Reprise Media and Exhale

#30 Reprise Media

From their New York City loft location, Peter Hershberg and Joshua Stylman remember thinking that their internet search engine marketing company might eventually grow large enough to have 10 employees or so. "We've grown to about three dozen employees in two years," says Hershberg, 32. "[It's] a lot faster than we anticipated."

Co-founding Reprise Media in February of 2003, this entrepreneurial pair had a wealth of experience within the internet marketing business. When their first internet marketing company was acquired by Ask Jeeves in 1999, the pair joined Ask Jeeves' executive management team before striking out on their own again three years later. Believing that media planners didn't yet have an optimally effective way to sell internet marketing, the pair saw a niche in creating viable search engine marketing plans for clients--consulting with them to choose keywords, bid on them, and then place ads to show up on the results page when someone does a search on Google, Yahoo!, and the like. "We're sort of like an 'ad agency meets a consulting firm' with a specific concentration on [search engine marketing]," says Stylman, 31.

As clients saw that buying ads to show up on keyword-specific results pages was netting results, the industry began to grow, and Reprise Media was right in the middle of it. Only 20 months after startup, Hershberg and Stylman opened a satellite office in Boston, and sales have skyrocketed from $1.5 million in 2003 to a projected $20 million in 2005.

Despite having multiple offices, Hershberg and Stylman have created a company culture of collaboration and cooperation, using a company intranet where employees post interesting information about themselves, from what they do in the company to "food you can bribe me with," says Hershberg. And outside employees often come to the Manhattan office, the mecca of Reprise Media, to get on the same wavelength with colleagues.

Expecting the market to continue to grow, Hershberg and Stylman know the future of Reprise Media is bright. Though quick growth demands more systems and processes in place, Stylman notes: "We've become way more ambitious. When we see an opportunity in the market, we know we need to grab it." --N.L.T.

#67 Exhale

Annbeth Eschbach isn't a woman waiting to exhale, but her New York City mind-body spa, Exhale , has breathed new life into the spa industry and projects 2005 sales of $15 million. Eschbach delivers on what she calls the "demand for alternate forms of fitness, complementary medicine and healthy lifestyle products that has exploded over the past five years." By focusing on both mind and body well-being, she created a spa where multicultural aesthetics and a warm environment fill the void left by traditional luxury spas that espouse extravagance and oft-intimidating auras.

Eschbach, 46, spent 12 years on the executive team of a large spa and club operator where one of her responsibilities was directing the spa division, so it's no surprise she could engineer such tremendous growth for Exhale, which had sales just under $1.4 million in 2003, its first year. However, she also credits her "enlightened investors," her management team, daily reporting tools and the soulful culture cultivated at Exhale as key reasons for her success. Unlike the quickly certified trainers and indifferent employees found at some gyms and spas, "we hire only people who are born nurturers--those are the best people to take care of our guests," says Eschbach. Exhale carefully screens prospective employees and asks questions that reveal depth of soul. Once hired, employees attend a training and certification program and sample all the classes and services Exhale offers, including the mind-body class Core Fusion and acupuncture therapy.

Exhale did encounter some issues when it came to finding investment partners who shared Eschbach's vision. "Most investors wanted to pursue the opportunity through more traditional means--acquiring an existing business that had numbers that could be evaluated and had an infrastructure already in place," says Eschbach. She never deviated from her proposed concept and found financial nirvana with private equity firm Brentwood Associates. With six spas currently open, Exhale plans to expand to 15 to 20 units by 2007 and has been approached by developers from several cities. Says Eschbach, "We intend to take this transformational service offering and expand our sphere of touch into the lives of people on a daily basis." --April Y. Pennington

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This article was originally published in the June 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Smokin'.

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