Breaking New Ground

Fast Track

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

Founded: 1997

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."

Contact Sources

Baker & Botts, (214) 953-6665, jmills@bakerbotts.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, jidlewis@pbwt.com

Troutman Sanders LLP, (404) 885-3144, joel.goldman@troutmansanders.com

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This article was originally published in the May 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Breaking New Ground.

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