Entrepreneurs: Steve and Jennifer Sarver, 37 and 34, respectively, founders of San Francisco Soup Co. in San Francisco
Description: Quick-service restaurant specializing in homemade soups
Startup: $150,000 in 1999
Projected 2005 sales: Over $3 million
Hot idea: One evening in 1997, the Sarvers received a sign from the universe, or at least from Seinfeld. The "Soup Nazi" episode was on, in which a strict restaurant owner mercilessly punishes indecisive customers by refusing to sell them his delicious homemade soups. San Francisco's climate is perfect for soup, so the Sarvers got to stewing over a new idea: a soup restaurant of their own.
Down to basics: While Steve continued to bring home the bacon with his marketing job, Jennifer brushed up on her soup basics: how to make stock, what ingredients to use and what equipment to buy. Says Jennifer, "I had to suck it up and tell people, 'I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm going to do it, and I need your help.'" Six months after opening, Steve quit his job to become head chef. dishing it out: For their 50 unique recipes, the couple makes stock from scratch, roasts vegetables and grills meat (Mexican Chicken Tortilla and Grandma Mary's Chicken Soup are current customer favorites). The slow-cooked soups are served at their 10 Bay-Area stores in 23 seconds flat. And in 2003, the Sarvers sealed distribution deals with high-end, independent California grocers to sell the goodness in cans.