From the August 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

You wear your business lunches well-or, at least, now you can. In an innovative twist destined to keep messy eaters from tying themselves into knots of worry, the Dallas-based wholesaler and product manufacturing company Venture Initiatives Inc. is selling a line of "pre-stained" neckties.

Pre-stained neckties? We kid you not. Thankfully, the food stains on these quirky silk ties aren't real-they just appear to be. And with anything from chicken wings and tossed salad to wine and a sampling of desserts adorning your tie of choice, you'll never again need fear the dreaded food slippage.

Retailing for $30 apiece, the Tie Cuisine line (complete with an accompanying recipe packet) is carried by a select number of restaurant chains and hotels nationwide. Tie connoisseurs can also fill up their plates-er, make that closets-by calling Venture Initiatives at (800) 767-3254. Lest you're wondering, these colorful ties can be cleaned. We don't, however, recommend tasting them.-Debra Phillips

All In The Family

Long-lost brothers join forces in business.

Sometimes it's hard to find the right business partner. It took Bob Staneart and Jimmy Niles 28 years to find each other-and they're brothers.

Staneart and Niles are co-founders of computer services company O'Brother Software Inc. in Richmond, Virginia. They're also the youngest boys of eight children in a family that split up in 1963, when Bob was 4 and Jimmy was 2. After their alcoholic parents abandoned them, Bob and Jimmy spent time in children's homes and were eventually adopted into separate families. But they were unaware of each other's existence until their older sister Judy Marcum, who had stayed with their father, helped reunite the family 25 years later.

When they got to talking, the brothers discovered they had a lot in common, including a love of computers. Since both had previously owned software development companies, they decided to start a computer services business together. In 1994, Jimmy moved from Lexington, Kentucky, to Richmond, and O'Brother Software was born.

Does this separated-soon-after-birth tale suggest entrepreneurship runs in families? These brothers think so-and they're not just basing that belief on their own entrepreneurial tale. Five of the eight children in their family own their own businesses.

To what else do the brothers attribute their entrepreneurial tendencies? Bob has a theory: "It could be that because of the hardships, we were forced to be [independent] at an early age."

Maybe. Or perhaps it's in the genes. -Lynn Beresford

Read All About It

What are business owners reading these days? The top 10 business books at press time (based on net sales) were:

1. Success Is a Choice, by Rick Pitino, $25 (Bantam Publishing)

2. Dilbert Future: Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st Century, by Scott Adams, $25 (Harper Business)

3. Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Truth About Wealth in America, by Thomas J. Stanley & William Danko, $22 (Longstreet Press)

4. Stock Market Miracles, by Wade Cook, $24.95 (The Lighthouse Publishing Group)

5. Wall Street Money Machine, by Wade Cook, $24.95 (Midpoint Books)

6. Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You'll Ever Need, by Harvey Mackay, $24.95 (Currency)

7. The Dilbert Principle, by Scott Adams, $20 (Harper Collins)

8. What Color Is Your Parachute-1996, by Richard Nelson Bolles, $14.95 (Ten Speed Press)

9. Financial Accounting: An Introduction to Concepts, Methods & Uses, by Clyde Stickney, $81.25 (Harcourt Brace & Co.)

10. How to Succeed in Business Without Being White: Straight Talk on Making It in America, by Earl G. Graves, $25 (Harper Business)

Good Neighbor Policy

Community banks become friends indeed to neighbors in need.

While community banks are often first to say yes to entrepreneurs in need, these local institutions face an image problem because they are typically the last place business owners look for a loan.

"People look at us as less capable and financially viable than mainstream banks. One reason is we don't have the resources to tell our story,' says Carlton Jenkins, CEO of Los Angeles-based Founders National Bank.

The three entrepreneurs profiled below found that, contrary to their previous beliefs, local banks can provide a financial lifeline.

A Welcome Visitor

In Lodi, New Jersey, Alan Kessinger, owner of Rennie Metal Finishing Inc., discovered that when it comes to banking, bigger is definitely not better. After a major bank bought his local National Community Bank, Kessinger racked up some $4,000 in nonsufficient funds charges.

"We've always had a cash flow problem,' says Kessinger of his 16-year-old company. "National Community knew checks from other companies were valid because we've dealt with the same customers for 15 years." But when the new bank came in, it began holding checks for funds verification.

"Suddenly, [we were] hit with nonsufficient funds charges, even though the money was in the account," says Kessinger. Despite his efforts to work out a solution, nothing changed. Then Frank Cardone walked in.

"We cold-call on small businesses in the area,' explains Cardone, branch manager of Saddle Brook, New Jersey-based Interchange State Bank.

At their initial meeting, Cardone and Kessinger talked about the possibility of making a loan to the company. The result was a $25,000 credit line for Rennie Metal Finishing-and a new customer for Interchange Bank.

Pride And Joy

Rossville Bank's decision to lend $120,000 to Roy's Grill and Restaurant was more than a business consideration; it was a matter of civic pride. The Rossville, Georgia, community of 3,600 has been home to the landmark '50s-style diner for five decades. The eatery changed hands numerous times and finally closed before Harold and Brenda Petty bought it in 1992.

"If we hadn't made the loan, they'd [have] shut down again, and that would have impacted the local economy," explains Rossville Bank's president, Charles Lusk, who says his knowledge of the Pettys' background and their willingness to work hard influenced the loan decision.

"We had a relationship with Rossville Bank through a checking account and knew people [there]," says Harold Petty. Several failed attempts to get a loan from large banks in nearby Chattanooga, Tennessee, led the Pettys to Rossville Bank, which saw the loan as a good deal and put up its money. Now the future looks as bright as the diner's neon sign.

In Character

Los Angeles franchisee Leighton Hull had built a relationship with Founders National Bank, but when he needed $1.5 million to purchase five Denny's restaurants, Hull thought bigger. "[Community banks] aren't known for doing big business deals and aren't the banks franchisors typically recommend," says Hull.

Legal wranglings with another franchise Hull had owned had left him with less than pristine credit, but Founders National Bank looked beyond this when considering the loan.

"Notwithstanding regulatory issues," says Jenkins, "banks have more latitude than people know. We simply exercised it.'

Hull's character was also a mitigating factor in the bank's decision. "Leighton had demonstrated skill and commitment," says Jenkins. "We said 'Here's a guy who's going to be here at the end of the day both for us and other people.' '

And that's what community banking is all about, say the bankers-helping entrepreneurs serve people. Cynthia E. Griffin