From the August 1999 issue of Startups

If Jennifer Floren wasn't voted "Most Likely To Succeed" in high school, she was robbed. She didn't just graduate from Dartmouth College and secure a management consulting job--she left it to start Ivy Productions Inc., an online career resource. Her leap of faith has resulted in 20 valued employees (average age: 251¦2), one snazzy magazine and expected sales of nearly $2 million this year. More impressive is that in her third year of running the Boston company, she remains unjaded, without a hint of Amanda Woodward-esqe cockiness.

"I knew what I was doing wasn't right for me, but I didn't know what was because I [lacked] perspective," says Floren, 27, of her foray into corporate life. Further dispelling that "degree-equals-destiny" myth, the psych major ("It's funny how relevant a major in psychology can be") found much-needed stimulation in a start-up.

Floren's revelation didn't thrill her parents, but optimism prevailed: "My attitude was, I'll give it a year and see how it goes." She raised start-up capital from private investors (nearly $2 million since Ivy's inception) and worked out of her apartment the first four months with a printer/fax/copier "that practically cooked dinner" for her before finding office space.

Ivy's site (http://experienceonline.com) contains extensive information on job hunting, training and professional development, relocation and financial management. More than 140 universities have signed up for "experience on campus," a program giving university students access to Ivy's "insider research" online. Online services include Company Profiles (20 companies of your choice for $20), Career Explorer (assess 20 of today's most popular careers for $20) and Inside Track (insider contacts and info about a company for $20). And now there's experience magazine, to be tested on regional newsstands beginning with the November issue.

Floren believes everyone entering the working world should possess a certain sense of entrepreneurship. "There are so many different ways to find your niche," she says, "you shouldn't ever feel trapped."

Good Sport

With online auctions sparking controversy, you'd think wide-eyed entrepreneurs tempted to jump aboard would hesitate. But if the $5 million in sales Paul Dell, president and CEO of SportingAuction.com, plans to reap this year is any indication, we'd say consumers aren't all that concerned.

Unlike eBay and uBid, this Peterborough, New Hampshire, company is always the merchant, so buyers don't deal with potentially scary sellers requesting personal checks. Credit card information doesn't have to be disclosed online either--phone and fax orders are welcome.

In 1996, Dell, then three years into pursuing his Ph.D. in computer science, found the array of products available on auction sites a "strange mix." Drawing upon his knowledge of sporting goods (his dad owned a bike shop), Dell felt there was a niche for a site selling high-end sports and fitness equipment.

He was right. SportingAuction.com has grown from just snowboards to nearly 200 unique products, bringing in 2,000 visitors each day. This spring, Dell launched an 800-product "new store area" where customers can buy without bidding.

Sales for 1998--the first year Dell devoted himself full time to the site--hit $375,000. Now SportingAuction.com, which has already caused construction efforts in its present office complex, looks toward expansion. Dell, 29, plans to triple his staff over the next three years and increase product count.

As for future online auctioneers, Dell says, "The game's entry price will get higher. I know if, right now, I had this idea and $5,000 to start it, it would be a lot tougher going."

Contact Sources

Ivy Productions Inc.,nsantoro@ivyproductions.com

SportingAuction.com,info@sportingauction.com