Company description: Online sales of licensed soccer and rugby apparel, and a soccer and rugby news outlet and database
Founder: Bernard Frei, 39
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Projected 2004 sales: $6 million
The Globe-Trotter: Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Bernard Frei wanted a new start in the States and surprised many in the sporting world by choosing Birmingham for his online rugby and soccer emporium. "[There's] this absolute astonishment that this range of product is available not only in the U.S., but [also] out of Alabama," Frei says.
By the Book: With no background in website design or e-commerce, Frei needed more than just his passion for rugby and soccer to build his internet presence. He spent 1998, his business's first year, with an internet guidebook on his lap, learning as he went. "My business basically kicked off in a spare bedroom with a ton of advice from friends and an HTML code book."
Just Do It: At age 18, Frei received an unforgettable piece of advice from a prominent Australian businessman. "It was basically to get on and do it now, and not to hang around," says Frei. "I think so many business plans end up sitting around and never get used, and that's a shame."
The Almighty Dollar: "The worst mistake [I made] was never having the time to get around to getting serious financing," says Frei. "Because of that, we've missed major opportunities."
Mr. Big Stuff: Over the years, Frei has built business relationships with sportswear giants such as Adidas and Reebok. And it was the partnership with Adidas that secured 365 Inc. its biggest coup to date: having soccer superstar David Beckham sport the company's gear in TV ads. Says Frei, "His name and brand recognition in the U.S. is just driving our sales beyond our wildest dreams." -N.L.T.
Company description: Web-hosting and data center infrastructure provider
Founder: Christopher Faulkner, 27
Location: Bedford, Texas
Projected 2004 sales: $45 million plus
What's the Score? C I Host commands some impressive figures: 210,000 customers, as many as 5,000 new customers every month, 8,000 resellers around the world, a 37,000-square-foot data center and 9,000 servers. Another interesting number: 15. That's the age at which Christopher Faulkner started his first business selling baseball cards and sports memorabilia out of a small storefront in Bedford, Texas. Now he helps businesses like that one get online.
From Fanzine to Business: There have been a few stops along the way. "I've started 201 corporations, and 197 of them failed miserably, which is a life lesson that I learned. To be successful, you have to fail along the way," says Faulkner. He built his first website as a fanzine for the band Pearl Jam in 1995, and by the end of the year, he was running a fledgling version of C I Host out of his apartment.
Growth Spurt: C I Host soon outgrew Faulkner's apartment and today has offices and data centers in Bedford, Texas, as well as Chicago and Los Angeles-and soon, London. And Faulkner has done it all without the help of VC financing or loans. "We're debt-free," he says. Bootstrapping and growing at a breakneck pace aren't the easiest things to reconcile.
The Host With the Most: Faulkner keeps the ship sailing smoothly by maintaining 15-hour workdays. Busy as he is, he always has time for his customers. How many CEOs do you know who conduct their own weekly internet chat for all comers? Faulkner's experience and business savvy belie his age. Fortunately for C I Host, he could be at the helm for a long time to come. -A.C.K.
Antelope Valley Medical College
Company description: Accredited medical college that provides EMT, medical assistant and paramedic training, as well as training in other areas
Founders: Marco Johnson, 38, and Sandra Johnson, 39
Location: Lancaster, California
Projected 2004 sales: $7.5 million
Good Medicine: As a firefighter, Marco Johnson too often witnessed deaths that could have been prevented-if someone at the scene had taken immediate action. So in 1997, he began offering medical training classes in his community. His wife, Sandra, arranged for the place and time, and secured students, while Marco taught classes in CPR and first aid. "[Sandra] got tired of me coming home and complaining, 'I wish someone would've started CPR or first aid before we got on the scene,'" Marco recalls. "I thought maybe a few more lives could've been saved."
Growing Up: Since those early days, demand has grown: The college now employs 42 staff members and certifies nearly 8,000 people per year in CPR and first aid. At the behest of students, Antelope Valley started EMT, licensed vocational nurse, medical assistant, medical billing and paramedic certification programs. Their biggest mistake early on, says Marco, was not thinking in big enough terms about the business or seeing its full potential.
Playing Catch-Up: In the beginning, the couple had to use their day-job salaries to keep the fledgling school afloat-while rent payments sometimes fell behind. "It was always a repetitive circle," remembers Sandra. "We would be behind on our home expenses, and then some money would come through the business and we were able to catch up again, until we got to where we are today."
Active Duty: Still an active firefighter, Marco plans to retire within the next year to focus on building the school with Sandra, who recently quit her paralegal job. "When I go to the fire station, the last thing on my mind is this operation, because I know Sandra has the same thoughts and same attitudes I do about the business," says Marco. "Being best [friends] and business [partners has] helped the balancing act." -N.L.T.