Kelly Flatley, 28, and Brendan Synnott, 29
Bear Naked , Norwalk, Connecticut
Projected 2007 Sales: $50 million
Description: Manufacturer of all-natural granola products
It's All Natural: Childhood friends Kelly Flatley and Brendan Synnott were in between jobs in 2002 when Flatley, ever the health nut, began making all-natural granola in her kitchen and enlisted Synnott to help. "The whole food chain [has become] so processed and filled with artificial ingredients," says Synnott. "[To both of us], it just didn't make sense why you would want to put that in your body, if you are what you eat." Flatley and Synnott each invested $3,500 and moved back in with their parents as they began selling hand-wrapped bags of granola at street fairs.
Healthy Returns: Repeatedly pitching Bear Naked products to local grocer Stew Leonard's yielded no response. Finally, Flatley and Synnott upped the ante: At 7 o'clock one morning, they showed up in matching outfits, armed with granola, yogurt, milk and fruit "[to] bring the buyer breakfast in bed," explains Synnott, "which was so cheesy, but it worked." In fact, when their target buyer wasn't there, they spotted Stew Leonard Jr. walking by. "He [said,] 'Come on in.'" Today, Bear Naked is also sold at Costco, Kroger, Safeway, Target and Whole Foods, and four of its products are sold in Canada.
Food for Thought: Scaling their company upward was challenging. "It was often difficult to maintain the balance between the amount of product our sales team could sell and the amount of product our manufacturing team could produce," says Flatley.
Not wanting to give up their control to investors, they built from within. Says Synnott, "It forced us to ensure that every decision we made yielded value and success for us, even if it was the harder decision."
Follow Their Lead: Do something creative--but still in line with your product philosophy--to distinguish yourself to buyers. --Nichole L. Torres
Herman Flores, 34; Myles Kovacs, 33; and Haythem Haddad, 31
DUB Publishing Inc., City of Industry, California
Projected 2007 Sales: $50 million-plus
Description: Publisher of automotive magazine DUB
Bring on the Bling: In the custom auto industry, the word dub conjures up images of tricked-out cars, big wheels and celebrities. Stars like Shaquille O'Neal and their rides frequently grace DUB's pages, bringing the car culture into the limelight and popularizing the look. "If you had chrome wheels or large rims five to 10 years ago, [people] thought you were a thug or a drug dealer," says Myles Kovacs. These days, auto-makers offer oversize rims as an option for new cars, and the "bad boy" stigma has dissolved into the mainstream.
Driving Force: It was their lifelong obsession with cars and previous work with celebrities at an entertainment magazine that inspired the three friends to borrow $20,000 in 1999 to start the magazine out of their home offices. Since then, they've taken the DUB name and branched out beyond the print publication with custom car shows that have sponsors like Best Buy, Dodge and Pepsi and average 15,000 attendees; three lines of toys; two brands of wheels; a video game; and even a spot on the small screen. "We were fortunate to work with MTV back when we were the first of our kind," Herman Flores says of their experience co-producing a DUB edition of MTV Cribs.
Young and Restless: Success didn't come easy, but Haythem Haddad says that being young and confident took them a long way. "The celebrities, the kinds of cars we have--we all felt it was a strong concept," he says. "We were trailblazers--the first in our industry to profile the content that we have in our magazine." He says being naive and taking risks actually helped push the brand forward.
Follow Their Lead: Use your youth to your advantage by introducing something new into the market. --James Park