T. Renee Wilson was only 19 and working as an intern at AT&T when she dreamed up a consulting company that could meet her clients' every technical need, from research to implementation (including Web site design and development of CD-ROMs and DVDs) to eventual follow-up. The business was not to stay a dream for long, however. Wilson started and ran Communications Management Group Inc. (CMG) for six months before letting her parents in on her secret. "I had classes all day [at two Georgia universities], and I worked all night," says the 25-year-old Atlanta entrepreneur. "I remember sleeping for the first time in two days while waiting for my [business cards and brochures] to be printed at Kinko's."
Her determination was boundless: She networked; she cold-called; she did free presentations. People assumed she was in her early 30s when she was just 22-and it helped land clients. Word spread among major corporations that Wilson's firm delivered on its promises, and despite CMG's relatively small size, the big fish bit. "We don't take no for an answer," Wilson says, perhaps unnecessarily. "No is just a second chance to make a better impression."
"It's harder today for a small shop to get large clients," says Andrew Q. Kraft, executive director of the Association for Internet Professionals in Los Angeles. "There is a growing number of established companies, and it's no longer enough for a company to be able to do the technical work. They need someone who can work with clients."
CMG does that and more. "We do a lot of clean-up work and repair," says Wilson, who brings in $5 million a year and projects $95 million for 2000, thanks to the e-commerce addition. "We ask clients not only what they want now, but where they'll be in six months."
CMG now has over 100 employees working in offices nationwide. Wilson's best advice for young entrepreneurs? Do what you say you're going to do.
Total cost: $3,500 to $4,500
What she spent: Wilson already had most of the equipment she needed, and she created her own marketing materials. She spent $3,000 on office space, furniture and phone lines.
For details: Association for Internet Professionals, (877) AIP-0800, www.association.org