Company: Gatorz LLC
Year Started: 1988
Start-Up Costs: $75
1997 Projections: $4 million plus
Ken Wilson never used to own sunglasses. Nonetheless, the entrepreneur has built a shining business outfitting others in shades that combine fashion with functionality. "Gatorz is a very innovative company," Wilson says. "We [try] to come out with something that no one else has."
As a former motocross racer, Wilson knows how to stay ahead of the pack. Indeed, the San Diego entrepreneur draws upon his cycling experience to design the sunglasses that attract the core of the company's customer base-motorcyclists and hipsters. Gatorz's claim to fame: Manufacturing its sunglasses out of strong, lightweight aircraft aluminum.
"The only business background I had was selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door," confesses Wilson, who didn't allow his lack of training to stand in the way of his entrepreneurial dream. Now, after nearly a decade in business and more than $15 million in sales, Wilson's future is so bright he's gotta wear-well, you know.