine was necessary to create the mark.
We're not laughing: "My biggest fear was that people would think my idea was a joke," says Earp. But he's had the last laugh: "To date, not one person has made a negative comment. Everyone I've shown it to says, `Cool.' "
From the driver's seat: "You find out very quickly that you're the only one who really cares about your vision," says Earp. "Go with what you think, and don't listen to others' suggestions."
Baker & Botts, (214) 953-6665, email@example.com
Burn Out Wear LTD, (315) 539-0875, http://www.burnoutwear.com
Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler LLP, 1133 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, firstname.lastname@example.org
Troutman Sanders LLP, (404) 885-3144, email@example.com