A Million For Your Thoughts

The Requests Begin . . .

Not that we're ready to shed too many tears for the mere millionaire, but the truth is, the more money an entrepreneur brings in, the more people want a piece of it. "It can be demanding," says Logullo. "We see a lot of cases of successful CEOs who have $10 or $20 million net worth--they're always being asked for something, whether it's personal appearances at an event or charitable contributions."

And it's not just the corporate world that comes running after millionaires; it's also friends and family. Darien Dash is billed by his publicist as "the first African American Internet-made millionaire." If so, he's also the first African American Internet-made millionaire to be hit up for loans by friends and family he probably never knew he had.

Dash, 28, owns Digital Mafia Entertainment, a company with offices in New York City and Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. And while Dash's company sounds like something out of The Firm, one of Digital Mafia Entertainment's missions is to make money in an honorable way: by marketing to minority communities, hoping to narrow the "digital divide" between the poor and the affluent, the have-Nets and the have-nots. So far, it's working. Dash oversees a staff of 35, and his firm, which he started in 1994, made over $1 million last year.

Dash says he's invested wisely, and he's also half-owner of Roc-a-Blok Records, a hip-hop label, which had a recent No. 1 Billboard R&B single with Sporty Thievz' "No Pigeons." The result? A net worth of $14 million.

That news hasn't escaped those close to him. Even Dash, who seems like a decent enough guy, mutters a startled "damn" whenever a friend or family member asks for a sizable loan. "Over the years, it's gone from somebody needing a hundred dollars to a hundred thousand," gulps Dash.

Caren Sinclair knows the feeling well. "There's been a change in my friends," says the 29-year-old entrepreneur, who is worth $3 million and counting, thanks to a business she runs with her mother Isabelle Tate. "They've always known that I've had these goals in my mind," grumbles Caren, "and now that it's actually happened, they've said that I've changed."

And then there are her extended relatives. "Family--they feel, `Okay, you have it, so we have it, too.' And in some instances, that's true, but you don't get something for nothing. And my family has just wanted to be given money. And it's like, `Now wait a minute . . . ' "

Caren Sinclair is doing the last thing you'd think you could make millions doing: She gives swimming lessons to the rich. The very rich. Like Saudi Arabian princes and princesses. And movie stars. While Isabelle, 54, does the bookwork, Caren charges $2,000 for two weeks' worth of 30-minute one-on-one swimming lessons. That alone would be good money for many entrepreneurs, but Sinclair and Tate have made Pasadena, California-based Waterwaves Inc. into a tsunami to be reckoned with.

They also employ lifeguards who work at military bases, hotels, homeowners' associations and private pool parties. Soon, Caren says, their swim company will be expanding into a pool-cleaning service and a pool-safety education center. Also in the works: a Waterwaves University to teach lifeguard training and, in the next three years, a plan to open 38 new swim centers, where children can receive one-on-one lessons from qualified instructors in six states. "I love the Y," says Caren, "but I'm going to take it to the next level."

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the March 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Million For Your Thoughts.

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