From the September 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

What: A bridal planning and consulting service for second-time brides
Who: Bill and Cheryl Brown of Twice Is Nice Encore Bridal Creations LLC
Where: Charlotte, North Carolina
When: Started in 2001

When Bill and Cheryl Brown decided to get married, they looked forward to planning a big, fancy wedding--even though it was the second time down the aisle for both.

But almost immediately, the pair discovered that the wedding industry doesn't tend to look kindly on second marriages. "When we were planning our wedding, we couldn't find wedding professionals to give us what we wanted," explains Cheryl. For example, the Browns wanted an expensive type of invitation, but they were almost reprimanded by the salesperson for wanting to spend so much money. "She was very insulting," recalls Cheryl.

Inspired to provide other couples with the kind of wedding-planning service they couldn't find anywhere else, Cheryl, 39, and Bill, 46, decided to start their own company, Twice Is Nice Encore Bridal Creations LLC. The company deals with all the issues associated with a second, third or fourth marriage-everything from the wedding dress and reception food to advice and referrals on blending families, constructing prenuptial agreements and more.

The Browns started their business part time at first, both keeping their airline industry jobs. But in early 2003, business became so busy that Bill began running the business full time. Now that they plan three weddings a month and put on wedding shows twice a year, it's no wonder company sales for 2003 are projected to reach $70,000 to $75,000.

For Cheryl and Bill, knowing their market intimately helped build their success. They knew, for example, that people entering second marriages generally have more money to spend and consider their second weddings as a way to celebrate an increase in their quality of life. Having been through it herself, says Cheryl, "[I] know what second-time brides want."

Many Healthy Returns

What: A gourmet food truck that delivers to office buildings
Who: James and Geoff Murdock of Wolf Bros. Mobile Gourmet
Where: Kansas City, Missouri
When: Started in 2001

Everybody's seen those food trucks that visit office plazas--they sell fast and convenient fare like hot dogs and chips, but few of the options are terribly healthy. Brothers James and Geoff Murdock knew they could improve on that concept, so they launched their Wolf Bros. Mobile Gourmet food truck, which provides nutritious and gourmet menu selections.

"We knew there were a ton of people confined to office spaces," says James, 35, a former chef. "We figured it was a safe bet that they were anxious to try something new." Making high-quality food without the overhead of a brick-and-mortar restaurant was a safe bet indeed, as 2002 sales reached $50,000. Sales for 2003 are projected to be in the six figures.

With items like fresh asparagus soup and pasta Bolognese on the menu, the Mobile Gourmet is a far cry from your typical food truck. Still, to get customers to actually stop and try the food, the Murdocks had to hand out free samples at first. One taste, says Geoff, 33, "[and] people loved our service. They'd say 'Thank goodness there's somebody like you in this city.'"

Child's Play

What: A children's enrichment center
Who: Gayle Baigelman, Jennifer Barrett Bernstein and Cheryl Bayer Brady of Creative Space
Where: Los Angeles
When: Started in 2001

Motherhood completely shifts your priorities--just ask Gayle Baigelman, 42; Jennifer Barrett Bernstein, 41; and Cheryl Bayer Brady, 38, co-founders of Creative Space.

These three moms left jobs in the entertainment and Internet worlds to start their children's enrichment facility. Here, kids take fun and creative classes like Fairy School, where they create a fairy persona and make fairy costumes, or Create Your Own Superhero, where the kids invent superhero alter egos, complete with costumes and special powers.

Wanting the freedom to schedule around their children's needs, the entrepreneurs envisioned a place where parents would not only drop off their children but also stick around for the fun of it--or perhaps to take the adult yoga class--while their child was in the Build Your Own Skateboard class.

The partners didn't rely on the usual primary colors and dinosaurs in their facility's decorating scheme. "[We've got a] funky style. [It] looks like a New York City loft space," says Bayer Brady. "Parents come in and say 'I've never been in a place where I want to hang out, my 3-year-old wants to hang out, my 12-year-old wants to hang out and my 15-year-old wants to hang out.'"

From their bevy of creative classes to the Kids Night Out movie nights, held every second Friday of the month (a great chance for parents to have a date night), these co-founders now expect 2003 sales to hit half a million dollars. Talk about making fairy tales come true.

On a Shoestring

What: Garden-inspired beauty and skin-care line
Who: Ellen and Jack Davies of Davies Gate
Where: Irwindale, California
When: Started in 1993
How much: $4,000

Being a jewelry designer like her mother didn't make Ellen Davies happy, but taking her mother's advice to pursue a business with the botanical soaps she made did. "I happen to be a passionate gardener, and I love beauty and skin-care products. It was a way to get those two together," says Davies.

She and her husband, Jack, took $4,000 in savings to buy paper wraps and labels for packaging, then worked with a small supplier in France to create a custom formula from which they ordered a couple of pallets of bar soap. Because they started their company, Davies Gate LLC, in their apartment, "we literally sat on soap boxes for furniture," Ellen, 39, recalls.

Jack, a lawyer who's since joined the business full time, handles the legal aspects as well as other business duties. Ellen plunged into the creative aspects, including handling calls. "I'd get a call for our customer service department, put them on hold and change my voice," laughs Ellen, who now has 12 employees.

Booking accounts with The Studio at Fred Segal and other fine boutiques, first-year sales were $60,000; the Davies' alluring aromas now have them projecting 2003 sales of $11 million to $12 million. And although the Davies have expanded from one item to 160, their spending habits haven't ballooned. "There are two types of people: those who look at the top line, and those who look at the bottom line," explains Jack, 39. "We've always been bottom-line [types]."

- April Y. Pennington