Cornerstone Promotion, The Fader magazine
Company description: Lifestyle marketing company, culture magazine
Founders: Jon Cohen, 36, and Rob Stone, 36
Location: New York City
Projected 2004 sales: Approaching $20 million
Fresh Alternative: Music industry veterans Jon Cohen and Rob Stone launched Cornerstone Promotion in 1996 to help music companies promote artists to niche audiences-but they quickly realized the same nontraditional, grass-roots approach could be applied elsewhere. Now Coca-Cola, Disney, Microsoft and Sony-Ericsson are among the roster of corporations seeking out Cornerstone's cultural and marketing know-how.
Immersed: With 25 being the average age of Cornerstone's staff, they can speak with great authority on youth culture. "This company was built by people who live, eat and breathe what they do here," Cohen attests. "They love music, film, the lifestyle of what this place is all about, and that's the important thing we look for in a new hire."
Youth Brigade:The Fader magazine was born in 1999 to promote Cornerstone's website and soon took on a life of its own. "With Cornerstone being so service-oriented," says Stone, "we wanted to build something that represented our taste and our values, how we saw culture at the time." The magazine's initial lack of distribution and Cornerstone's preference for alternative marketing methods set the foundation for their FARM (Field Activation Research Marketing) Team. Paid team members ranging from ages 18 to 25 (many were loyal readers) first spread the word about The Fader by acting as "ambassadors" and meeting with influential people-such as college radio station programmers, talent bookers, and young photographers and writers-to introduce the magazine. Today, The Fader is a subscription-based magazine with eight issues per year, while the FARM team creates word-of-mouth for Cornerstone projects and keeps Cornerstone in the know on the latest buzz.
Broadened Horizons: The magazine's new division, Fader Films, has released its first project, and two more films may appear at Sundance 2005. With offices in Chicago and New York, the co-founders hope to spread their marketing genius to Europe and Japan. -A.Y.P.
eFashion Solutions LLC
Company description: Operations management for fashion manufacturers' e-commerce sites
Founders: Edward Foy, 33, and Jennifer Foy, 32
Location: Secaucus, New Jersey
Projected 2004 sales: $25 million to $30 million
ePioneers: In the dotcom heyday, Edward Foy and fellow Calvin Klein Jeanswear sales account executive Jennifer Silano thought more clothing manufacturers should use the internet as an added revenue stream. Launching eFashion Solutions in 2000, they took their business model to fashion trade shows, where they touted their turnkey package: eFashion Solutions would design the signature website, manage the customer call center, handle fulfillment, and even provide reverse logistics. The couple, who also married that year, kept working toward their dream, even while credit card debt mounted.
Full-Service Appeal: "We focus on what we call the 'wow factor'-constantly wowing our first client and our second client so the industry would talk about us," says Jennifer. After landing the trendy juniors line XOXO as their first client, word-of-mouth quickly drew other pop culture brands seeking an online flagship store, such as urban apparel giants Baby Phat, JLo and Rocawear. In September, the Foys added international websites to the mix.
Focal Point: In the beginning, Edward remembers trying to offer their services to just about everyone. "We weren't focused enough on our industry, where our knowledge was." When they did land fashion-minded clients, they tried too hard to do everything for them. Appreciative for the business, the Foys would do extra work gratis. When certain clients started regarding this as a right, policy changed. "Now we service to the letter of the contract," says Jennifer.
Branded: The Foys take great care to build the eFashion Solutions brand. "We don't have the money Coca-Cola has to build this brand around our name," says Edward, "so it's the experiences people have with us." -A.Y.P.
All Star Wines & Spirits
Company description: Upscale wine and spirits shop
Founder: Craig Allen, 35
Location: Latham, New York
Projected 2004 sales: Approaching $5 million
Worms to Wine: At age 6, Craig Allen launched his first business-selling worms. His friend dug them up, his mom sold them, and Allen oversaw the operation. Years later, armed with a marketing degree, Allen turned down a career at Procter & Gamble to stay at the liquor store where he worked and learn more about wine. "Wine is something that's recession proof," says Allen. "It's a product that lends [itself] to a very social atmosphere."
Strong Spirits: Compiling the best ideas from hundreds of stores, Allen designed his from the ground up, showcasing tens of thousands of bottles. But before he could even open his doors, he was caught in a series of battles against the state of New York. Most significant was a six-month struggle that finally won New York alcohol retailers the right to be open for business on Sundays.
Doing Overtime: Despite the legal battles, Allen has grown the business by double digits almost every month for the past six years. His current project: launching a wine bar and tapas restaurant next to his store. To top it all off, he uses his business to give back to the community, having founded or co-founded three annual charity wine-tasting events that net $150,000 a year. What's his secret? Says Allen, "My slogan from Day One has been: We're not smarter than anyone else, but we're willing to work a little bit harder." -S.W.