Entrepreneur: Cyd Szymanski, 48, founder of Nest Fresh Eggs Inc. in Denver
Description: Producer and distributor of cage-free, organic shell and liquid/frozen eggs
Startup: $28,000 for the first flock of chickens in 1991 2005
Projected sales: Over $5 million walking on eggshells: After enduring a childhood filled with the daily rigors of farm life, Cyd Szymanski vowed never to do anything farm-related again. But when her father and brother called her in 1991 with a captivating idea--producing cage-free eggs--Szymanski agreed to market the new business. She didn't agree, however, to be left fully in charge with $68,000 in debt after her family backed out a year later.
Hard-boiled: Determined not to crack under pressure, Szymanski immediately set to work winning customers. She convinced reluctant dairy managers at King Soopers supermarkets throughout Colorado to carry her product, assuring them she would assume the cost of any broken, bad or unsold eggs. The managers agreed, her eggs sold, and orders doubled. "We were on the cusp of organic product growth," says Szymanski. Nest Fresh Eggs products are now carried in major markets and health-food stores in 11 states.
Happy hens: Szymanski's hard work has not only freed chickens, but farmers as well. By outsourcing some production, she has enabled 10 local farmers to continue farming. This holds special significance for Szymanski, whose own family lost their farm when she was young. "We need people connected to the earth and the animals, who can do a job that's hard," says Szymanski. "Part of what we strive for is happy hens, happy humans."