From zero to $35 million in three years-can success be much sweeter? If Steve Meltzer, owner & principal, has his way, it will be. "Within the next five years, [the company will be at] more than $100 million," predicts Meltzer, the 41 year-old entrepreneur behind Utopia, a Coconut Creek, Florida, wholesale distributor of perfume, health- and beauty-care products. You can count acquisition and diversifying on his list of goals as well.
From stock clerk to executive to president, Meltzer learned all of the ins and outs of wholesale distribution. "Three years ago, I felt it was time to put my money where my mouth was," recalls Meltzer, who, with COO William Gerber, 34, built accounts with such industry giants as Walgreens, Eckert Drugs, Rite Aid and J.C. Penney, and hit our Hot 100 in 1999 at No. 14, with $18.71 million in sales.
"I look at business as a chess game. You've got to understand what the next three or four moves are going to be," says Meltzer.
Asked about Utopia's greatest accomplishment, Meltzer laughs and answers, "That we made money." But seriously? "The reputation I earned with my customers," he says. "People are calling me instead of me having to call them. When I tell a customer I'm going to do something, I get the job done. My word is everything."
Are You My Mentor?
Fifty-nine percent of our Hot 100 entrepreneurs claim they don't have a mentor. Of the 32 percent who do, 6.4 percent named their dad as a guide; 1.3 percent thanked their moms. Of course, not everyone cited obvious role models-one entrepreneur claimed Tony Robbins was his source of wisdom; another emulated Fred Smith of FedEx. --by Devlin Smith
Entrepreneurs Who Love People
In our first survey, the total number of workers employed by our Hot 100 was 1,095, for an average of 11 employees per company. This year, that total is 3,226 workers-an average of 32 per company. And apparently Hot 100 entrepreneurs expect their people to work a lot, but not quite as much as themselves-employees worked an average of nine hours per day. --by Devlin Smith