When Mike Domek, 36, began Crystal Lake, Florida-based TicketsNow.com, there was no dotcom in the name; it was called the VIP Tour Co. Inc. It was 1992--Domek had dropped out after three years at Southern Illinois University, and he used $100 to buy office supplies and start his business as a self-employed ticket-broker. He worked out of his one-bedroom apartment for the first 18 months, until he became successful enough to move into a two-bedroom apartment.
In the beginning, Domek's company tapped a market that Ticketmaster had neglected: He specialized in locating and securing premium seating and tickets to sold-out events. By 1999, Domek already had a $7 million company, but it wasn't until he started TicketsNow.com that business truly took off. TicketsNow.com created software that would give the company a secure database of authentic secondary event tickets, allowing the company to succeed in a way it probably never would have--and certainly grow faster than it ever could have. And he's needed to keep it growing, now competing with companies including eBay, eSeats.com and National-Tickets.com.
Competitors ensure that entrepreneurs remain innovative, says MacDonald, who observes that today's entrepreneurs have numerous ways of starting businesses, from incubators to entrepreneurial grants. And what should be refreshing to those who are in situations similar to Domek's in his early days is that he built his business by following two basic rules that are as old as the business world: Find a niche, and listen to your customers.
"Innovation comes naturally when you're listening to your customers," concedes Domek, who in 2004 had a $55 million company and looks poised to be running a $100 million business before the year is over. "They tell you what you want, and you [find a way to] build it."
Where to Go for Help
Ready to make a difference? The SBA has numerous programs and resources for well-established and new entrepreneurs seeking advice and assistance. Just log on to www.sba.gov, and click on "All SBA Programs" on the upper left-hand corner of your screen. There you'll find an abundance of assistance, including these organizations:
- Office of International Trade
- Office of Small Business Development Centers
- Office of Technology
- The Small Business Training Network
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.