It's true that good things come to those who wait. But it's also true that good things come to those who get up off their duffs and seek out opportunities. The millionaires-by the way, they're all under age 30-we talked to for this piece are evidence enough that a nice balance between patience and enthusiasm is arguably the best formula for business success today, no matter what kind of business you start. (And yes, it's still possible to start a successful dotcom.)
Lara Shriftman, 28
Company: Harrison &
Shriftman, a New York City public relations, special events and
2000 sales: $3 million
2001 projections: $5 million
Even in college, something set Shriftman apart from other students. As her New York University classmates struggled through marketing exams, she hobnobbed backstage at the CFDA (Council on Fashion Designers of America) with Audrey Hepburn and Claudia Schiffer. While other students got wasted at keggers, she hosted dinner parties that landed in W magazine, interned for Perry Ellis, and deftly built relationships with editors, models and key New York image-makers.
Back in 1995, after several fashion editors recommended she start her own company, Shriftman and her current partner, Elizabeth Harrison, rented office space from a friend for $500 a month on 42nd Street and Madison Avenue and launched Harrison & Shriftman. With Gucci Timepieces and Mirabella magazine as initial clients, the partners kept their costs low by handling the little stuff themselves, including stuffing envelopes, ordering supplies and answering the phones. But it was the 1998 grand opening of the Van Damme restaurant-when a Los Angeles agent unexpectedly brought along two of his clients, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon-that really put Harrison & Shriftman on the map for its publicity efforts.
This much is clear: Harrison & Shriftman is not just a PR firm, and it's not the type of company that just sends out a press release or a postcard. When shoe store Jimmy Choo opened in New York City, the partners sent out a chocolate shoe. "We're not just about getting a shoe in a magazine," Shriftman explains. "We're about an overall strategy." She describes the company as a "midsized agency with a boutique sensibility," even though it expanded to offices in Los Angeles in 1999 and, at press time, had plans to hit Miami this month.
With a client list that includes Hugo Boss, Dooney & Bourke and Cartier, Shriftman stays on the cutting edge of what's hip in fashion. She also chooses her clients carefully. "I couldn't take on a shoe company that didn't have great shoes," Shriftman says. "I couldn't tell my editors to wear these shoes if I wouldn't wear them [or] if I knew the shoes weren't good. I couldn't take on a line of clothing that's ugly." -Eryn Gable