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Young Millionaires

Our 2006 picks prove age doesn't matter when building a successful business.
October 1, 2006
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/167764

Want to learn more about our young millionaires and how they found success before 40. Visit our Young Millionaire Center for an inspiring slide show.

Shari Misher Stenzler, 36, & Andy Stenzler, 38
Kidville, NY
New York City
Projected 2006 Sales: More than $10 million
Description: Upscale educational and play facility for children age 5 and under and their families

Child's Play: What started as just a dream for husband-and-wife team Andy Stenzler and Shari Misher Stenzler has since become a dream come true for Manhattan parents of children age 5 and under. Kidville, NY, their $3 million, 20,000-square-foot, four-story-high family facility, opened in January 2005 and is home to developmental classes such as "Run, Wiggle, Paint & Giggle," music classes such as "Little Maestros" and enrichment classes such as "Baby Sign Language" for parents and caregivers. Kidville also features an indoor playground, a beauty salon, a retail boutique and a 50-seat cafe, making it the complete socialization center for kids and parents that the Stenzlers so gallantly envisioned during startup.

In the Genes: A business in its infancy risks floundering, but Kidville, NY is one business that was born to succeed. The Stenzlers are seasoned entrepreneurs who have each found overwhelming success with their previous undertakings, including Cosi Inc., a nationwide salad and sandwich franchise Andy co-founded. Connections made from their previous endeavors, as well as strong ties to their New York City community, allowed the Stenzlers to bank on the wisdom and financial support of an influential group of friends, including tennis couple Andre Agassi and Steffi Graff. Says Andy, "It was about finding the right team of friends and partners who cared about kids and wanted to do something in that space to change people's lives."

Cause for Change: Kidville, NY is flourishing with 3,000 member families, the recent opening of a second New York City location and plans to open similar centers in other states, not to mention the future launch of related media, books and music. Meanwhile, the Stenzlers' single source of inspiration continues to be their kids--Kylie, 3, and Colby, 1. Parenthood opened their eyes to the unappealing options available to parents at the time and motivated them to create a better facility for children. Says Shari, "Going through [parenthood] ourselves not only gave us great ideas, but also created a passion that I don't think we could have had if we weren't parents."

Follow Their Lead: Don't settle for less than the best, and if the best doesn't already exist, you might have just discovered your niche.

Andrea Lake, 32
Stickerjunkie.com & Delinquent Distribution
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Projected 2006 Sales: $5 million
Description: T-shirt and sticker manufacturer and online retailer

You're Fired: At one time in her life, Andrea Lake tossed fiery sticks through the air at concerts to help her pay rent. Now she makes her living running several different businesses, but the balancing act is just as impressive. Delinquent Distribution, which she started in 1999, sells T-shirts and stickers printed with hip phrases in bulk to large retailers. StickerJunkie.com, started in early 2001, lets customers order small batches of stickers and T-shirts printed with any phrase they want. Between the two intentionally different business models, Lake covers all the bases and can ride through business upturns and downturns in style. StickerJunkie.com alone is on track to sell more than 3 million stickers this year.

A New Attitude: You've got to have a bit of your own 'tude to think of selling shirts that say "I'm not a stalker, I'm just persistent" and "I used to have superhuman powers, but my therapists took them away." Lake hearkens back to her teenage years to explain her company's hip edginess. "I was your typical suburban girl [who] was mad at the world for no good reason," she says. Now in her early 30s, she's happily settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It's not the first town you'd think of as a hub of industry. "For my own personal quality of life, I wanted someplace cool and laid back but also very creative."

As Seen on TV: You might recognize Lake from her appearance on Donald Trump's The Apprentice earlier this year. She didn't win, but that doesn't bother her in the least. Says Lake, "It was the most fabulous experience for me in that I realized how lucky I am to be doing exactly what I'm doing."

Taking on the World: These days, Lake is hoping to get funding for her companies, including a new venture called Luxury Wedding Packages. With so much entrepreneurship going on, the best way to keep up with her is through www.andrealake.com . "One day, Andrea Lake Enterprises will dominate the world!" she says, perhaps only half-jokingly.

Follow Her Lead: Young entrepreneurs can let their businesses mature along with them without losing their youthful energy and creativity.

Nina Vaca, 35
Pinnacle Technical Resources
Dallas
Projected 2006 Sales: $60 million
Description: IT consulting and IT staff augmentation

Family Matters: Family is serious business for Nina Vaca. The list of key employees at her IT consulting company reads like a genealogy. Freddy Vaca, senior vice president of professional services, is her brother. Vice president of human resources Jessica Narvaez is her sister. And president Jim Humrichouse is her husband. Says Vaca, "I absolutely love it. We're cut from the same cloth, and we all have the same work ethic. I'm just really lucky to have such a talented family."

Born to Run a Business: Entrepreneurship runs in Vaca's family. Her parents emigrated from Ecuador, and she grew up working in her father's chain of Los Angeles-area travel agencies. "I quickly understood that my parents made their future and didn't just collect a paycheck," she says.

Boom to Bust: Pinnacle had its beginning in 1996 when staffing firms were booming; it soon specialized in system administration. The dotcom bust of 2001 came down on Vaca's business like a ton of hard drives. She found herself facing a hollowed-out business with a handful of employees and uncertain prospects for the future.

Bust to Boom: Failure is not an option in the Vaca family. "I used it as an opportunity," Vaca says. "I aligned myself with my family, leveraged their talents and we came together." She followed the market, diversified Pinnacle's portfolio and rebuilt its customer base with Fortune 500 clients. Pinnacle now employs 700 people across 30 states. "I see no reason why we can't get in the billions in terms of revenue," says Vaca. That's some recovery.

All in the Family: The future of Pinnacle is about more than revenue, employee growth, new contracts and new market areas. It's about a sense of dedication, civic responsibility and family strength that goes back to Vaca's parents' first travel agency in California. "I hope to fulfill a family legacy," says Vaca. "I hope my daughters are in the business someday, and sons as well." With her track record, look for Pinnacle to be a source of family pride for generations to come.

Follow Her Lead: The people you surround yourself with in business can be your greatest source of strength.

 

Disaster recovery, marketing and makeup

Billie & Corey Pitts, both 37
International Catastrophe Solutions
Atlanta

Projected 2006 Sales: $40 million to $45 million
Description: A disaster recovery company for commercial enterprises

In the Face of Tragedy: On August 30, 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans residents were desperately fleeing the city just as Corey Pitts and his crew of more than 450 employees and independent contractors were flooding in. They were ready to do what they do best: Sanitize and clean hotels and commercial buildings after a disaster. The combined forces of Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita put International Catastrophe Solutions' services to the ultimate test last year, but the company met the challenge head-on. In fact, they finished the last job just this past April. "I look at my business almost like the military," says Corey. "Right now, we have RVs, we have our own fuel trucks, we have tractors, we carry our own water. When we come to a place to do business, we bring in everything because we don't know what to expect, and our clients depend on us to get the job [going]."

Changing Tides: Corey and his wife, Billie, launched International Catastrophe Solutions in 2001. They serve clients such as Chevron and Sheraton with help from their 78 full-time employees. The Pitts have opened satellite offices in California, Florida, North Carolina and Texas, and several more offices are set to open in the U.S. and abroad next year. But it all stemmed from a much smaller residential carpet cleaning business, PJ Services, which the Pitts opened in 1991. By adding water and fire damage services, the Pitts were able to find a niche and grow the business from a small, independent operation to a well-established company with high-value services. PJ Services Catastrophe Solutions is now the parent company of International Catastrophe Solutions. "There are not a lot of commercial companies out there that do what we do," says Corey. "It's a very specialized field."

Secure Investment: The Pitts learned early on that the only way to combat nature's worst disasters is to keep themselves and their staff educated and up-to-date with the latest techniques and recovery procedures. And just as they believe in investing in their employees, they continually reinvest their profits by buying bigger and better machinery with each passing year.

Follow Their Lead: Always plan for the worst. Reinvesting in the business from Day One can help you weather rough patches down the road.

Tina Wells, 26
Buzz Marketing Group
New York City

Projected 2006 Sales: $3.3 million
Description: Youth marketing agency specializing in research, events and promotions

Work It Out: Happening movies, hot TV programs, cool clothes, hip music--it all sounds like a lot of fun, but keeping up with youth culture and advising companies on how to market to young people is also a lot of hard work. "I work when I'm not sleeping," says Tina Wells. "Sixteen-hour days are the average, but I have a rule about getting eight hours of sleep." In a world where she is constantly traveling, taking business classes at Wharton and keeping her finger on the pulse of pop culture, the only constant in Wells' working day is a morning cup of coffee at Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks is still hot and happening, according to Wells.

A Teen Thing: Wells has been blazing a trail in youth marketing for a decade, founding her company, which was initially called The Buzz, in 1996. Do the math, and you'll discover she started the company at 16 years old. She wasn't your typical teenager. "I'm a big daydreamer, but I didn't have a clue that people would actually pay me to tell them what I thought about their cool products," she says. Once Wells figured that out, she didn't look back. What began from her parents' home as writing product reviews for a newspaper for teen girls grew into a multimillion-dollar business. Says Wells, "I was a teenager, so it wasn't like I had incredible startup costs."

The Power of Networking: Buzz Marketing Group extends well beyond its 10 employees. A BuzzSpotters network of more than 9,000 teens and tweens helps feed the company's research and keeps Wells in touch with what's happening. "I talk to young people every day," she says. "I also spend a lot of time talking to parents. I really think that's the key to my business success. [I keep in mind that] with every child comes a parent."

Top of the Pops: In 2005, Wells launched a youth marketing magazine called BuzzEd and is looking to branch out from there. "I've marketed other people's products for so long that I'm going to start creating a lot of my own stuff," says Wells, adding that she can see herself still doing what she's doing 20 years from now. When it comes to a love of pop culture, age is just a number.

Follow Her Lead: The best way to know your market is to dive right in and find creative ways to keep in touch with the people who can provide you with knowledge.

Maureen Kelly, 34
Tarte Cosmetics
New York City
Projected 2006 Sales:
$15 million
Description: Cosmetics company that makes portable, user-friendly products for women on the go.

About-Face: Maureen Kelly was working toward a Ph.D. in psychology when one of her pet peeves inspired an entrepreneurial endeavor. Each time she visited makeup counters in search of the right products, the makeup artists selling the makeup would leave Kelly looking beautiful, but also poorer and entirely incapable of recreating the look. Feeling that the beauty industry was in need of a reality check, she set out to launch a line of simple and easy-to-use cosmetics in equally stylish and portable packaging for real women, who lack the time and expertise to spend hours primping. The end result? Kelly dropped out of the Ph.D. program and launched Tarte Cosmetics in 1999 from her one-bedroom, rent-
controlled apartment in New York City.

Fresh Look: Entering an industry with no experience proved to be just the edge she needed. "If you come into an industry when you don't have a lot of experience, you have more of a fresh perspective and you can think a little bit more outside the box," says Kelly, who wraps Tarte compacts in leathers and fabrics. "You're not bound by the typical tenets of what you can and cannot do." She scouted out laboratories and chemists to work with, relied on previous interior design experience for packaging ideas, and learned through trial and error how to market and sell her line.

Positively Exposed: She didn't advertise, but after countless phone calls and careful selection of the right exposure, Tarte Cosmetics soon graced the pages of numerous fashion and women's magazines and landed on the shelves of retailers such as Henri Bendel, Nordstrom and Sephora. In 2005, popular shopping network QVC offered Kelly the opportunity to officially launch her line in homes across America. The first hour-long segment resulted in the sale of more than 13,600 items and translated into an 8.5 percent increase in the company's annual sales from 2004 to 2005.

Solid Foundation: Tarte Cosmetics has turned heads in the U.S. and Canada and will be hitting Europe next year, but Kelly believes slow and strategic growth is key. "You see companies that grow so quickly, and they're here today and gone tomorrow," she says. "I wanted to make sure I did the opposite of that."

Follow Her Lead: Take chances in life, and don't let the competition stop you from leaving your mark.

Apparel, baby products and restaurants

Dan Fleyshman & Edon Moyal, both 25
Who's Your Daddy Inc.
San Diego
Projected 2006 Sales:
$13 million to $15 million
Description: Company that designs and licenses a variety of products under the Who's Your Daddy brand

Teen Spirit: Back in high school, Edon Moyal simply loved to yell "Who's your daddy?" on the football field, at parties and when greeting classmates, but enterprising buddy Dan Fleyshman saw business potential in the popular phrase, suggesting in 1999 that they emblazon it on T-shirts. The venture seemed promising when their first 100 shirts sold out in just hours at school. After graduation, the pals found a manufacturer and set out to get their line carried at major retailers. When a big-time deal fell apart in 2001, Moyal and Fleyshman were forced to halt the business temporarily so they could work to pay back the family and friends who had invested in their idea.

Packing a Punch: In 2002, a bit older and wiser, Moyal and Fleyshman were ready to pursue Who's Your Daddy again--this time with help from a friend's father, who had a background in the apparel business and agreed to come onboard as director of development. He successfully landed their Who's Your Daddy-branded clothing line in Kohl's and Mervyn's stores, and even inked a three-year licensing deal in Europe.

Buzz-Worthy: "We saw [that] the name has much more brand recognition than just apparel," explains Moyal, who oversees in-house licensing of the trademarked Who's Your Daddy brand on hundreds of products ranging from greeting cards to barbecue grill sets. The company's commitment to building brand awareness has the Who's Your Daddy logo popping up just about everywhere--from the logo-wrapped car they sponsored on the Nascar speedway to the phone booths adorned with Who's Your Daddy advertisements in and around Orange County, California. Sponsoring events like car shows and rodeos also helps them promote recognition of the brand.

Branching Out: After a friend suggested they look into the growing energy-beverage market a year ago, the partners' business took a new turn. Moyal and Fleyshman developed a special concoction: a cranberry-pineapple formula that's outsourced to production facilities. Dubbed "King of Energy," the drink, available in grocery and convenience stores nationwide, has since become a major focus of the business. A green tea flavor has even been added to the mix.

Follow Their Lead: Be flexible in business, and be willing to chance a move in a new direction--it could take your business to the next level.

Jessica Iclisoy, 39
California Baby
Beverly Hills, California

Projected 2006 Sales: More than $10 million
Description: Manufacturer of an all-natural line of baby shampoo, lotion and body wash

Mother's Intuition: When she had her first child, Jessica Iclisoy went into full protective mom mode. Like all new moms, she wanted her baby to live in the safest environment possible, so when she discovered some of the questionable ingredients in many mainstream baby toiletry products, she sought healthy alternatives. In 1993, this former fashion buyer began researching ingredients at the local library and canvassing chemists for information. Before long, she was mixing natural ingredients in her kitchen to create her own line of safe, natural and gentle baby-care products.

Natural Order: Getting the industry to listen to her all-natural message was a challenge at first, says Iclisoy. Confident that there were other parents like her who feared the possible dangers of chemical irritants, she marketed her products directly to healthfood stores, explaining to them the benefits of all-natural baby skin care, as well as the dangers of some common product additives. "For the first eight years, my time was spent educating," she says. Her in-store demonstrations and informative Q&As established her as an expert in organic baby products.

Thinking Green: A pioneer in the natural products scene, Iclisoy remains unfazed as she watches giant companies launch their own natural baby product lines. "How we stay competitive is that we stay true to ourselves," she says. "We don't try to run around competing with other people. We are who we are, and we just try to do the best we can." Her line, which is sold online at www.californiababy.com and at Whole Foods and specialty stores around the country, includes the popular staple product California Baby Shampoo & Bodywash, as well as aromatherapy bubble baths with names like Overtired & Cranky and Chamomile & Herbs.

Mommy Talk: This mother of two is particularly keen on the needs of other mothers--especially those whose children fight peanut allergies or skin conditions like eczema. In fact, Iclisoy stopped using nut oils in her products at the request of parents who feared the allergen. Moreover, Iclisoy is routinely asked for her baby-care expertise, a role she gladly accepts. "I'm a mother and I went through everything," says Iclisoy. "[Customers] call us, and sometimes it's just for us to be supportive."

Follow Her Lead: Demonstrating your product in stores will help you educate customers, generate word-of-mouth buzz and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Lunden De'Leon, 31
Dirrty Records
Beverly Hills, California
Projected 2006 Sales:
$4.3 million
Description: Independent record label that serves artists in various rock genres

Loud and Clear: Though Lunden De'Leon doesn't consider herself musically gifted, she's always loved music-from the rock 'n' roll of her youth to her father's gospel band. "The minute I saw my dad onstage and the lives he touched through his music, I knew I wanted to be a part of the music industry," she says. In 2003, with $20,000 cash, some private investors and a business plan, she launched Dirrty Records.

I Love Rock 'n' Roll: Dirrty Records represents artists in a variety of rock genres, including punk, metal and hardcore metal. De'Leon doesn't foresee broadening the record company's genre base but admits she's been pressured to specialize in other markets in the past. "Because I'm African-American, everyone said, 'You should do rap and hip-hop and R&B.'" But De'Leon, who was born in Barbados and raised in South Carolina, stayed true to her passion, finding inspiration in music industry icons like Jimi Hendrix, who also managed to break through racial barriers. Today, some of Dirrty Records' rock projects include The Fades from London, OnOff from Ireland and Athanator from South America.

Words of Wisdom: Despite meeting resistance as a black woman in rock and as a businesswoman in the music industry, De'Leon never let that hinder her on the road to success. "My mom would say, 'Use every stumbling block as a stepping stone,'" she says. "Entering the music industry was a risk, but every obstacle I met I used as a stepping stone." Early on, De'Leon also experienced difficulty in getting investors to believe in her company. Today, that's no longer a problem-and plans for a joint venture with a major record label are in the works.

Follow Her Lead: Persevere when you meet resistance, and learn to turn negatives into positives.

Mike Malin, 36, & Lonnie Moore, 34
The Dolce Group
Los Angeles

Projected 2006 Sales: More than $20 million
Description: Sophisticated restaurants and entertainment lounges; restaurant consulting services

Bon App�tit: Good friends Mike Malin and Lonnie Moore, actor and TV executive, respectively, always dreamed of opening a bar together. When both became fed up with the bureaucracy within the TV industry, they decided to take the leap with Belly, a hip tapas lounge and bar in Los Angeles designed to look like the inside of a genie bottle. The success of Belly (which the partners have since sold) inspired them to open additional concept restaurants, each offering world-class cuisine, a sophisticated ambience and a celebrity following.

Sensory Impact: Though their properties are all unique in their own right, the common thread between them is the progressive design, which offers customers a hip and innovative dining experience. "Modern diners want more than just a good plate of food," says Moore. "It's about all the senses being aroused, from the sights and sounds to the sexy DJ spinning." Whether it's a two-story fireplace or a bar with empty bottles encased in flames, each location has something unique to offer. For instance, Geisha House, in Hollywood, features Tokyo street scenes and obscure Japanese movies playing on TV screens, while geishas walk around to interact with diners.

Growing Strong: The partners have eight restaurants in Los Angeles and Atlanta; themes include French, Italian and Japanese. Says Malin, "We filled a few voids we saw missing in L.A. and subsequently realized it could translate across America." Next year, they plan to expand to Dallas, Las Vegas and Orange County, California, with clones of their already established restaurants, and they'll launch an entirely new concept--an upscale adult bowling lounge. They've also added consulting services for would-be restaurateurs.

Lucky Stars: Though they've secured the support of celebrity investors such as Ashton Kutcher, The Dolce Group is about more than having a rich and famous following. "Expanding on a national scale legitimizes us," says Malin. "Our restaurants can stand on their own regardless of whether a hot young celebrity was here last night."

Follow Their Lead: Create a concept so unique, alluring and different from the competition that everyone will want to be a part of the action.

Mongolian BBQ, ticket sales, web hosting and mobile content

Al Bhakta, 28; Chet Bhakta, 30; Nik Bhakta, 28; Ron Parikh, 27; & Jay Patel, 30
The Chalak Group of Companies
Dallas
Projected 2006 Sales:
More than $20 million
Description: Franchisor of Genghis Grill--The Mongolian Stir Fry

Driven to Succeed: These five enterprising business students were already running a pool hall and two game rooms when they became regular diners at the local Genghis Grill. When Genghis decided to launch a franchise program, they sold their other businesses, pooled their savings and secured an SBA loan to become franchisees. Two locations and three years later, in 2004, the group of recent graduates bought the company and became Genghis' franchisors, naming their legal entity The Chalak Group. "In [Indian] culture, chalak has several meanings--wise guys, abundance, overflow," explains Al.

Training Ground: The friends' (Al and Nik are also cousins) goal was always to run a business together, so some of them went back to school to take additional business courses on top of their 15-hour days at Genghis. "It was tough. We've lost a little bit of hair since then," quips Al. The learning curve included keeping food costs down, staffing, and working every position from dishwasher to assistant manager. Eventually, each partner found the niche in the business that best suited his personality. Some vendors and landlords initially balked at their youthfulness, but the professionalism and ethics the partners demonstrated quickly won everyone over.

Stirring Sensation: When The Chalak Group bought out the franchisor, there were seven Genghis Grills. Today, there are 19 locations--five company-owned restaurants and 14 franchises--across 11 states, and growing. The partners' recipe for success is catering to dietary restrictions with an abundance of fresh veggies, protein selections, starches, sauces and seasoning choices sure to please even the staunchest of carnivores and vegetarians alike. Diners can choose pre-designed menu items or create their own stir-fry concoctions, and grill attendants prepare each bowl on a large circular grill. Once the franchise has grown considerably, the partners hope to explore another business idea unrelated to Genghis Grill, though it's still under wraps.

Follow Their Lead: When there are multiple partners, positive attitudes and clear communication are vital to smooth operations.

Jeff Fluhr, 32
StubHub
San Francisco
Projected 2006 Sales:
More than $200 million
Description: A secure online marketplace for the resale of live event tickets

That's the Ticket: A void in the market for a reliable, one-stop shop in the secondary ticket market prompted Jeff Fluhr and a former partner to start StubHub in 2000. "We felt there were a lot of problems with the options that were available for fans," says Fluhr, who wanted to transform secondary ticket sales from back-alley deals into secure transactions. So he pioneered a system that allows sellers to list tickets at www.stubhub.com for a 15 percent transaction fee, and buyers to purchase tickets for a 10 percent transaction fee--guaranteeing the safety of the transaction for both parties. "We provide an escrow-type service," notes Fluhr.

Safety Dance: Security is the number-one priority for StubHub. The system allows sales only after both buyers' and sellers' credit cards are fully vetted, leaving nothing to chance. StubHub also has a direct partnership with FedEx to generate the shipping labels for sellers, so the company can monitor delivery at every step.

Teaming Up: While the core of the business is based on peer-to-peer sales, Fluhr has found it helpful to build partnerships with venues and teams nationwide, including the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. Such alliances help market StubHub's services to season-ticket holders who might want to unload a few tickets during the season.

Fan Focus: Constantly improving StubHub's customer service is key for Fluhr, who is also a fan of the music, theater, comedy and sporting events that are his company's bread and butter. In fact, a phenomenal Rolling Stones concert at Madison Square Garden was one of his most memorable "product testing" outings. And Fluhr's not just trying to win fans on the spectator side of the stage--while starting his business, he recalls working to convince "old-school businesspeople in the music industry that the secondary market is a huge opportunity for them, not a threat." Fluhr admits it's an ongoing challenge for StubHub.

Follow His Lead: Give your customers peace of mind while providing a valuable service in a specialized niche

Thomas Gorny, 30
iPower
Phoenix
Projected 2006 Sales:
More than $40 million
Description: Web hosting and services

Across Countries: Thomas Gorny spent the first 14 years of his life in Poland. A move to Germany found him attending a prestigious business college and running his own PC hardware business. Then, two months before graduation, he dropped out and sold his business for very little money to seize an opportunity to immigrate to America. The risk paid off not once, but twice.

First Time Around: Gorny joined one of the very first web hosting companies in 1996 and earned 20 percent ownership. The company was sold in 1998, and when Gorny left in 1999, he was in the money. "I never thought I'd go back to web hosting," he says. So he jumped into marketing and real estate, but when the bubble burst in 2001, his stocks dropped and his real estate projects suffered. "I just got involved with the wrong people in business," says Gorny, who lost everything.

Second Time Around: "Being on an investor visa, I couldn't even go to work for somebody because I didn't have a work permit," Gorny says. After re-examining the hosting market, he realized there was room for a company offering web hosting and site building for nontechnical users. Armed with his American Express card, Gorny willed iPower into existence in late 2001. "I said to myself, 'If we can acquire 10 customers a day, I'm going to be in heaven.'" The company garnered 60,000 customers in its first year. Now with more than 500,000, iPower recently moved its headquarters from Santa Monica, California, to Phoenix.

No Exit: "One thing I said at the beginning is that I do not have an exit strategy, and I'm holding to [that]. That is a powerful thing," says Gorny. His business is now the world's fourth-largest website hosting company, thanks in part to Gorny's vision of offering feature-rich but also easy-to-use hosting packages. Phoenix may be a long way from Poland, but Gorny has definitely found a place to call his own.

Follow His Lead: Turn adversity into opportunity by revisiting your business strengths and taking cues from your past successes.

Predrag Djokic, 35; George Lipordezis, 28; & Leon Yohai, 32
QMobile
Reston, Virginia
Projected 2006 Sales: More than $24 million
Description: Mobile phone content provider

Bigger Than the Wheel: Working in the family's optometry business in his home country of Greece, Leon Yohai felt his future was going nowhere. That is, until the internet came along-and suddenly, Yohai knew where to look. "It was the biggest discovery, even bigger than the wheel," Yohai laughs. He taught himself how to write computer code and, in 1999, started his own business, InternetQ. The company started out building websites but eventually switched to the telecom industry. By 2003, InternetQ had become the largest mobile content pro-vider in Greece.

Coming to America: That same year, Yohai sold InternetQ and decided he should introduce the technology overseas. Living and working out of a friend's home in Virginia, Yohai started Qmobile with two friends from Greece, Predrag Djokic and George Lipordezis, who were also former InternetQ employees. Together, the trio secured $6 million in venture funding and was able to negotiate a deal with their first client, T-Mobile. "We were lucky enough that our billing platform was made by the same manufacturer as their billing platform, so it was easy to connect," Yohai says. By 2004, the company had moved into a proper office in Reston, Virginia, and has since grown to 25 employees.

The Next Big Thing: With all the capabilities mobile phones have today, wireless content may not seem that original, but Qmobile was one of the first to introduce the possibilities of SMS text messaging technology to the U.S. Qmobile, the parent company of Qtones.com, provides content such as games and ringtones to customers from all major carriers, including Sprint and Verizon. Customers order content via SMS text messaging or online and are billed through their phone service.

A Different World: Yohai says the differences in business practices between Europe and America are startling. "To create a company from scratch in Greece, you need to wait a good three months from the day you file papers, and it costs you a bunch of money," Yohai says. "Here, you can start the company the same day, and you pay a tenth of what you pay [in Greece]."

Follow Their Lead: Follow your passion wherever it takes you-even if that means relocating with good friends by your side for support.