By Gisela M. Pedroza
The willingness to take calculated risks defines a young entrepreneur, and you've got to believe in what you're doing. It's more than just being successful; it's about loving what you do." So says Richard Johnson, an entrepreneur since the fifth grade. In those early days, Johnson used his allowance to buy toothpicks, which he then dipped in cinnamon oil and sold to his classmates for 5 cents apiece. This taught the young Johnson the value of working hard to get a return on his investments.
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Those early lessons have come in handy in his latest venture, HotJobs.com, an online job-listing site that he founded in 1996 in New York City after spending three years as a headhunter. To get the word out about his business, Johnson invested $1.6 million of his own money in a Super Bowl ad in 1999. The move immediately thrust the company into the media spotlight, attracting not only a flurry of traffic to its site but also the attention of venture capitalists, who invested a total of $165 million. Johnson took the company public six months later. He now oversees a company with 14 offices and 500 employees and expects sales for this year to top $40 million.