Heat Wave

Midwest Diagnostic Management; What Kids Want!

#21 Midwest Diagnostic Management LLC

Huge growth wasn't exactly in Kevin Tremblay's initial business plan. When he founded Midwest Diagnostic Management LLC (MDM) in June 2000, he says, "we had dreams of one day getting to 20 employees and just having a nice lifestyle." Today, he has 89 employees.

At only four months, the business was recognized by patients, providers and insurance companies, and Tremblay realized how vital his service was. He networks independently owned medical diagnostic radiology centers (to provide tests such as MRIs and CT scans) and streamlines the PPO referral process for doctors, patients and insurers. Early on, the company built a reputation for good customer service and received so many inquiries that Tremblay, 38, had to come up with a plan. "We said, 'We've got a couple of choices: We either dig in and go after it or choose not to.'"

Tremblay and his crew chose to go forward at full steam. Growing from $1.6 million in sales during MDM's first fiscal year to a projected $34 million in 2004, Tremblay used careful hiring practices to staff for the massive growth. "We kept adding wonderfully talented people, and we spent extra time making sure we were recruiting and maybe paying a little bit more for the right people," he says. Tremblay contracts with the diagnostic companies with equally meticulous attention. "If it takes a couple [extra] days before you fill that role, you [still] need to spend the time and make sure you know who you're working with."

Good hiring practices are even more important now that Tremblay juggles three businesses. He started Advanced Ancillary Services LLC (AAS) in June 2002 and Diagnostic PET Network LLC (DPN) in March 2003 to round out his client offerings. AAS outsources cost-saving services for employers and insurance companies, while DPN has created a network of PET diagnostic centers (for early cancer detection).

Looking to the future, Tremblay is striving for sales of $50 million for all three companies. He likens his entrepreneurial journey to a child learning how to crawl, then walk, then run. "We're watching all those details-we're watching our vendors, our bottom line, our sales growth, and we're in a nice run right now." -Nichole L. Torres

#50 What Kids Want! Inc.

Working with toys may sound like a lot of fun and games-and it can be-but it's still serious business for Jordan and Steven Kort, founders of the Northridge, California-based company What Kids Want! Inc. The brothers, who each have more than 20 years' experience in the industry, partnered up to start the company in 1999 after leaving their jobs at a toy business. The brothers' combined toy expertise has paid off in their new venture: Sales skyrocketed from their first-year take of $3 million to over $10 million in 2003.

Starting out on their own as a homebased business never discouraged the Korts from approaching big-name toy companies, and today, product licensing plays an important part in the company's success. What Kids Want! holds licenses with Kellogg's, PepsiCo. and the "Got milk?" campaign, creating a role-play set for each of them. The Korts also scored a license with Disney, which was a slight challenge. But using references from longtime buyers such as Target, Toys "R" Us and Wal-Mart, in addition to their creativity, the Korts won respect and the license. They now work with Disney to produce sidewalk items such as jump ropes, yo-yos, chalk and paddle-ball sets, as well as foam play mats.

The Korts also created, develop and distribute the What Girls Want line of dress-up/role-play and lifestyle accessories. Along with favorites like fairy princess garb, their trendy play shoes, jewelry and other dress-up accessories complete the line. Now projecting $12 million to $13 million for 2004, the Korts are proving that toys-and their company-are hotter than ever.

Because they have their products manufactured in China, Jordan, 52, and Steven, 47, set up a Hong Kong office within their first year and now have 7 employees there; at their U.S. office, they have 6 employees. In addition to the United States, What Kids Want! sells its products in Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom and is seeking distribution worldwide. Although the products demand long hours and dedication from the toy makers, "at the end of the day," says Steven, "with the distillation of product ideas, fitting them within retail product schemes and price points, it's still all about the toys." -April Y. Pennington

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This article was originally published in the June 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Heat Wave.

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