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Hook, Line and Sinker

How three entrepreneurs snagged their first clients.

I was between companies, and I started collecting pinball machines. I had a warehouse with 15 of them, and I was taking delivery of another machine when a couple of guys walked by. One of the guys pleaded with me to let him take a look. On his way out, he offered me $5,000 for a Twilight Zone [machine], which was double what I had paid for it. He called the next day, brought his friend and bought three pinball machines for $15,000. That's how we started the business."

--David Young, 45, founder of five-year-old BMI Gaming Inc., a Boca Raton, Florida, arcade and game distributor with annual sales of $8 million

"I moved to New York City and didn't know what I was going to be doing. I hadn't been there a week before I bumped into someone I recognized from Colorado, and she knew I was doing [concierge-type] things for people in Aspen. She said, 'I know someone who needs your assistance while you figure [out what you'll be doing].' So I did a project for him; I coordinated a move. Then he gave my name to somebody else [who] needed help planning a benefit, and she gave my name to somebody else. Then I thought, 'I actually don't need to look for a job. This is a business.'"

--Julie Subotky, 39, founder of 1997 startup Consider It Done, a concierge service in New York City with annual sales of $1 million

"I had an appointment to meet with the owner of a store, and I had an [inflatable] pirate sword, a pirate hook on one of my hands, a pirate hat, an eye patch and a little parrot. I wanted to create a lasting first impression, and they loved it. I was selling a kayaking pirate T-shirt, so even though my attire was a little strange, it made sense for what I was selling. It was the first place I ever went to sell T-shirts, and [the store owner] bought them on the spot."

--Kevin Shane, 26, founder of 2004 startup KO Stogie, maker of the Telmé clothing line in Ewing, New Jersey, with annual sales of $100,000

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This article was originally published in the September 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hook, Line and Sinker.

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