CollectibleX.com Inc. &
Whimsical Beans Inc.
Michael Podraza just got his driver's license. He won't get a car until the summer, but this little rite of passage means he won't have to ask his mother for anymore rides to the Streamwood, Illinois, office that houses his two companies, CollectibleX.com and Whimsical Beans Inc.
When Podraza was 11, he and his father created CollectibleX.com, a Web site where people can indulge in collectibles like Beanie Babies and Precious Moments. "I wanted to make it easier to buy, sell and trade collectibles without having to go to conventions and shows and phone ordering and things like that," he explains.
Five years in, CollectibleX.com pretty much runs itself. The site employs about 15 people who handle transactions and customer service, and it's rung up about $6 million in sales since its founding.
Looking for a new challenge, Podraza took an interest in customized stuffed bears in 1999 with the launch of Whimsical Beans. Each bear is designed by Podraza and benefits a charity, such as the Batten Disease Support and Research Association of the American Cancer Society. Podraza runs Whimsical Beans on his own, not only designing the bears, but also dealing with manufacturing, shipping and sales. "I'm being a child and an adult at the same time," he says. "It's fun because most kids my age do other stuff like sports and I'm running a business. It's just weird." -Devlin Smith