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Something From Nothing

A look at how life leads to business.

This Life Adventure:
Bill Treasurer, 46, conquered his fear of heights by confronting them. Working as a professional high diver for seven years, he performed more than 1,500 high dives--many of them scaling to over 100 feet.

Inspired This:
Giant Leap Consulting Inc.
Treasurer's Asheville, North Carolina consulting firm focuses on helping people take whatever "high dive" they may be facing. Founded in 2002, it has worked with organizations such as NASA and, in 2008, brought in revenue of $590,000.



This Life Adventure:
Jeff Kelley, now 50, was in Taiwan when he discovered a grass-like carpet lining the bottom of a cab. Kelley bought a piece of that carpet from the driver.

Inspired This:
SanĂ¼k
Kelley's footwear company is as much about funk as function: Just check out its "wire bed" sandal. The Irvine, California-based company was founded in 1997 and reached global sales of $27 million in 2008.



This Life Adventure:

As head of worldwide marketing for the Chambord brand, Rob Cooper, 32, traveled the globe looking for the next innovative flavor to introduce in the U.S.

Inspired This:
St-Germain, Delice de Sureau
An artisanal liqueur made from wild elderflowers, the beverage launched in 2007 and has received multiple industry awards. And it all happened through Cooper's brainchild, Cooper Spirits International LLC, a New York City-based brand development company in the beverage and alcohol industry with projected 2009 sales of about $6 million.



This Life Adventure:

Wooed by a nine-month global courtship, Katy Leakey moved from California to join her now-husband Philip Leakey in his native Kenya in 2001. They lived among the Maasai. But when a severe drought and political upheaval left them supporting 100 families, Katy and Philip, now 54 and 59, respectively, knew that something had to be done.

Inspired This:
Zulugrass jewelry
Made from fibrous, hollow, drought-resistant grass, dyed in a rainbow of colors and strung with hand-blown Czech glass beads, The Leakey Collection is a line of contemporary, eco-chic jewelry designed by Katy and handmade by the Maasai women. The Kenya/Newport Beach, California collection is distributed to over 1,200 retail outlets and projects year-end earnings of $1 million.



This Life Adventure:

At 15, Mark Frobose was staying at a youth hostel in Europe, speaking in broken French with a French musician. Though conversation was limited, they formed a connection. That experience was so powerful that Frobose, now 54, was instilled with a passion for languages.

Inspired This:
Language Dynamics
Frobose developed this line of language courses out of his garage in Danville, Illinois. He built annual sales up to $350,000 before selling the company to Macmillan Audio in 2007.

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This article was originally published in the June 2009 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Something From Nothing.

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