From the November 1996 issue of Entrepreneur

Young Millionares: Part I

Can you make a million before you're 40? Meet 45 who did.

Brian Robinson, 28

Company: Advantage Stores Inc.

Year Started: 1995

Start-Up Costs: $350,000

1996 Projections: $18 million

Working for four years as a buyer for a discount store chain, Brian Robinson talked so much about starting his own warehouse club, he had little choice but to put his money where his mouth was.

"There were people I'd promised jobs to, vendors coming to me," says the Farmingdale, New York, entrepreneur. "I was so far into it, I really couldn't turn back."

During his retail buying stint, Robinson paid close attention to people's complaints about other warehouse clubs. Armed with that knowledge and funding from his family, he developed his first Advantage Store accordingly.

How does Advantage lure customers away from the big guys? First of all, it doesn't require them to buy a truckload of toilet paper to save money. "Advantage is smaller than a [typical] club, and you don't have to buy a lot to save a lot," Robinson explains. Advantage also accepts coupons and credit cards, and charges no membership fee.

The formula seems to be working. There are four Advantage Stores on Long Island, New York; another expected to open by year-end; and plans to open four or five more next year.

Mark Lee, 37, & Jeff McCarty, 30

Company:The Original Time Capsule Co.

Year Started:1992

Start-Up Costs:$65,000

1996 Projections:$1.5 million

What was life like the year you were born? Mark Lee (far left) and Jeff McCarty's 4-year-old company has set out to answer that question for thousands of babies. Their Indianapolis business, The Original Time Capsule Co., gives parents the chance to create a time capsule their child can open years from now.

"I thought it would be neat if [people] could have a personal time capsule they could open within their lifetime," says McCarty.

Baby's Time Capsule, which retails for $19.95 to $24.95, includes stationery parents can use to write letters to the child, as well as a book detailing ordinary aspects of life at the time.

The capsules have been such a hit with consumers that the company now also offers Our Wedding Time Capsule. Apparently, when it comes to a smart business idea, there's no time like the present.

Suzanne Lowe, 30

Company: Mizanne Inc.

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $50,000

1996 Projections: $1 million plus

Suzanne lowe knows from personal experience that the sportswear selection for women who golf is sparse. "As far as sportswear markets go, women's golf clothing is one of the most undeveloped," says Lowe, who searched in vain for fashionable golfwear for herself.

While still attending graduate school, Lowe obtained financing and launched her business, Mizanne Inc., to market a stylish alternative for women golfers. Today, the company's tailored, European-styled clothing, designed by Lowe's sister, Alison Smith, and manufactured here in the States, can be purchased at Nordstrom department stores, country clubs and resorts across the nation. The outfits have become so popular, even women who don't play golf are snapping them up.

Today, Lowe, who plans to go international next year, is more likely to be found in her Santa Monica, California, office than on the links. But with sales topping $1 million, she's still in the green.

Audrey Gilbreath, 39

Company: Gilbreath Communications Inc.

Year Started: 1990

Getting the word out has never been a problem for Audrey Gilbreath. After 10 years working in advertising, she'd earned the respect of her clients, many of whom were quick to follow her when she started her own business.

Today, the Houston-based advertising agency is known for its specializations-particularly the African-American market. "I've had a lot of experience in targeting African-Americans," Gilbreath says. "We've developed creative ways of reaching the minority market."

Which is not to say Gilbreath Communications is limited. With plum corporate clients such as Texaco, Shell Oil and Magic Johnson Sony Theaters-as well as plans to create Web sites and supply multimedia services-the 10-employee company may be small, but its founder knows how to think big.

Scott Samet, 28,&Douglas Chu, 28

Company: Taste of Nature Inc.

Year Started: 1992

Start-Up Costs: under $20,000

1996 Projections: $1.5 million

Move over, Milk Duds: There's a slew of healthier treats now showing at movie theater concession stands nationwide. Taste of Nature, developed by Wharton School buddies Scott Samet (above, left) and Douglas Chu, offers such mouth-pleasers as yogurt-covered pretzels, dried fruits and Oriental Party Mix.

To turn their products into feature attractions, they first had to frequent trade shows and make multitudes of sales calls at theaters. Today, the Beverly Hills, California, business' snack bins are found in more than 500 theaters across 45 states.

In 1994, the partners launched a second business: The Monthly Cigar Club mails four premium cigars and a newsletter to more than 1,000 members each month.

Isn't peddling healthy snacks and cigars a contradiction in terms? "Being healthy is something we're conscious of," says Samet, "but we're not fanatics."

Tracy Melton, 28

Company: Melton International Tackle

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $300,000

1996 Projections: $1.5 million plus

How much does Tracy Melton (l.) love fishing? Enough to have spent the night of his college graduation en route to a fishing tournament in Hawaii. Enough to take fishing vacations three to five times every year. And, finally, enough to be lured from working in his father's machine shop into launching a mail order company selling big-game fishing tackle and accessories.

"I [told] my dad I'd be better off doing something I love," says Melton, explaining his rationale for founding Los Alamitos, California, Melton International Tackle. "And I eat, breathe and sleep this stuff."

With help from a friend in the industry, Melton has expanded his catalog to almost 90 pages, packed with more than 3,000 top-of-the-line fishing products. What helps sell the equipment? Undoubtedly, it's Melton's passion for the sport. "Big-game fishing is often referred to as eight hours of boredom mixed with 30 seconds of chaos," he muses. But he wouldn't have it any other way.

Sharon Fisher, 38

Company: Memories Unlimited Inc.

Year Started: 1992

Start-Up Costs: $3,000

1996 Projections: $1 million

Dressing up in a giant crab costume is nothing new for Sharon Fisher-she and her staff once donned said get-ups for purposes of brainstorming. "We got some great ideas out of it," Fisher recalls.

Such is life when you're at the helm of a thriving special events and recreation consulting business that helps companies such as IBM and PepsiCo inject a dose of fun into their workplaces. Fisher's therapeutic tools of choice? Everything from cardboard boat races to building race cars out of fruits and vegetables.

"In their drive for profits and productivity, companies sometimes miss the boat [when it comes to] adding fun," explains Fisher, who got the idea for her company while working as the recreation director for a resort that had numerous corporate clients.

Don't mistake fun for foolishness, however. "It's our games that are silly-not our people," insists Fisher, who estimates her Orlando, Florida-based Memories Unlimited guides some 500 companies through team-building activities each year. Where do we sign up?

Mike Rosen, 38

Company: Mike's Original Inc.

Year Started: 1991

Ben & Jerry's it ain't. It's not Häagen-Dazs, either. And that's just what Mike Rosen wants you to know about his premium cheesecake ice cream: It's nothing like the others.

The idea for Rosen's unique frozen confection was born when his wife, Shelly, made her famous cheesecake and slipped it into the freezer to save for later. Rosen commented, as he had a hundred times before, that "somebody should make an ice cream like this." Then he went ahead and did it himself.

Having worked in sales, Rosen was prepared for the challenge of introducing a new ice cream to a saturated marketplace. And he was so confident it would sell, he and his wife invested their entire savings to launch their Jericho, New York, firm. The risk was worth taking, says Rosen: "I didn't want to look back and wonder what [would have happened if I'd pursued it]. You have to take a shot."

Ray Barnes, 34, & Louise Barnes, 33

Company: Crime Scene Clean-Up

Year Started: 1994

Start-Up Costs: under $10,000

1996 Projections: $1.3 million

Ray Barnes' life changed the moment he arrived at the scene of his grandfather's suicide. "I saw blood and brain matter on the grass," says Barnes. "And I had to decide to do one of two things: turn and walk away or get rid of the mess so my mother and grandmother wouldn't have to see it."

When Barnes chose the latter, he never suspected his decision would foreshadow his future in what he grimly calls "the death business." Working at a funeral parlor, then later as a medical examiner, Ray had to tell families of the deceased that no official agency would clean up the scenes of homicides, suicides and accidents. Rather than subjecting families to it, Ray started what he believes is the first crime-scene cleanup service.

So far, Ray and his wife, Louise, have fielded more than 3,000 calls from people interested in this line of work. While contemplating expansion, the Fallston, Maryland, entrepreneurs are busy enough dealing with the traumas of their jobs, cleaning up everything from car explosions to bus accidents. "I don't enjoy doing it," Ray says, "but I enjoy saving families from having to do it themselves."

Alexander Torimiro, 38

Company: The Torimiro Corp.

Year Started: 1990

As a tea lover adrift in canada, a land of bitter teas, Alexander Torimiro was forced to go to extremes, begging his parents to mail tea from his hometown of Victoria, Cameroon, and even taking his own tea to restaurants. So, when the former chemical engineer decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur, the ideal niche was clear.

From his base in Mississauga, Ontario, Torimiro launched a quest for the perfect tea, which eventually led him right back to Cameroon. "I knew what I liked," says Torimiro. "I wanted to make sure other people would like it, too."

And they do. Despite competition from big names like Tetley and Lipton, Torimiro's Victoria Tea has gained a loyal following. Torimiro plans to expand from limited distribution to full-fledged production via his new manufacturing facility in Harlem, New York, which will employ 120 workers. "When I came to this country, I was helped to get where I am," says Torimiro. "I always felt I had an obligation to help people, too." We'll drink to that.

Scott Dauer, 35; Allen Sutker, 35; Craig Gutmann, 35; & Mark Polinsky, 35

Company: VisionTek

Year Started: 1988

Start-Up Costs: $18,000

1996 Projections: $250 million

Bring together a bunch of buddies to build a business, and it's bound to get a little zany. Just ask Scott Dauer, Allen Sutker, Craig Gutmann and Mark Polinsky (l.-r.). In the start-up years of their company, the childhood pals sent out jelly beans, T-shirts-even complimentary bottles of whiskey-to resellers who placed large orders for their computer chips.

But besides keeping it lively around their Gurnee, Illinois, facility, moves like these helped the entrepreneurs build a roster of loyal customers. "We realized people buy from people, and [our marketing techniques] helped build personal relationships," says Polinsky, VisionTek's CEO.

Why did the four friends decide to start a business? With a memory chip shortage in the market, Sutker's prior sales experience with a computer distributor and Gutmann's strong accounting background, the timing seemed right-sort of. Admits Polinsky, "It really had a lot to do with luck."

Jill Nadine Clements, 36

Company: Nadina's Cremes

Year Started: 1990

Start-Up Costs: $100

1996 Projections: $1 million

Bill nadine clements describes herself as a "modern gypsy." She spent three years as an apprentice potter, living on $4,000 per year and selling body creams at Renaissance Faires. When she started Nadina's Cremes in 1990, Clements combined her two passions, selling all-natural, handmade body cream in unique ceramic jars, both of which she designed herself.

The multipurpose product can be used as a face and body moisturizer, massage cream, suntan lotion, hair conditioner, bath oil . . . the list goes on. Candles, soaps, and "aroma" oil lamps have been added to Nadina's line since 1994.

Clements' business could put the most socially responsible company to shame. Many jars are crafted by local potters, and some of the display racks are made by the developmentally challenged. Plus, a small percentage of profits are donated to charitable causes.

"I want to share the wealth," explains the Baltimore entrepreneur. "My goal is to continue helping people through my products." With the Have A Heart gift basket, she can. A percentage of the baskets' profits are donated to battered women's shelters.

Daniel Grossman, 39

Company: Wild Planet Toys Inc.

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $50,000

1996 Projections: $5 million plus

Educational toys are hot-but that's not why Daniel Grossman started Wild Planet Toys. He simply believed in the idea. "I wasn't interested in making violent or sexist toys," says the San Francisco entrepreneur. "I thought if we could make toys with [educational] value, that would be a great concept."

Grossman headed the international department of a large toy company before striking out on his own; that background was a huge asset in starting Wild Planet, whose toys are now sold in mail order catalogs, specialty toy stores and retailers such as Toys "R" Us.

Perhaps it was Grossman's years in the mainstream toy market that inspired such decidedly non-mainstream playthings as the BugScape, a portable, pocket-sized bug-viewer, and the SuperSonic Ear, a powerful electronic hearing device. What's next on the agenda? A toy called Zolo that's been described by some as Mr. Potato Head on LSD.

Are we having fun yet? The answer is a resounding yes. Grossman's description of the Beast Blaster, a line of foam-rubber snake, squirrel and bat gliders, says it all: "Kids will have so much fun, they'll never know they're learning."

Howard Weinberg, 36, & Bill Chait, 36

Company: Louise's Trattoria Inc.

Year Started: 1985

Start-Up Costs: $125,000

1996 Projections: $29 million

Howard weinberg (above, left) and Bill Chait met in the sandbox at the age of 5; in college, they started a rock concert ticket business; and today, they co-own Louise's Trattoria Inc., a chain of 16 Italian restaurants. Can you say "fate"?

Although they went their separate ways after college, they bumped into each other by chance in 1987, two years after Chait had purchased Louise's Italian Kitchen, a small restaurant in Santa Monica, California. After getting reacquainted, the two decided to go into business together and expand the concept.

Today, 15 Louise's locations in Southern California serve up heaping plates of pasta, pizza and other favorites. They've also begun moving into the Midwest with a location in Milwaukee, which Weinberg says is "a good test market for the Midwest since it's known for being conservative and value-conscious."

Eleven years later, the restaurants are stronger than ever. Says Weinberg, "It's not a common experience for restaurants to survive [that long]." We chalk it up to the food.

Judy Kurman, 33

Company: SubtleCreature Inc.

Year Started: 1985

Start-Up Costs: $2,000

1996 Projections: $1.2 million

Judy kurman attributes her business' success to slow growth and starting small . . . very small. She opened her Philadelphia accessories business on-of all things-her parents' old ping-pong table.

"I started out of my parents' basement to save money," says Kurman. "I set up shop on a ping-pong table because that was the only thing in the studio-besides a couch to take a nap on!"

Not that she took many afternoon snoozes. In a few months, SubtleCreature's costume jewelry began selling in local boutiques and New York department stores. After expanding into France, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia, Kurman moved to Philadelphia's historic district and added sterling silver jewelry and hair accessories to her product line.

There's no stopping this gem of a business: Kurman plans to add a new line of gold jewelry and expand into bridal accessories next year.

Jay Sorensen, 38, & Colleen Sorensen, 39

Company: Java Jacket

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $10,000

1996 Projections: $2 million

Jay sorensen didn't intend to start a business; entrepreneurship simply fell into his lap-literally-after he dropped a too-hot cup of coffee while maneuvering through heavy traffic.

Rather than suing the local coffee chain, Sorensen created the Java Jacket, a recycled-paper jacket that wraps around to-go cups. Java Jackets now happily cling to cups at such well-known chains as Borders Books and Music and The Chesapeake Bagel Bakery.

"We had the idea and weren't sure how to proceed," says Sorensen, who founded Portland, Oregon-based Java Jacket with his wife, Colleen. Sales percolated slowly until the couple attended an annual coffee trade show in Seattle. "Everybody started calling us," says Jay. "It was exciting."

The money isn't all that's exciting; the gratitude is, too. Says Jay: "It's really fun to be in an operation where people send you checks with thank-you notes in them."

Greg Brophy, 33

Company: Shred-it America Inc.

Year Started: 1989

Start-Up Costs: $192,000

1996 Projections: $22 million

Ididn't invent the idea," says Greg Brophy. But the savvy businessman still managed to grow the company he started in 1989 into the largest mobile paper-shredding service in North America, shredding about 1,800 tons of paper every month.

If you find it amazing that simply shredding brings in $22 million a year, let Brophy clue you in: "Companies are worried," he says, citing practices such as "dumpster diving," in which people wade through company dumpsters looking for bank account information, customer lists and other confidential information they use themselves or sell to the highest bidder.

Starting from scraps-er, scratch-Brophy funded the Mississauga, Ontario-based Shred-it with money he'd earned buying and renovating houses in college, and launched the business with just one truck and shredder. "Within three weeks we were so booked, I had to lease another truck," he says proudly.

In 1992, Shred-it began franchising and has continued to expand, with 38 offices in Canada, the United States, Hong Kong and Argentina. And with a goal of $230 million in sales by the year 2000, there's no end in sight for this paper chase.

Andrew Zenoff, 31

Company: Zenoff Products

Year Started: 1995 Start-Up Costs: $12,000

1996 Projections: $1 million

How does a broke, out-of-work actor keep himself from winding up on the streets? By inventing a pillow to help lactating women breast-feed their newborn babies, of course.

An unlikely story? Yes, but a true one for Andrew Zenoff. After 110 auditions-and 109 rejections-in an 18-month period, he had hit rock bottom. Then Zenoff, who had previously studied marketing and entrepreneurship at Babson College in Babson, Massachusetts, met a friend's sister, who'd just given birth to her second child. She told him about the problems women have maintaining correct posture while breast-feeding. "I was determined to come up with a solution," says Zenoff.

With funding from four fellow Babson grads, he designed My BrestFriend, a support pillow that helps breast-feeding mothers-and bottle-feeding fathers-have correct posture.

Available in upscale catalogs as well as baby specialty stores nationwide, My BrestFriend also helps moms in five overseas countries. Although the business is a financial success, the Mill Valley, California, entrepreneur isn't in it for the money. "My hope is to create high-quality products that enhance people's lives," Zenoff says. "The money is just a byproduct."

Peter Kim, 37

Company: Yummy Management Co.

Year Started: 1987

Start-Up Costs: $75,000

1996 Projections: $10 million

He made the rounds as a kicker for the University of Alabama's Crimson Tide and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But when Peter Kim sustained an injury early in his professional football career, he was benched permanently.

Fortunately, the game of Kim's life was just getting started. Returning to his home in Honolulu, Kim kicked off his career as a restaurateur.

The success of his Yummy Korean B-B-Q chain has given Kim the freedom to pursue a slew of other restaurant endeavors-and, most important, to help his family: All six of his sisters own Yummy restaurants. His latest venture, dubbed Bear's Kitchen in honor of his former Alabama coach, Bear Bryant, revamps a local favorite-the traditionally fat-laden plate lunch-into healthy, gourmet fare. "[Bryant] taught us you can't be number one unless you give 100 percent," says Kim. "I don't want anyone leaving my restaurant hungry."

Lisa Gilbert, 34

Company: National Academic & Licensing Study Aids Inc.

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $30,000

1996 Projections: $1 million

When Lisa Gilbert designed her first set of flash cards in 1993, she didn't intend to make inroads in the educational publishing world. She was simply trying to pass the written part of the Architecture Registration Exam.

Gilbert knew she was on to something when she saw how impressed her classmates were with the cards. With money from family to help fund start-up, the Camden, Connecticut, entrepreneur went to work in her living room.

The cards scored such high marks with architecture students that Gilbert set out to prepare students for the mother of all exams: the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Gilbert developed a study program, the SAT I Survival Kit, that includes exam strategies and directions for preparing numerous practice exams using the flash cards.

The company now has its own Web site, and Gilbert hopes to hold essay contests students can enter to compete for scholarship money. "My goal is to continue establishing new products and to be a player in the world of test preparation," she says.

Oh, and in case you're wondering: Yes, Gilbert did pass that architecture exam.

Randy Wachtler, 39

Company: 615 Music Productions Inc.

Year Started: 1984

Start-Up Costs: $30,000

1996 Projections: $1.8 million

Randy Wachtler is the first to admit he's chosen a rather unusual place to locate his business. 615 Music Productions, which produces theme music for TV shows and other programming, is located smack-dab in the middle of a sea of country music labels on Nashville's Music Row. "We've always felt like an island of audio post-production between [country music] record labels," says Wachtler with a laugh.

Yet with an ever-growing pool of talented musicians, composers and sound designers to choose from, the drummer who gave up playing in rock bands to start his own audio production company seems to be playing the right tune. To date, 615 Music Productions has drummed up catchy themes for The Weather Channel, TV network launches of shows like "Frasier" and "Grace Under Fire," and sports teams such as the Chicago Bulls and L.A. Lakers.

Wachtler still spends much of his time in a Music City recording studio. "My first love is music," he says, "so this business is really ideal." We'd have to agree-it seems to be an endeavor he's entirely in harmony with.

Tracy Mikulec, 32; Jacob Knight, 28; & Mike Freihofer, 30

Company: World Oceans Media

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $10,000

1996 Projections: $1.6 million

It started as a pipe dream in Mike Freihofer's kitchen. Now it's a San Clemente, California, publishing house that prints free surfing, volleyball, bodyboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding magazines with a total circulation of 320,000.

How did a trio of surfers with hardly any magazine experience launch five successful publications? Well, for one, they're not just surfers. Tracy Mikulec (l.), World Oceans Media's creative director, is a graphic artist with a background in advertising; Jacob Knight (top) has a degree in finance; and both Knight and Freihofer (r.) have sales experience. In fact, the two worked together at a bike shop before launching Wave Action, the surfing magazine they're best known for.

When they're not out signing major advertisers such as surfwear maker Quiksilver, the partners only occasionally find time to practice what they preach. "That's a common curse," admits Freihofer. "Once you get into the surf industry, you surf less than ever before."

By Janean Chun, Debra Phillips, Heather Page, Lynn Beresford, Holly Celeste Fisk and Charlotte Mulhern

Contact Sources

615 Music Productions Inc., 1030 16th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, (615) 244-6515;

Advantage Stores Inc., 315 Smith St., Farmingdale, NY 11735, (516) 777-1500;

And 1, 919 Conestoga Rd., Rosemont Business Campus, Bldg. 1, #100, Rosemont, PA 19010, (610) 520-2255;

Basic Fun Inc., P.O. Box 847, Hunting-don Valley, PA 19006;

Crime Scene Clean-Up, P.O. Box 209, Fall-ston, MD 21047-0209, fax: (410) 557-0753;

Dary Rees Corp., 20725 N.E. 16th Ave., North Miami Beach, FL 33179, (800) 822-9280;

Fortunately Yours, 495 Vista Dr., Gahanna, OH 43230, (800) 337-1889, (614) 337-1889;

Gilbreath Communications Inc., 16225 Park Ten Pl., #580, Houston, TX 77084, (713) 579-7444;

Java Jacket, 5712 N.E. Hasfalo, Portland, OR 97213, (800) 208-4128;

Louise's Trattoria Inc., 19750 S. Vermont Ave., #220, Torrance, CA 90502, (310) 366-2700;

Magnetic Poetry Inc., P.O. Box 14862, Minneapolis, MN 55414, (800) 720-7269;

Melton International Tackle, 10842 Noel St., #110, Los Alamitos, CA 90720, (714) 826-9591;

Memories Unlimited Inc., 4407 Vine-land Rd., Ste. D-7, Orlando, FL 32811, (407) 872-3838;

Mike's Original Inc., 131 Jericho Tpke., Jericho, NY 11753, (516) 334-8500;

Mizanne Inc., 1721 21st St., Santa Monica, CA 90404, (800) 761-GOLF;

Nadina's Cremes, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., #140, Baltimore, MD 21211, (800) 722-4292, (410) 235-9192;

National Academic & Licensing Study Aids, (800) 411-7314, loop.com/flashpoints;

The Original Time Capsule Co., 5999 Memory Ln., Greenfield, IN 46140;

Peapod LP, 1033 University Pl., #375, Evanston, IL 60201, (800) 5-PEAPOD;

Shred-it America Inc., 2359 Royal Windsor Dr., #15, Mississauga, ON, CAN L5J 1K5, (905) 855-2856;

Spot International, (714) 955-1106, fax: (714) 851-4439;

SubtleCreature Inc., 306 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19106, (215) 627-6059;

Taste of Nature Inc./The Monthly Cigar Club, 400 S. Beverly Dr., #214, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, (800) 89-TASTE;

The Torimiro Corp., 22-4444 Eastgate Pkwy., Mississauga, ON, CAN L4W 4T6, (800) 563-7159;

VisionTek, (800) 726-9695;

Wild Planet Toys Inc., 58 Second St., 3rd Fl., San Francisco, CA 94105, (415) 247-6570;

World Oceans Media, 1625 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, (714) 361-7715;

Yummy Management Co., 1580 Makaloa St., #1000, Honolulu, HI 96822, (808) 941-4588;

Zenoff Products, 157 Lovell Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941, (800) 555-5522, (415) 383-1450.

Part II

Young Millionares: Part II

Can you make a million before you're 40? Meet 45 who did.

Rhonda Lashen, 34

Company: Fortunately Yours

Year Started: 1992

Start-Up Costs: $1,000

1996 Projections: $1 million plus

Fortune cookies are all the same, right? Confucius say, Think again. The fortune cookies made by Rhonda Lashen's Fortunately Yours in Columbus, Ohio, aren't your run-of-the-mill variety-they're full-fledged marketing tools used by a wide range of businesses, including banks, realtors and hotels.

"It's so hard for a business to find that perfect marketing niche nowadays," explains Lashen, who inserts customized messages into her multiflavored fortune cookies. "If you can put a smile on someone's face, that's important."

When Lashen started Fortunately Yours four years ago, she had no idea how important corporate clients would become to her enterprise. After an insurance company ordered her cookies for a marketing promotion, however, Lashen discovered the surest path to her entrepreneurial fortune.

Nonetheless, Lashen still relies on noncorporate clients for one-quarter of company sales. For clients looking for a novel idea, Lashen's giant fortune cookie dipped in chocolate is a popular favorite-big enough to hold anything from car keys to resumes. Still, even a fortune cookie 10 times bigger than the norm isn't big enough to hold everything. "I had someone at Valentine's Day who wanted to put boxer shorts [in the giant cookie]," says Lashen. "They wouldn't fit."

Andrew & Thomas Parkinson, 38, 36

Company: Peapod LP

Year Started: 1989

Start-Up Costs: $50,000

1996 Projections: $30 million

Would having someone to shop for your groceries change your life? That's the claim many customers make after using Peapod, a computer grocery shopping and delivery service started by brothers Andrew and Thomas Parkinson (l.-r.).

After starting their business with the help of venture capital funds, the brothers developed software that allows them to route, bill and process orders economically. Peapod's souped-up system lets consumers save time and shop smarter online by perusing nutrition labels and sorting by fat content, unit price, sales price and more.

Initially doing all the shopping and delivery themselves, the Evanston, Illinois, entrepreneurs now employ more than 600 shoppers and drivers to handle orders from customers in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Columbus, Ohio.

With plans to enter 20 major U.S. cities by the year 2000, the brothers indeed seem to be ready to shop till they drop.

Seth Berger, 29; Jay Gilbert, 29; Tom Austin, 25; Ray Moseley, 33; Bart Houlahan, 28; & Guy Harkless, 28

Company: And 1

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $50,000

1996 Projections: $15 million

It was a failed plan to market a database of basketball enthusiasts to sporting goods manufacturers that led six young men to found And 1, a Philadelphia basketball apparel manufacturer whose shorts, shirts and college-logo wear are sold in sporting goods chains nationwide.

Manufacturers at the National Sporting Goods Association trade show all but laughed at the database idea. But rather than leaving with their tails between their legs, the entrepreneurs used the car trip home to conjure up another idea-their own basketball apparel company with its own mascot, "The Player."

The partners seem oblivious to the fact that six guys with no apparel industry or business experience shouldn't have been able to come so far so fast, making their success look as simple as a slam-dunk is for Shaquille O'Neal.

Next on their roster? A basketball shoe, which will be available nationwide this month. Says Seth Berger (far left), "Wherever there's basketball, we want to be doing it."

Dary Rees, 33

Company: Dary Rees Corp.

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $500

1996 Projections: $3.5 million

Dary rees, like many teens, dreamed of becoming a famous artist. Unlike most, she fostered those dreams in the Israeli army, where she handled Uzis and taught art classes to soldiers. In 1983, Rees took her dreams to New York City- armed with $500 and a will to succeed. She used aluminum foil, wire, and pieces from her necklaces and earrings to create a line of jewelry.

Though rejected by 60 stores, Rees' entire inventory sold out in just a few hours at a Manhattan street fair. "That was the best day of my life," she says. "I got a lot of courage from that."

After her jewelry line started selling well in retail stores, copycat designers began undercutting her prices. Rees bounced back by forming the Dary Rees Corp., leaving jewelry behind in favor of unique home decor accessories, which were snapped up by exclusive stores such as Henri Bendel's, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales. "I had some really low times," says Rees, now living in Miami. "But I always felt I would succeed. And if you have the attitude of a winner, you will always win."

Alan Dorfman, 36

Company: Basic Fun Inc.

Year Started: 1991

Start-Up Costs: $200,000

1996 Projections: $12 million plus

Alan dorfman may have grown up, but he never grew out of an appreciation for novelty toys. "Even as a kid, I'd tinker [with things]," he says, "and it just evolved."

You can say that again. After a brief stint working at a major toy company, Dorfman launched Basic Fun, a Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, company that makes working toy miniatures attached to key chains. Thanks to his efforts, customers nationwide are toying with tiny Magic 8 Balls, Barbie dolls, Etch a Sketches and other childhood icons.

"Part of the beauty of our line is that it has very wide appeal," says Dorfman, who sells his products in toy stores, specialty shops and major discount chains such as Target and Kmart. "Adults like our products as much as children." Apparently, he's not the only one who's still young at heart.

John Bernard, 34

Company: Spot International

Year Started: 1986

Start-Up Costs: $50,000

1996 Projections: $30 million

In a world dictated by what's hip, fashion designer John Bernard maintains a crucial edge. His secret? The former computer company employee is a clotheshorse who combs thrift stores religiously. A fun day, says Bernard, is "finding a vintage shirt from the '50s, tweaking it out, and taking it into the '90s. You make a pattern, put a fabric to it, make a sample, see the end result, and go, 'Wow, that's exactly how I pictured it.' "

Bernard's rise to the top of the competitive sportswear field has been part vision, part fly-by-the-seat-of-his-well-tailored-pants. After making a splash with neon sportswear under his original label, Spot Sport, Bernard began targeting the club scene in 1992. He borrowed the name 26 Red from a racehorse; the attitude came courtesy of MTV. When signature MTV bands like Green Day and Candlebox picked up 26 Red clothes, kids did, too.

The Irvine, California, entrepreneur's newest division, Fivecrown, designs clothes for the coffeehouse set. The line is sold at Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Pacific Sunwear stores.

How does this trendsetter stay one step ahead? "Everything is timing. In the fashion business, when things start erupting, you need to be there," Bernard says. "If you are, you can ride the wave."

Dave Kapell, 34

Company: Magnetic Poetry Inc.

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $100

1996 Projections: $6 million

The way Dave Kapell sees it, his onetime dream of becoming a teacher has come true-sort of. As the founder of Minneapolis-based Magnetic Poetry, Kapell has translated his love of language into a refrigerator magnet kit that enables users to discover the poet within.

Kapell, a part-time songwriter and full-time allergy sufferer, used to cut out and rearrange words to create songs. To keep the tiny scraps of paper from being blown-or sneezed-away, he started pasting them onto magnets. Soon, however, Kapell's secret for thwarting writer's block became a popular party game for friends.

To be or not to be a business owner? That was no longer a question for Kapell once he witnessed the enthusiasm for Magnetic Poetry. Since selling his first kits in 1993, he has gone on to invent a Magnetic Poetry sequel, as well as foreign-language and children's versions. There's also a Magnetic Poetry composition journal, screen saver and (still to come) a book featuring the works of Magnetic Poetry customers. As for more spinoff ideas, Kapell promises, "I've got a million of 'em."

By Janean Chun, Debra Phillips, Heather Page, Lynn Beresford, Holly Celeste Fisk and Charlotte Mulhern

Tracy Melton, 28

Company: Melton International Tackle

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $300,000

1996 Projections: $1.5 million plus

How much does Tracy Melton (l.) love fishing? Enough to have spent the night of his college graduation en route to a fishing tournament in Hawaii. Enough to take fishing vacations three to five times every year. And, finally, enough to be lured from working in his father's machine shop into launching a mail order company selling big-game fishing tackle and accessories.

"I [told] my dad I'd be better off doing something I love," says Melton, explaining his rationale for founding Los Alamitos, California, Melton International Tackle. "And I eat, breathe and sleep this stuff."

With help from a friend in the industry, Melton has expanded his catalog to almost 90 pages, packed with more than 3,000 top-of-the-line fishing products. What helps sell the equipment? Undoubtedly, it's Melton's passion for the sport. "Big-game fishing is often referred to as eight hours of boredom mixed with 30 seconds of chaos," he muses. But he wouldn't have it any other way.

Sharon Fisher, 38

Company: Memories Unlimited Inc.

Year Started: 1992

Start-Up Costs: $3,000

1996 Projections: $1 million

Dressing up in a giant crab costume is nothing new for Sharon Fisher-she and her staff once donned said get-ups for purposes of brainstorming. "We got some great ideas out of it," Fisher recalls.

Such is life when you're at the helm of a thriving special events and recreation consulting business that helps companies such as IBM and PepsiCo inject a dose of fun into their workplaces. Fisher's therapeutic tools of choice? Everything from cardboard boat races to building race cars out of fruits and vegetables.

"In their drive for profits and productivity, companies sometimes miss the boat [when it comes to] adding fun," explains Fisher, who got the idea for her company while working as the recreation director for a resort that had numerous corporate clients.

Don't mistake fun for foolishness, however. "It's our games that are silly-not our people," insists Fisher, who estimates her Orlando, Florida-based Memories Unlimited guides some 500 companies through team-building activities each year. Where do we sign up?

Mike Rosen, 38

Company: Mike's Original Inc.

Year Started: 1991

Ben & Jerry's it ain't. It's not Häagen-Dazs, either. And that's just what Mike Rosen wants you to know about his premium cheesecake ice cream: It's nothing like the others.

The idea for Rosen's unique frozen confection was born when his wife, Shelly, made her famous cheesecake and slipped it into the freezer to save for later. Rosen commented, as he had a hundred times before, that "somebody should make an ice cream like this." Then he went ahead and did it himself.

Having worked in sales, Rosen was prepared for the challenge of introducing a new ice cream to a saturated marketplace. And he was so confident it would sell, he and his wife invested their entire savings to launch their Jericho, New York, firm. The risk was worth taking, says Rosen: "I didn't want to look back and wonder what [would have happened if I'd pursued it]. You have to take a shot."

Contact Sources

615 Music Productions Inc., 1030 16th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, (615) 244-6515;

Advantage Stores Inc., 315 Smith St., Farmingdale, NY 11735, (516) 777-1500;

And 1, 919 Conestoga Rd., Rosemont Business Campus, Bldg. 1, #100, Rosemont, PA 19010, (610) 520-2255;

Basic Fun Inc., P.O. Box 847, Hunting-don Valley, PA 19006;

Crime Scene Clean-Up, P.O. Box 209, Fall-ston, MD 21047-0209, fax: (410) 557-0753;

Dary Rees Corp., 20725 N.E. 16th Ave., North Miami Beach, FL 33179, (800) 822-9280;

Fortunately Yours, 495 Vista Dr., Gahanna, OH 43230, (800) 337-1889, (614) 337-1889;

Gilbreath Communications Inc., 16225 Park Ten Pl., #580, Houston, TX 77084, (713) 579-7444;

Java Jacket, 5712 N.E. Hasfalo, Portland, OR 97213, (800) 208-4128;

Louise's Trattoria Inc., 19750 S. Vermont Ave., #220, Torrance, CA 90502, (310) 366-2700;

Magnetic Poetry Inc., P.O. Box 14862, Minneapolis, MN 55414, (800) 720-7269;

Melton International Tackle, 10842 Noel St., #110, Los Alamitos, CA 90720, (714) 826-9591;

Memories Unlimited Inc., 4407 Vine-land Rd., Ste. D-7, Orlando, FL 32811, (407) 872-3838;

Mike's Original Inc., 131 Jericho Tpke., Jericho, NY 11753, (516) 334-8500;

Mizanne Inc., 1721 21st St., Santa Monica, CA 90404, (800) 761-GOLF;

Nadina's Cremes, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., #140, Baltimore, MD 21211, (800) 722-4292, (410) 235-9192;

National Academic & Licensing Study Aids, (800) 411-7314, loop.com/flashpoints;

The Original Time Capsule Co., 5999 Memory Ln., Greenfield, IN 46140;

Peapod LP, 1033 University Pl., #375, Evanston, IL 60201, (800) 5-PEAPOD;

Shred-it America Inc., 2359 Royal Windsor Dr., #15, Mississauga, ON, CAN L5J 1K5, (905) 855-2856;

Spot International, (714) 955-1106, fax: (714) 851-4439;

SubtleCreature Inc., 306 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19106, (215) 627-6059;

Taste of Nature Inc./The Monthly Cigar Club, 400 S. Beverly Dr., #214, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, (800) 89-TASTE;

The Torimiro Corp., 22-4444 Eastgate Pkwy., Mississauga, ON, CAN L4W 4T6, (800) 563-7159;

VisionTek, (800) 726-9695;

Wild Planet Toys Inc., 58 Second St., 3rd Fl., San Francisco, CA 94105, (415) 247-6570;

World Oceans Media, 1625 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672, (714) 361-7715;

Yummy Management Co., 1580 Makaloa St., #1000, Honolulu, HI 96822, (808) 941-4588;

Zenoff Products, 157 Lovell Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941, (800) 555-5522, (415) 383-1450.

Part III

Young Millionares: Part III

Can you make a million before you're 40? Meet 45 who did.

Ray Barnes, 34, & Louise Barnes, 33

Company: Crime Scene Clean-Up

Year Started: 1994

Start-Up Costs: under $10,000

1996 Projections: $1.3 million

Ray Barnes' life changed the moment he arrived at the scene of his grandfather's suicide. "I saw blood and brain matter on the grass," says Barnes. "And I had to decide to do one of two things: turn and walk away or get rid of the mess so my mother and grandmother wouldn't have to see it."

When Barnes chose the latter, he never suspected his decision would foreshadow his future in what he grimly calls "the death business." Working at a funeral parlor, then later as a medical examiner, Ray had to tell families of the deceased that no official agency would clean up the scenes of homicides, suicides and accidents. Rather than subjecting families to it, Ray started what he believes is the first crime-scene cleanup service.

So far, Ray and his wife, Louise, have fielded more than 3,000 calls from people interested in this line of work. While contemplating expansion, the Fallston, Maryland, entrepreneurs are busy enough dealing with the traumas of their jobs, cleaning up everything from car explosions to bus accidents. "I don't enjoy doing it," Ray says, "but I enjoy saving families from having to do it themselves."

Alexander Torimiro, 38

Company: The Torimiro Corp.

Year Started: 1990

As a tea lover adrift in canada, a land of bitter teas, Alexander Torimiro was forced to go to extremes, begging his parents to mail tea from his hometown of Victoria, Cameroon, and even taking his own tea to restaurants. So, when the former chemical engineer decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur, the ideal niche was clear.

From his base in Mississauga, Ontario, Torimiro launched a quest for the perfect tea, which eventually led him right back to Cameroon. "I knew what I liked," says Torimiro. "I wanted to make sure other people would like it, too."

And they do. Despite competition from big names like Tetley and Lipton, Torimiro's Victoria Tea has gained a loyal following. Torimiro plans to expand from limited distribution to full-fledged production via his new manufacturing facility in Harlem, New York, which will employ 120 workers. "When I came to this country, I was helped to get where I am," says Torimiro. "I always felt I had an obligation to help people, too." We'll drink to that.

Scott Dauer, 35; Allen Sutker, 35; Craig Gutmann, 35; & Mark Polinsky, 35

Company: VisionTek

Year Started: 1988

Start-Up Costs: $18,000

1996 Projections: $250 million

Bring together a bunch of buddies to build a business, and it's bound to get a little zany. Just ask Scott Dauer, Allen Sutker, Craig Gutmann and Mark Polinsky (l.-r.). In the start-up years of their company, the childhood pals sent out jelly beans, T-shirts-even complimentary bottles of whiskey-to resellers who placed large orders for their computer chips.

But besides keeping it lively around their Gurnee, Illinois, facility, moves like these helped the entrepreneurs build a roster of loyal customers. "We realized people buy from people, and [our marketing techniques] helped build personal relationships," says Polinsky, VisionTek's CEO.

Why did the four friends decide to start a business? With a memory chip shortage in the market, Sutker's prior sales experience with a computer distributor and Gutmann's strong accounting background, the timing seemed right-sort of. Admits Polinsky, "It really had a lot to do with luck."

Part IV

Young Millionares: Part IV

Can you make a million before you're 40? Meet 45 who did.

Jill Nadine Clements, 36

Company: Nadina's Cremes

Year Started: 1990

Start-Up Costs: $100

1996 Projections: $1 million

Bill nadine clements describes herself as a "modern gypsy." She spent three years as an apprentice potter, living on $4,000 per year and selling body creams at Renaissance Faires. When she started Nadina's Cremes in 1990, Clements combined her two passions, selling all-natural, handmade body cream in unique ceramic jars, both of which she designed herself.

The multipurpose product can be used as a face and body moisturizer, massage cream, suntan lotion, hair conditioner, bath oil . . . the list goes on. Candles, soaps, and "aroma" oil lamps have been added to Nadina's line since 1994.

Clements' business could put the most socially responsible company to shame. Many jars are crafted by local potters, and some of the display racks are made by the developmentally challenged. Plus, a small percentage of profits are donated to charitable causes.

"I want to share the wealth," explains the Baltimore entrepreneur. "My goal is to continue helping people through my products." With the Have A Heart gift basket, she can. A percentage of the baskets' profits are donated to battered women's shelters.

Daniel Grossman, 39

Company: Wild Planet Toys Inc.

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $50,000

1996 Projections: $5 million plus

Educational toys are hot-but that's not why Daniel Grossman started Wild Planet Toys. He simply believed in the idea. "I wasn't interested in making violent or sexist toys," says the San Francisco entrepreneur. "I thought if we could make toys with [educational] value, that would be a great concept."

Grossman headed the international department of a large toy company before striking out on his own; that background was a huge asset in starting Wild Planet, whose toys are now sold in mail order catalogs, specialty toy stores and retailers such as Toys "R" Us.

Perhaps it was Grossman's years in the mainstream toy market that inspired such decidedly non-mainstream playthings as the BugScape, a portable, pocket-sized bug-viewer, and the SuperSonic Ear, a powerful electronic hearing device. What's next on the agenda? A toy called Zolo that's been described by some as Mr. Potato Head on LSD.

Are we having fun yet? The answer is a resounding yes. Grossman's description of the Beast Blaster, a line of foam-rubber snake, squirrel and bat gliders, says it all: "Kids will have so much fun, they'll never know they're learning."

Howard Weinberg, 36, & Bill Chait, 36

Company: Louise's Trattoria Inc.

Year Started: 1985

Start-Up Costs: $125,000

1996 Projections: $29 million

Howard weinberg (above, left) and Bill Chait met in the sandbox at the age of 5; in college, they started a rock concert ticket business; and today, they co-own Louise's Trattoria Inc., a chain of 16 Italian restaurants. Can you say "fate"?

Although they went their separate ways after college, they bumped into each other by chance in 1987, two years after Chait had purchased Louise's Italian Kitchen, a small restaurant in Santa Monica, California. After getting reacquainted, the two decided to go into business together and expand the concept.

Today, 15 Louise's locations in Southern California serve up heaping plates of pasta, pizza and other favorites. They've also begun moving into the Midwest with a location in Milwaukee, which Weinberg says is "a good test market for the Midwest since it's known for being conservative and value-conscious."

Eleven years later, the restaurants are stronger than ever. Says Weinberg, "It's not a common experience for restaurants to survive [that long]." We chalk it up to the food.

Part V

Young Millionares: Part V

Can you make a million before you're 40? Meet 45 who did.

Judy Kurman, 33

Company: SubtleCreature Inc.

Year Started: 1985

Start-Up Costs: $2,000

1996 Projections: $1.2 million

Judy kurman attributes her business' success to slow growth and starting small . . . very small. She opened her Philadelphia accessories business on-of all things-her parents' old ping-pong table.

"I started out of my parents' basement to save money," says Kurman. "I set up shop on a ping-pong table because that was the only thing in the studio-besides a couch to take a nap on!"

Not that she took many afternoon snoozes. In a few months, SubtleCreature's costume jewelry began selling in local boutiques and New York department stores. After expanding into France, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia, Kurman moved to Philadelphia's historic district and added sterling silver jewelry and hair accessories to her product line.

There's no stopping this gem of a business: Kurman plans to add a new line of gold jewelry and expand into bridal accessories next year.

Jay Sorensen, 38, & Colleen Sorensen, 39

Company: Java Jacket

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $10,000

1996 Projections: $2 million

Jay sorensen didn't intend to start a business; entrepreneurship simply fell into his lap-literally-after he dropped a too-hot cup of coffee while maneuvering through heavy traffic.

Rather than suing the local coffee chain, Sorensen created the Java Jacket, a recycled-paper jacket that wraps around to-go cups. Java Jackets now happily cling to cups at such well-known chains as Borders Books and Music and The Chesapeake Bagel Bakery.

"We had the idea and weren't sure how to proceed," says Sorensen, who founded Portland, Oregon-based Java Jacket with his wife, Colleen. Sales percolated slowly until the couple attended an annual coffee trade show in Seattle. "Everybody started calling us," says Jay. "It was exciting."

The money isn't all that's exciting; the gratitude is, too. Says Jay: "It's really fun to be in an operation where people send you checks with thank-you notes in them."

Greg Brophy, 33

Company: Shred-it America Inc.

Year Started: 1989

Start-Up Costs: $192,000

1996 Projections: $22 million

Ididn't invent the idea," says Greg Brophy. But the savvy businessman still managed to grow the company he started in 1989 into the largest mobile paper-shredding service in North America, shredding about 1,800 tons of paper every month.

If you find it amazing that simply shredding brings in $22 million a year, let Brophy clue you in: "Companies are worried," he says, citing practices such as "dumpster diving," in which people wade through company dumpsters looking for bank account information, customer lists and other confidential information they use themselves or sell to the highest bidder.

Starting from scraps-er, scratch-Brophy funded the Mississauga, Ontario-based Shred-it with money he'd earned buying and renovating houses in college, and launched the business with just one truck and shredder. "Within three weeks we were so booked, I had to lease another truck," he says proudly.

In 1992, Shred-it began franchising and has continued to expand, with 38 offices in Canada, the United States, Hong Kong and Argentina. And with a goal of $230 million in sales by the year 2000, there's no end in sight for this paper chase.

Part VI

Young Millionares: Part VI

Can you make a million before you're 40? Meet 45 who did.

Andrew Zenoff, 31

Company: Zenoff Products

Year Started: 1995 Start-Up Costs: $12,000

1996 Projections: $1 million

How does a broke, out-of-work actor keep himself from winding up on the streets? By inventing a pillow to help lactating women breast-feed their newborn babies, of course.

An unlikely story? Yes, but a true one for Andrew Zenoff. After 110 auditions-and 109 rejections-in an 18-month period, he had hit rock bottom. Then Zenoff, who had previously studied marketing and entrepreneurship at Babson College in Babson, Massachusetts, met a friend's sister, who'd just given birth to her second child. She told him about the problems women have maintaining correct posture while breast-feeding. "I was determined to come up with a solution," says Zenoff.

With funding from four fellow Babson grads, he designed My BrestFriend, a support pillow that helps breast-feeding mothers-and bottle-feeding fathers-have correct posture.

Available in upscale catalogs as well as baby specialty stores nationwide, My BrestFriend also helps moms in five overseas countries. Although the business is a financial success, the Mill Valley, California, entrepreneur isn't in it for the money. "My hope is to create high-quality products that enhance people's lives," Zenoff says. "The money is just a byproduct."

Peter Kim, 37

Company: Yummy Management Co.

Year Started: 1987

Start-Up Costs: $75,000

1996 Projections: $10 million

He made the rounds as a kicker for the University of Alabama's Crimson Tide and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But when Peter Kim sustained an injury early in his professional football career, he was benched permanently.

Fortunately, the game of Kim's life was just getting started. Returning to his home in Honolulu, Kim kicked off his career as a restaurateur.

The success of his Yummy Korean B-B-Q chain has given Kim the freedom to pursue a slew of other restaurant endeavors-and, most important, to help his family: All six of his sisters own Yummy restaurants. His latest venture, dubbed Bear's Kitchen in honor of his former Alabama coach, Bear Bryant, revamps a local favorite-the traditionally fat-laden plate lunch-into healthy, gourmet fare. "[Bryant] taught us you can't be number one unless you give 100 percent," says Kim. "I don't want anyone leaving my restaurant hungry."

Lisa Gilbert, 34

Company: National Academic & Licensing Study Aids Inc.

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $30,000

1996 Projections: $1 million

When Lisa Gilbert designed her first set of flash cards in 1993, she didn't intend to make inroads in the educational publishing world. She was simply trying to pass the written part of the Architecture Registration Exam.

Gilbert knew she was on to something when she saw how impressed her classmates were with the cards. With money from family to help fund start-up, the Camden, Connecticut, entrepreneur went to work in her living room.

The cards scored such high marks with architecture students that Gilbert set out to prepare students for the mother of all exams: the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Gilbert developed a study program, the SAT I Survival Kit, that includes exam strategies and directions for preparing numerous practice exams using the flash cards.

The company now has its own Web site, and Gilbert hopes to hold essay contests students can enter to compete for scholarship money. "My goal is to continue establishing new products and to be a player in the world of test preparation," she says.

Oh, and in case you're wondering: Yes, Gilbert did pass that architecture exam.

Part VII

Young Millionares: Part VII

Can you make a million before you're 40? Meet 45 who did.

Randy Wachtler, 39

Company: 615 Music Productions Inc.

Year Started: 1984

Start-Up Costs: $30,000

1996 Projections: $1.8 million

Randy Wachtler is the first to admit he's chosen a rather unusual place to locate his business. 615 Music Productions, which produces theme music for TV shows and other programming, is located smack-dab in the middle of a sea of country music labels on Nashville's Music Row. "We've always felt like an island of audio post-production between [country music] record labels," says Wachtler with a laugh.

Yet with an ever-growing pool of talented musicians, composers and sound designers to choose from, the drummer who gave up playing in rock bands to start his own audio production company seems to be playing the right tune. To date, 615 Music Productions has drummed up catchy themes for The Weather Channel, TV network launches of shows like "Frasier" and "Grace Under Fire," and sports teams such as the Chicago Bulls and L.A. Lakers.

Wachtler still spends much of his time in a Music City recording studio. "My first love is music," he says, "so this business is really ideal." We'd have to agree-it seems to be an endeavor he's entirely in harmony with.

Tracy Mikulec, 32; Jacob Knight, 28; & Mike Freihofer, 30

Company: World Oceans Media

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $10,000

1996 Projections: $1.6 million

It started as a pipe dream in Mike Freihofer's kitchen. Now it's a San Clemente, California, publishing house that prints free surfing, volleyball, bodyboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding magazines with a total circulation of 320,000.

How did a trio of surfers with hardly any magazine experience launch five successful publications? Well, for one, they're not just surfers. Tracy Mikulec (l.), World Oceans Media's creative director, is a graphic artist with a background in advertising; Jacob Knight (top) has a degree in finance; and both Knight and Freihofer (r.) have sales experience. In fact, the two worked together at a bike shop before launching Wave Action, the surfing magazine they're best known for.

When they're not out signing major advertisers such as surfwear maker Quiksilver, the partners only occasionally find time to practice what they preach. "That's a common curse," admits Freihofer. "Once you get into the surf industry, you surf less than ever before."

Rhonda Lashen, 34

Company: Fortunately Yours

Year Started: 1992

Start-Up Costs: $1,000

1996 Projections: $1 million plus

Fortune cookies are all the same, right? Confucius say, Think again. The fortune cookies made by Rhonda Lashen's Fortunately Yours in Columbus, Ohio, aren't your run-of-the-mill variety-they're full-fledged marketing tools used by a wide range of businesses, including banks, realtors and hotels.

"It's so hard for a business to find that perfect marketing niche nowadays," explains Lashen, who inserts customized messages into her multiflavored fortune cookies. "If you can put a smile on someone's face, that's important."

When Lashen started Fortunately Yours four years ago, she had no idea how important corporate clients would become to her enterprise. After an insurance company ordered her cookies for a marketing promotion, however, Lashen discovered the surest path to her entrepreneurial fortune.

Nonetheless, Lashen still relies on noncorporate clients for one-quarter of company sales. For clients looking for a novel idea, Lashen's giant fortune cookie dipped in chocolate is a popular favorite-big enough to hold anything from car keys to resumes. Still, even a fortune cookie 10 times bigger than the norm isn't big enough to hold everything. "I had someone at Valentine's Day who wanted to put boxer shorts [in the giant cookie]," says Lashen. "They wouldn't fit."

Part VIII

Young Millionares: Part VIII

Can you make a million before you're 40? Meet 45 who did.

Andrew & Thomas Parkinson, 38, 36

Company: Peapod LP

Year Started: 1989

Start-Up Costs: $50,000

1996 Projections: $30 million

Would having someone to shop for your groceries change your life? That's the claim many customers make after using Peapod, a computer grocery shopping and delivery service started by brothers Andrew and Thomas Parkinson (l.-r.).

After starting their business with the help of venture capital funds, the brothers developed software that allows them to route, bill and process orders economically. Peapod's souped-up system lets consumers save time and shop smarter online by perusing nutrition labels and sorting by fat content, unit price, sales price and more.

Initially doing all the shopping and delivery themselves, the Evanston, Illinois, entrepreneurs now employ more than 600 shoppers and drivers to handle orders from customers in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Columbus, Ohio.

With plans to enter 20 major U.S. cities by the year 2000, the brothers indeed seem to be ready to shop till they drop.

Seth Berger, 29; Jay Gilbert, 29; Tom Austin, 25; Ray Moseley, 33; Bart Houlahan, 28; & Guy Harkless, 28

Company: And 1

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $50,000

1996 Projections: $15 million

It was a failed plan to market a database of basketball enthusiasts to sporting goods manufacturers that led six young men to found And 1, a Philadelphia basketball apparel manufacturer whose shorts, shirts and college-logo wear are sold in sporting goods chains nationwide.

Manufacturers at the National Sporting Goods Association trade show all but laughed at the database idea. But rather than leaving with their tails between their legs, the entrepreneurs used the car trip home to conjure up another idea-their own basketball apparel company with its own mascot, "The Player."

The partners seem oblivious to the fact that six guys with no apparel industry or business experience shouldn't have been able to come so far so fast, making their success look as simple as a slam-dunk is for Shaquille O'Neal.

Next on their roster? A basketball shoe, which will be available nationwide this month. Says Seth Berger (far left), "Wherever there's basketball, we want to be doing it."

Dary Rees, 33

Company: Dary Rees Corp.

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $500

1996 Projections: $3.5 million

Dary rees, like many teens, dreamed of becoming a famous artist. Unlike most, she fostered those dreams in the Israeli army, where she handled Uzis and taught art classes to soldiers. In 1983, Rees took her dreams to New York City- armed with $500 and a will to succeed. She used aluminum foil, wire, and pieces from her necklaces and earrings to create a line of jewelry.

Though rejected by 60 stores, Rees' entire inventory sold out in just a few hours at a Manhattan street fair. "That was the best day of my life," she says. "I got a lot of courage from that."

After her jewelry line started selling well in retail stores, copycat designers began undercutting her prices. Rees bounced back by forming the Dary Rees Corp., leaving jewelry behind in favor of unique home decor accessories, which were snapped up by exclusive stores such as Henri Bendel's, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales. "I had some really low times," says Rees, now living in Miami. "But I always felt I would succeed. And if you have the attitude of a winner, you will always win."

Part IX

Young Millionares: Part IX

Can you make a million before you're 40? Meet 45 who did.

Alan Dorfman, 36

Company: Basic Fun Inc.

Year Started: 1991

Start-Up Costs: $200,000

1996 Projections: $12 million plus

Alan dorfman may have grown up, but he never grew out of an appreciation for novelty toys. "Even as a kid, I'd tinker [with things]," he says, "and it just evolved."

You can say that again. After a brief stint working at a major toy company, Dorfman launched Basic Fun, a Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, company that makes working toy miniatures attached to key chains. Thanks to his efforts, customers nationwide are toying with tiny Magic 8 Balls, Barbie dolls, Etch a Sketches and other childhood icons.

"Part of the beauty of our line is that it has very wide appeal," says Dorfman, who sells his products in toy stores, specialty shops and major discount chains such as Target and Kmart. "Adults like our products as much as children." Apparently, he's not the only one who's still young at heart.

John Bernard, 34

Company: Spot International

Year Started: 1986

Start-Up Costs: $50,000

1996 Projections: $30 million

In a world dictated by what's hip, fashion designer John Bernard maintains a crucial edge. His secret? The former computer company employee is a clotheshorse who combs thrift stores religiously. A fun day, says Bernard, is "finding a vintage shirt from the '50s, tweaking it out, and taking it into the '90s. You make a pattern, put a fabric to it, make a sample, see the end result, and go, 'Wow, that's exactly how I pictured it.' "

Bernard's rise to the top of the competitive sportswear field has been part vision, part fly-by-the-seat-of-his-well-tailored-pants. After making a splash with neon sportswear under his original label, Spot Sport, Bernard began targeting the club scene in 1992. He borrowed the name 26 Red from a racehorse; the attitude came courtesy of MTV. When signature MTV bands like Green Day and Candlebox picked up 26 Red clothes, kids did, too.

The Irvine, California, entrepreneur's newest division, Fivecrown, designs clothes for the coffeehouse set. The line is sold at Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Pacific Sunwear stores.

How does this trendsetter stay one step ahead? "Everything is timing. In the fashion business, when things start erupting, you need to be there," Bernard says. "If you are, you can ride the wave."

Dave Kapell, 34

Company: Magnetic Poetry Inc.

Year Started: 1993

Start-Up Costs: $100

1996 Projections: $6 million

The way Dave Kapell sees it, his onetime dream of becoming a teacher has come true-sort of. As the founder of Minneapolis-based Magnetic Poetry, Kapell has translated his love of language into a refrigerator magnet kit that enables users to discover the poet within.

Kapell, a part-time songwriter and full-time allergy sufferer, used to cut out and rearrange words to create songs. To keep the tiny scraps of paper from being blown-or sneezed-away, he started pasting them onto magnets. Soon, however, Kapell's secret for thwarting writer's block became a popular party game for friends.

To be or not to be a business owner? That was no longer a question for Kapell once he witnessed the enthusiasm for Magnetic Poetry. Since selling his first kits in 1993, he has gone on to invent a Magnetic Poetry sequel, as well as foreign-language and children's versions. There's also a Magnetic Poetry composition journal, screen saver and (still to come) a book featuring the works of Magnetic Poetry customers. As for more spinoff ideas, Kapell promises, "I've got a million of 'em."

By Janean Chun, Debra Phillips, Heather Page, Lynn Beresford, Holly Celeste Fisk and Charlotte Mulhern