Owners: David Gamperl, 30, & Mary Gamperl, 28
Year Started: 1995
Start-Up Costs: $250,000
1997 Projections: $3.2 million
Raised on his mother's authentic Italian sauces, David Gamperl never thought of touching bottled sauce. Ironically, the self-described "niche entrepreneur" found the perfect niche . . . in bottled pasta sauces. "I knew Americans weren't eating good Italian foods," says David. "They were eating whatever was on the shelves."
He started his Chicago-based pasta-sauce-of-the-month business with the blessing of his wife, Mary. "Usually I came up with ideas, and she'd say, 'That's OK.' But when she said, 'This might work,' I wrote the business plan."
The idea that hooked Mary was to gain exclusive rights to original recipes from the nation's top Italian restaurants. Each month, they mail two pasta sauces, along with recipes, a newsletter and two packages of imported Italian pasta, to 10,000 hungry subscribers. Within seven years, the couple plans to place their products in grocery stores and open stand-alone eateries. Pasta will be "the hamburger of the '90s," says David, if the Gamperls can help it.