"Perseverance is even more important than intelligence," says Stan Katz, a clinical and forensic psychologist in Beverly Hills, California, who notes that many graduate students pass wretchedly difficult courses not because of their brain power, but because of their desire to succeed.
Entrepreneurs, Katz says, need to have the same thirst for success that actors draw on to make it: "Think of your failure as an audition. You have to learn something from it."
That echoes Coffin's point of view. "I could start 10 businesses tomorrow that are related to my business," he says, "and I would probably beat any competitors if they didn't have the experience I did."
In 1999, Coffin realized he had a lot of experience-like being broke, which led to his inspiration for LowerMyBills.Com, a Web site that lets customers find better rates for necessities like telephone service and health insurance. Coffin's Los Angeles company now brings in more than $1 million a month.
"There are a ton of lessons that I got out of the Fashion Reporter experience," Coffin says. "One, you've got to raise a reasonable amount of capital to run your business for at least 12 or 18 months. Second, don't just chase money. Don't just start a business [in order] to have a business. You need passion for what you're doing. Otherwise, you'll end up failing with the financial end, or you'll fail emotionally."
Johnson discovered she had a passion for Pilates, an exercise first developed in the 1920s and recently made fashionable by stars like Julia Roberts. That's right, we have another happy ending. Johnson opened Studio Elle Inc., a Brookline, Massachusetts, Pilates studio, in 1999, with $3,000 in credit cards, a $7,000 bank loan and $10,000 from her mother.
In 2001, Johnson's five-employee enterprise earned $170,000. She's projecting $215,000 this year. And, yes, she has paid back her mother.
"It's scary to think that when you start a business, you won't have a weekly paycheck," says Johnson. "But it's scary to work for somebody else, too. Then they're your only paycheck, and if they go, you're S.O.L."
A paycheck was exactly what Brandt was relying on. In the wake of Cyberpix, he became an employee. But you can't keep an entrepreneur down for long. After a while, Brandt was able to sell the stake he still held in Cyberpix and pay off his debts. With a lifetime of entrepreneurial businesses-from a lemonade stand as a kid to a lawn service in college-paving the way, he was ready to begin again.
Brandt was still working for Network Services Now in 1999, when he created Dallas-based Skywire Ventures within the company. He spun off Skywire in 2001 to become the parent company of Skywire Technology, which invests in new technology businesses. Brandt, now 29, expects his company to make up to $5 million this year.
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.