Vital Stats: Victoria Knight-McDowell, 42, president of Airborne Inc.
Company: Carmel, California, natural cold remedy company that produces effervescent herbal tablets
2003 Sales Projections: $10 million to $15 million
Study Time: "I was getting sick in the classroom, and watched parents and teachers constantly catching colds. My family [had negative reactions] to mainstream medication, so we were always doing something that seemed bizarre at the time; now it's common to seek 'alternative medicine.' I started doing research and experimenting with herbs I had luck with in the past."
"We were waiting for Trader Joe's to place an order and didn't know what we were going to get. It was astronomical, like 40,000 tubes. We were still putting the labels on by hand."
Covert Op: "We gave Longs Drugs a dozen tubes to test-market locally. [My husband, Rider, and I] would visit these nine Longs and take turns buying it so it would scan as something that was selling. We did this for a couple of weeks. Then one day I went to Longs in Santa Cruz and [the product was] gone. I was afraid they found out and yanked everything. Rider told me all the stores had sold out and they had real orders."
Media Bugs: "We have two school buses, festooned with [cartoon] germs and people, with full-time drivers. Dirk from the first Survivor was a celebrity spokesperson; now we have Barry Williams from The Brady Bunch. We also launched our Sore Throat Gummi Lozenges and have radio and print ads coming out."
Third Shift: "I miss teaching very, very much. I'm on hiatus because my son was born around the time that Airborne started to take off. [I'll still be involved in Airborne], but next fall I'm teaching two days a week; now I can afford to!"