Since the day he got his first Mac in the second grade, Steven Ridder has been crazy about technology. Even a stint in the Army, where he served as a military policeman (and a bodyguard for President Bill Clinton in Bosnia), couldn't deter him from his high-tech destiny. So last fall, Ridder, 22, left Northeastern University in Boston to launch Intermax Media. The Weymouth, Massachusetts, company's premier product: the CD Card, a business card (measuring approximately 2 inches by 4 inches) with multimedia capabilities.
Don't be fooled by the CD's rectangular shape, says Ridder of the marketing tool. "It works like any other CD," he explains. "Just pop it in and close the door." A team of multimedia designers customize the cards to hold full-motion video and audio, from sales presentations to training videos.
Operating on a shoestring, Ridder made a bold tactical maneuver to finance the first CD Card. In search of a client who would support his visionary concept--and pick up the costs of producing a prototype--Ridder enlisted the expertise of a tech-driven company that had a reputation for innovative marketing. "We pitched it to them and they loved it. We agreed to [design it] for them at cost," he says. "In turn, they could be the first company to [use] the cards."
These days, Intermax is a hit at tech trade shows. "People literally [follow] you out the door," says Ridder, whose clients include Fox Sports and Compaq. "They want to see it work."
With a DVD version in the works, Ridder says, "I never realized Intermax would go this far, this fast. I [even have] investors now. It's full steam ahead."
Jobs From Hell
By Bowen Park
Whether it's slinging fries in a hideous polyester outfit or serving smorgasbord at an old folk's home, everyone's had at least one seriously sucky job. We asked some successful entrepreneurs to share their "personal worst"--and what it taught them about running their own businesses.
Name/Age: Eddison Bramble/35
Company/Location: New Image Media/Long Island, New York
Product: Fashion magazine
"I was a door-to-door vacuum salesman one summer in college. I was the only black salesperson in an all-white neighborhood that had a reputation for racism and continued denial of housing to blacks. Even though many doors shut in my face and disparaging comments were made, I was amazed at my ability to get individuals to let me into their homes. That experience strengthened my resolve that proper training and sheer determination can overcome the highest barriers."
Name/Age: Anita Ko/24
Company/Location: Trash Bags/Los Angeles
Product: Fabric handbags
"My friend and I decided to do this little T-shirt line a few years ago. The job of T-shirt salesperson was hard for me since I was only 20 and many of the [store owners] were in their 40s and 50s. I got over my fear of going forward and learned that the people who make it are the ones who keep going even in the toughest of times. Even though the line didn't work out, it led me to where I am now."
Name/Age: Robert Jungmann/29
Company/Location: Manastash Inc./Seattle
Product: Outdoor hemp clothing and accessories
"My worst job was as a real-estate appraiser. The job was great, [except for] the boss I had for three months. He taught me to show my employees respect and to give them the tools they need to take on more responsibility. I learned this from him as these were the areas in which he lacked."
Meeting Of The Minds
By Debra Phillips
Want to make a connection? The Young Entrepreneurs' Organization (YEO) in Alexandria, Virginia, gives small-business owners under 40 the opportunity to get together with similarly ambitious peers. What this translates into is networking possibilities--and plenty of empathetic support.
"Until you find a peer group like YEO, you always think you're going through something by yourself," says Milledge Hart, 33, president of the 12-year-old group, which has chapters worldwide. "[YEO] gives you the opportunity to meet other people who have experienced similar things."
Having grown by more than 35 percent last year, YEO is clearly striking a chord. "We're trying to grow [even more]," says Hart, who cites the group's educational resources--including a roster of prominent guest speakers from the world of business--as part of YEO's appeal.
Criteria for membership include the aforementioned age requirement and gross annual sales of $1 million or more. A one-year membership starts at $699. For more information, contact YEO's national headquarters at (703) 519-6700.
By Debra Phillips
Don't let casual Fridays fool you: Dressing professionally--and acting accordingly--never goes out of style. At least that's the message 24-year-old Clint Greenleaf hopes to get across to peers in his self-published book, Attention to Detail: A Gentleman's Guide to Professional Appearance and Conduct, which is due out sometime this fall.
He's currently working on a similar volume for women, in addition to The Attention To Detail Newsletter, the quarterly publication he produces about style and etiquette. Here, Greenleaf, who earned his stripes through a prep-school education and a stint in corporate America, answers some of our questions:
BSU:Considering the trend toward more casual dress in workplaces, just how important is a professional appearance nowadays?
GREENLEAF: I think it's almost more important. With everybody becoming more casual, there's less knowledge of how to dress properly. Because of this, you can really stand out [if you do it right].
BSU:What are the biggest fashion mistakes?
GREENLEAF: Both men and women assume people are going to [judge them] as individuals, not [based on] their clothes, so they don't spend that extra 40 seconds in front of the mirror making sure they don't have lipstick on their teeth or their belt is on properly.
BSU:Beyond fashion, what business etiquette is important to making a good impression?
GREENLEAF: Smile and speak in a professional manner--[avoid] using slang. Sound and act like you know what you're doing.
BSU:Is there a secret to properly shaking someone's hand?
GREENLEAF: The main thing is to get a decent contact between the webbing [on your hand] and the other person's webbing. As silly as it sounds, it might make sense to practice this with friends.
BSU:Is it still a good idea for a man to open a door for a woman?
GREENLEAF: I consider myself a man of the 1990s and I'd still open a door for a woman. Actually, there's nothing that says a woman can't open a door for a man, either. I don't think anyone will ever be sued for sexual harassment over this--but then, having said that, I'll probably end up on Ally McBeal.
By Michelle Prather
Wondering just who constitutes the exploding phenomenon that is the women's surf market? Elizabeth Glazner, founding editor of Wahine magazine, has the answer: "She's the healthy mom who also runs on the beach when the waves are lousy. She's the 14-year-old whose dad takes her out on the longboard he rode in the '60s. She's the beach bum. She's the successful corporate person who has the best equipment and travels to Fiji."
She's also the gal who lives nowhere near the beach but wishes she did and dresses like she does. You see, women's surfing is (forgive the pun) a vast ocean of opportunity. From surfboard wax to rash guards, sunglasses to thongs, the possibilities just keep growing. Clothing lines Rusty, Gotcha (with its Girl Star line), O'Neill and Stüssy have all prospered by jumping on board, and large and small surf companies nationwide are following suit--in every way imaginable. Meet some entrepreneurial minds who took their passion to a whole new level.
School For Surf
Isabelle "Izzy" Tihanyi, 33, attended the University of California, San Diego, on a surf scholarship. She's surfed competitively and taught surfing since the '80s. So who better to start the world's premiere surfing school for women of every generation?
Surf Diva, her La Jolla, California, "dream come true," offers clinics, camps, private lessons and guided trips to where the waves break best. A line of Surf Diva products, including skateboards, was introduced last year. Surf Diva surfboards are sold nationwide; a line of T-shirts, sweatshirts and tank tops is carried by Tihanyi's school and local surf shops.
The 3-year-old school's enrollment is maxed out every week, leaving Tihanyi ecstatic over the future of the women's surf industry. "I'm so happy to see more women involved in [surfing]," she says. "But we have to keep the movement going. That's what Surf Diva's all about--introducing [people] to our sport."
Breaking The Waves
Worldwide market for women's surf apparel--1992: $25 million; 1997: $300 million; 1998: $400 million (estimated)
Number of surf companies with women's surf apparel lines--1992: 1; 1997: 20
Female membership in the National Scholastic Surfing Association more than tripled between 1994 and 1997.*
Women's participation in the U.S. Open of Surfing doubled from 1996 to 1997.*
Source: Deloitte & Touche LLP; *Source: Boarding America
Thirty-five-year-old Elizabeth Glazner didn't surf until she met avid surfer Marilyn Edwards, 46, in 1993. Glazner was immediately put off by surf shops and magazines which, back then, catered to a "teenage boy world." So in 1994, the pair decided to make waves with Wahine, the world's first surfing and water sports magazine for women.
"I worked for free," says Glazner, a veteran reporter, "and Marilyn sold her 1964 Porsche [to finance the start-up]." Since the Long Beach, California, magazine's first issue, published in 1995, sales have increased tenfold.
Who says you can't run a surf company from Fort Collins, Colorado? Not Tracey Hagemann. She had to leave the West Coast when her husband got a new job, but in January, this 12-year surf veteran launched A Woman's Shape Surf Co. (http://www.awssurf.com), an online wet suit/clothing/surfboard venture with expected sales of $95,000 this year. Thanks to e-commerce, Hagemann, 29, can offer more-than-competitive prices to female surfers. And by working with surfboard designer Shannon Payne-McIntyre, 23, she can sell a variety of customized boards.
The bulletin board on her site gives women a venue to build a stronger surfing community. Says Hagemann: "I thought there was a need for something about the essence of women's surfing, without the hype."
Surf Diva, (619) 454-8273, http://www.surfdiva.com
Clint Greenleaf, c/o Greenleaf Enterprises Inc., (800) 932-5420
Intermax Media, (781) 335-8410
Manastash Inc., (800) 328-5166, http://www.manastash.com
New Image Media, (516) 485-8681
Trash Bags, (213) 622-0718
Wahine, (562) 434-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org