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Billy Stade, 35, & Kari Stade, 25
Costa Mesa, California
Projected 2005 Sales: $6 million
Description: High-end clothing retailer with three locations in Orange County, California
Snowboard Season : Billy Stade's passion for snowboarding led him to start selling snowboards out of a tiny 5-foot-by-20-foot retail space in 1993. With only enough money for first and last month's rent, Billy negotiated deals with vendors he knew to front him product. The snowboards sold well that first season, but as warmer weather approached, Billy realized he'd have to expand his product offering if he was going to stay in business during the spring and summer months. As he looked at the surf and clothing shops in his high-traffic Huntington Beach, California, location, Billy decided to get into the fashion arena. And there were other expansions: About six years ago, Billy hired Kari as an office manager, and the pair married in 2003.
Fashion Forward: Going beyond typical surf wear, The Closet sells both men's and women's fashions that echo chic international styles with the relaxed California vibe mixed in. "We always had to be forward, progressive and intelligent to compete with such big surf shops around us," recalls Billy. Today, The Closet sells only a few high-end, limited-edition snowboard products, having shifted to focus on its extremely successful fashion retail business. With an eye for the high-end sportswear and casual trends exemplified by brands like Lacoste, Modern Amusement, Stussy and Volcom, The Closet has been compared to boutiques like Henri Bendel in Los Angeles.
Failed Economics: It hasn't been all sunny days for this entrepreneurial couple, though. They recall late 2001, when The Closet launched a third location that was quickly toppled by the economic downturn after 9/11. "We just buckled down," says Billy. "We went completely bare-bones. It was just [Kari] and I working 9-to-9 shifts [to] build back up." With perseverance, they weathered the storm, and today the company again operates stores in three of Orange County's coastal locales--Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach--with plans to add two more next year. --Nichole L. Torres
Babak Farahi, 32
Projected 2005 Sales: $17 million
Description: Company that records and catalogs broadcast coverage for clients
Adrenaline Rush: For Babak Farahi and his high-school friends, after-school activities like sports took a back seat to more urgent events taking place in their hometown of Walnut Creek, California. Their love of adventure and excitement kept Farahi and company glued to the radio scanner. At first mention of a fire or an accident, they would rush to the scene, capture footage and then sell it to the news stations that had arrived too late.
Hobby Turned Business: After high school, Farahi started a video production company specializing in custom video editing. While getting to know the industry, he noticed that news stations didn't record their own broadcasts, and he saw potential to profit by taping news shows, then selling the videotapes to the individuals who had appeared on TV. Multivision, created in 1996, also caters to large corporations wishing to track what is being said about them in the media. Currently, Multivision gathers information from more than 1,100 stations worldwide and creates tools such as DVDs, digital clips and transcripts so its clients can monitor, watch and analyze the information. Farahi's ultimate goal: to expand Multivision's coverage to include all broadcast stations worldwide.
Youthful Endeavor: Farahi was only 23 when Multivision was born, and he admits that being so young was difficult at times. "It is definitely a challenge when you're young to go out and hire a finance person who might have gray hair," says Farahi. "It's a challenge to make him believe in you."
Small World: Despite Multivision's eight offices nationwide and international expansion into Canada, Farahi has kept the company cohesive. He has established an intranet system to promote employee interaction, and organizes an annual sales meeting to bring all 125 employees together. He says, "We go for four days and work hard, play hard, and make sure we're all one company." --Sara Wilson
Mike Domek, 36
Crystal Lake, Illinois
Projected 2005 Sales: Over $120 million
Description: World's largest online marketplace for secondary event tickets
The Ticket Master: If you're an avid event-goer in the Chicago area, you might run into Mike Domek at a Cubs game or in the front rows of a Def Leppard concert. These days, the founder of online ticket reseller TicketsNow has no problem getting good seats. But that wasn't always the case. When he first began selling secondhand tickets the old-fashioned way, he sometimes had to call over 20 different ticket brokers looking for the best locations and deals for an event. Domek decided to take the inefficiency out of the system by moving his ticket service onto the internet.
$100 and 7 Years: Domek started his business with $100 and a one-bedroom apartment in 1992. He had run out of money for college and decided to try ticket brokering full time to save up for school. He never went back. It was seven years before TicketsNow, the online company, was launched from the foundation of that original ticket brokerage. All those years of slow growth and building relationships with ticket brokers across the country finally paid off. This year, TicketsNow expects to more than double its 2004 sales--money it won't have to share with investors. Says Domek, "I'm very proud to say we haven't had a penny of outside funding."
Size Matters: Since the website was launched in 1999 from a 1,600-square-foot building with seven employees, Tickets-Now has exploded to 170 employees and has filled its 16,500 square feet of assorted office spaces to capacity. That sort of rapid growth would send some companies reeling, but Domek takes it in stride. "My plans are to keep doing what's best for the company, and right now what's best for the company is to keep growing."
Ticket, Please: The secondary ticket market is hotter and more legitimate than ever, and TicketsNow's technology and security are a big reason. Domek is just excited to be a part of something he's loved since childhood. Says Domek, "There's so much emotion in buying tickets." And for Domek, frustration is no longer one of those emotions. --Amanda C. Kooser