If you've ever thought homebased entrepreneurs were part-time hobbyists with lightweight incomes, or that young entrepreneurs were slackers unaccustomed to big-time responsibility, you're in for an eye-opener. These seven entrepreneurs all started their multimillion-dollar businesses at home when they were under the age of 40. Whether they're working with Fortune 100 companies or getting their products placed on the pages of InStyle, these business owners are living proof that you don't have to operate out of an impressive storefront or be Donald Trump's age to make it in the big leagues.
Marissa Shipman, 31
Company name: Shipman Associates
Location: San Francisco
2004 sales: $2 million
Description: Manufacturer of TheBalm line of cosmetics
Kitchen concoction: This TV-industry veteran didn't know anything about cosmetics when she decided to start creating her own line of lip balm in her kitchen. But after meeting a woman in the cosmetics industry who was completely passionate about her job, Shipman's spark was lit. She concocted lip-plumping glosses with names like Berry My Treasure and Pepper My Mint in 2000 and started pitching her product to stores in 2001.
Big names: It wasn't connections that got her foot in the door, notes Shipman: "When I started, I didn't know anybody in the cosmetics industry." It was good, old-fashioned pavement pounding that got her into major stores like Fred Segal, Henri Bendel and Sephora. Moreover, when stars like Cher purchased the product and TheBalm got a mention in InStyle magazine in 2001 and Cosmopolitan magazine this year, Shipman's place in the fashion and beauty lexicon was cemented.
Homegrown: "I love working from home," says Shipman, who is still homebased. But her home has had to change a few times as her business skyrocketed. "I started getting all these black-and-blue marks" from running into all the boxes in her one-bedroom apartment, she says. At press time, she'd outgrown three apartments and was looking for a new home base for herself and her nine employees.
A family affair: Shipman has even recruited her family to help run the company-though they're all the way across the country. Both her dad, in Greenwich, Connecticut, and her sister in Philadelphia work out of their homes to help build TheBalm brand. Says Shipman, "We're calling and e-mailing constantly."
A call to action: Loving her business as she does, Shipman is full of encouragement for other entrepreneurs. "People always have these great ideas, but they don't do [anything] with them," she says. "If you have something you think could work, do it on a small scale and see."--Nichole L. Torres
Joe Bushey, 30
Company name: POS World Inc.
Estimated 2004 sales: $10.8 million
Description: Point-of-sale online retailer
You've got mail: This IT manager for a concessions management company loved working in the POS field, but was so burnt out by the intense work hours that his doctor recommended a career change. One day, while reading a catalog with reseller pricing for receipt printers, cash drawers, bar-code scanners and other POS items, Bushey realized that not only was the markup outrageous, but also that there was nowhere to purchase POS hardware online. His vision: to create an online marketplace offering fair pricing on these items to the end user. "I wanted to be the Dell of POS," says Bushey.
Home economics: "I didn't have a dime to spare," says Bushey, who continued at his full-time job while starting POS World in 1999 in his off time at home. "It was a virtually no-cost startup." Early on, he focused on establishing vendor relationships and developing a website. His brother Jim moved into his apartment to handle website maintenance.
Image-conscious: One investment--a high-end Nortel phone system with voice mail--presented a professional image to callers, even though Bushey was handling calls for every department. It seemed to work--in 2001, when the Los Alamos National Laboratory's hard drives containing sensitive material went missing, they contacted POS World for recommendations on item-tracking technology. "I realized then we really had a presence," says Bushey, who moved to an office and hired his first nonfamily employees in 2000.
Big business: Most customers do business through POSWorld.com, but they can also visit the office or call in. Customers include many Fortune 100 companies, the Federal Reserve Board, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. court system. POS World is expanding into auto ID, warehouse operations and the biomedical field, and will partner with Microsoft to sell retail-management software in combination with the company's hardware.--April Y. Pennington