Anne Pawsat-Dressler, 28
HawaiiHideaways, Kula, Hawaii
Projected 2008 sales: $5.4 million
Description: High-end villa rental agency specializing in upscale concierge services
Aloha spirit: All it took was one vacation in Hawaii for Anne Pawsat-Dressler to know she wanted to move there for good. Initially, though, she had a hard time getting used to the laid-back Hawaiian lifestyle. "Everywhere you turn, it's 'Oh, sorry, that's Hawaii style,'" she says. "I could see there was a real lack of high-end services in Hawaii," especially in travel. Pawsat-Dressler sought to change that by launching Hawaii Hideaways in 2004.
Gold standard: Although Pawsat-Dressler already had a handful of clients through previous travel consulting work, she also faced skeptical homeowners who were hesitant to hand their multimillion-dollar estates over to a 24-year-old. "It was [like], 'Here's the challenge: They already think I don't have what it takes, so I've only got one hour to win them over.'" Before long she built up her inventory of rentals and grew her brand as a leading provider of luxury vacations in Hawaii.
Five stars: With five full-time employees, Hawaii Hideaways provides rental properties and 24-hour concierge services, from massages and personalized birthday cakes to luaus and yacht charters. Pawsat-Dressler says her most bizarre request came from a guest from Hong Kong who wanted to bring his own bed. It's this kind of unparalleled customer service that helped her earn CondÃ© Nast's Villa Rental Specialist award in 2006 and 2007. With word-of-mouth as Hawaii Hideaways' main marketing method, the award is helping boost the company's reputation, which is Pawsat-Dressler's core focus right now.
Follow her lead: Pursue your passion and you can achieve your dreams.
What is your secret to success?
Pawsat-Dressler: It's so basic: Answering my phone and always being available and accountable.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
Pawsat-Dressler: Never underestimate the Web. If you have an idea for a business you'd like to start, there's very little overhead related to putting it up on the Web first and seeing what response you get. Do a run-through on the Web, and then tweak your business model after the first trial.
When did you know you'd "made it"?
Pawsat-Dressler: When I got a $110,000 check for my second reservation. I knew that people trusted me with their money and knew I would deliver a good product.
Whatwas the first toy or reward you bought for yourself when you became successful?
Pawsat-Dressler: I bought myself an Audi a month into business.