From the October 1999 issue of Startups

If you'd love to take some time to be at one with nature but you just can't squeeze a stop-and-smell-the-roses experience into your hectic schedule, give Troy Hemingway a call. The 30-year-old entrepreneur will cater a soup-to-nuts camping expedition for you and your friends. All you have to do is show up.

"From personal experience, I know camping can sometimes be a nightmare, and some people say there's no way they would ever go camping, but this way, they will," says Hemingway, whose San Diego company, Camping Pros, hosts small and large groups at campgrounds throughout Southern California.

Roughing it has never been so easy. Hemingway and his part-time team of five provide all the camping equipment, which they set up and take down for clients. They also prepare three meals a day, do all the cleanup, and arrange games and activities. Clients don't even have to bring pillows or marshmallows: Camping Pros stocks all the extras.

A veteran camper, Hemingway got the idea while working for a company that catered corporate picnics and special events. "I took the skills I learned there and combined them with my hobby," he explains.

Five years ago, Hemingway used $10,000 of his own money to buy tents, sleeping bags and other camping essentials, such as lanterns and flashlights. While continuing to work at his full-time job, he began arranging camping trips for friends. Now he hosts weekend and longer stays for corporate groups, family reunions, birthdays and special retreats for about $89 per night, per person. "Our biggest challenge is tailoring each camp-out to different groups' tastes and personalities," he says.

Although he's a member of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau and sometimes participates in local trade shows, Hemingway believes his best marketing device is his site (http://www.campingpros.com).

Hemingway still works 15 hours a week for FedEx and should gross $30,000 from Camping Pros this year. His next steps include catering camp-outs for families too busy to plan their own trips, and extending the geographic range of the campsites he uses.

Suits Her

An eye for fashion, a knack for closing sales and a strong back have helped 29-year-old Urvi Mehta parlay a $15,000 investment from her father into a $750,000-a-year business in just two years. Busy professional women in New York City who don't have the time or inclination to schlep through department stores searching for power suits count on Mehta's company, Suitable Suits, to help them create an upscale look at discount prices.

Mehta and her two sales associates carefully interview clients about their tastes and sizes, then check the inventory of suits and accessories they've purchased directly from vendors. When a client calls, Mehta selects several outfits from her stock and carries them in a garment bag directly to the client's home or office for inspection. (That's where the strong back comes in.)

The professional wardrobe service is free to her 500 clients--executives at companies like AT&T and CBS. Operating from her New York City office, Mehta profits by marking up the suits she sells--but because overhead is so low, she can afford to sell the suits for 20 to 40 percent less than a department or specialty store would charge.

Thanks to experience won from years working in fashion retailing and design, Mehta makes a sale almost every time. To meet expenses, she must sell 12 to 15 suits per month, but she usually sells far more--between 100 and 120. "I have an eye for what women look for," she says. "I know New Yorkers' tastes and color preferences."

A native of India, Mehta finds the success of Suitable Suits doubly sweet because her previous business, a clothing line with an Indian twist she designed, failed. "It was undercapitalized," she admits. "But that [experience] made me realize that what people really need is personal service." Getting personal has proved so profitable for Mehta that someday, she hopes to expand Suitable Suits to other cities.

Contact Source

Suitable Suits, (212) 382-1767