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Too Sexy

Charisma, charm, wit, success...maybe some people do have it all. Meet 11 of today's sexiest entrepreneurs.
October 1, 2000
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/32110

We think we've skirted around the issue long enough. Everyone knows it's true, and yet we never talk about it-like it's taboo or something. Being from the generation in which nothing is taboo, however, we think it's time we got honest. There are some damn sexy entrepreneurs out there. So sexy, in fact, that we're writing about 11 of them right here in Start-Ups. Say hello to this year's sexiest entrepreneurs.

The 11 Sexy Entrepreneurs

Craig Nabat, 30
Eric C. Sorensen, 35
Rebecca Pflueger, 34
Omar Wasou, 29
Wendy Niad, 31
Cheryl M. Woodard, 29
Kimberly Williams, 33
Donna Childs, 33
Cho Phillips, 29
Carlo Terrano, 28 & Sean Francis, 28

If you must know, here's how we went about picking our fabulous contestants. OK, they're not really contestants, because they didn't win anything but a much-coveted spot in the middle of our magazine. It all started back in February, when I asked for nominations for sexy entrepreneurs. The criteria I laid out were that the entrepreneur must:

Craig Nabat, 30

"They say sex sells--there's nothing wrong with that," says Nabat, inventor of FINDIT, a device that helps you find your missing keys and other items. "Whatever you have, you use all your qualities to accomplish your goals. If you have sex appeal, if you have that mindset, you're a step ahead of the game."

Sounds a bit highfalutin, but actually, Nabat has a good point. If he can make himself as well as his invention household names, all the better for his West Bloomfield, Michigan, company, Ambitious Ideas Inc. In fact, all the better for other entrepreneurs, too. Although Ambitious Ideas is currently focused on FINDIT (the product is available via QVC, an infomercial and Ambitious Ideas' Web site at www.ambitiousideas.com, Nabat would eventually like to see his company acting as a marketer for other people's products and ideas. To do that, Nabat is getting himself known-putting his face in all FINDIT ads, and at one point even sending photos of himself in FINDIT boxer shorts to a large underwear designer as part of a tie-in pitch.

Nabat also has an interest in helping children with cleft lips and palates. "I was born with a cleft lip, and I always said that once I became very successful with this, I'd create a foundation to help with plastic surgery," he says. Nabat hopes to begin the foundation in about three years.

Rebecca Pflueger, 34

Starting a company in an industry in which you have no previous experience and going up against established industry giants like Chanel, Estée Lauder and Lancéme could make you look tired, old and, well, ugly. Not so with Pflueger, founder of Irvine, California, cosmetics company English Ideas Ltd. After all, she's in the business of helping women just like her-busy women who may only have a few minutes a day to make themselves beautiful.

So what does this British expatriate feel is the sexiest thing about her? "My accent. I stand out a little bit more here." Her accent isn't the only thing that makes Pflueger stand out. She received her bachelor's degree at age 20, the first woman at Southampton University in Southampton, England, to become an electronics engineer. And she stands out as an entrepreneur, too. English Ideas, which Pflueger founded with her husband, Russell, in 1993, is expected to reach retail sales of $15 million this year.

Pflueger's line of "practical cosmetics" has created a cult following among working women who appreciate its long-lasting qualities. As an entrepreneur, she's been able to approach the industry with an eye for innovation, incorporating ingredients like alpha hydroxy from the medical world to solve "unsolved cosmetic problems." But her achievements don't end there. Apart from being a smart, sexy, successful entrepreneur, Pflueger is also a philanthropist, and she regularly donates her products to the "Look Better, Feel Better" campaign for women who are undergoing chemotherapy.

Join the ranks of the bold and beautiful--check out In Your Face to get started creating your own cosmetic company.

And has being beautiful proved to be a liability as a businesswoman? "It is perceived a lot of times when I go to a meeting, say, with my COO, that I work for him," she says. "But I'm not concerned about that. I am very confident." Her plans for the future include keeping her privately held company profitable and continuing to do what she does best: providing quality products and solving women's cosmetic problems.

Wendy Niad, 31

Niad hasn't always been free to express her sexiness. Indeed, for five years, she slaved as an agent in the largest literary and talent agency in the world: a "big boys' club," requiring "cut-throat" masculinity. "I wore suits every day . . . I acted like a man!" she recalls.

But this all changed three years ago, when she founded Niad Management, a homebased literary and talent management firm in Sherman Oaks, California. She admits it was a scary move, but luckily, her commissions tripled the first year and increased tenfold last year.

What's the reason for her exponential success? Would you believe, in part, her newly reclaimed femininity? That's right-her clients noticed the change immediately.

According to Niad, since a corporate agency's focus is more on making money than the actual clients, her friendliness simply fits managerial work better. Although her intellectual prowess is still required, she now utilizes her warm personality as well. For example, her capacity for nurturing others-she's quick to note this personal side of her job, describing it as "holding hands, making [my clients] feel not as alone in the world." Niad's compassion also shines when she takes her dog Roscoe to a local hospital to serve in the Volunteer Pet Therapy program.

Great characters refuse to be repressed. With Niad's gutsy escape from the corporate mold, notes her lucky fiancé, "Wendi is truly an example of a sexy entrepreneur."

 

Kimberly Williams, 33

Need advice on how you, too, can be a sexy entrepreneur? You may consider stopping by Aalize.com, the only Web site that delivers advice with an attitude. Why does the down-to-earth love and relationship advice columnist and entrepreneur behind the site consider herself sexy? "It's the way I carry myself, and it's the attitude I have."

That attitude compelled Williams to start Chicago-based Urban Business Internet Services in 1998, which she has since grown into a full-fledged network of Web site communities, including HipHopfans.com, which sells apparel, and blackpersonalads.com, a personal ad service. The company is expected to generate sales and advertising revenue of $85,000 this year. Not bad, considering Williams started her first entrepreneurial venture with less than $500 after teaching herself HTML.

And don't think that Williams doesn't take her job seriously just because she isn't a certified therapist. She's been known to provide her home number to those in immediate need of emotional support. Yet she fits enough time into her busy schedule to be involved with the Crusade of Mercy, a group that provides temporary shelter for those who have lost their homes to fires. She's also become quite the celebrity of late, thanks in part to her advice column on VIBE.com, the site for popular urban culture magazine VIBE.

Cho Phillips, 29

Brides across the nation are breathing a little easier these days. Thanks to Phillips, executive director of Lovegevity.com, a relationship resource, including an online bridal service, brides are having their cake and eating it, too. Since Phillips founded the Durham, North Carolina-based site in 1997, originally called USBridalGuide.com, brides-to-be have been going online any time, anywhere to plan the big day.

Phillips' inspiration for USBridalGuide.com came in 1997, when she was learning HTML. She mentioned her idea to a friend who was planning a wedding, and "[it] blossomed from there."

After planning a wedding for a client with breast cancer, Phillips donated a portion of the earnings to the American Cancer Society. Juggling the responsibilities of wife, mother and entrepreneur has proved crazy, but Phillips sticks to a strict schedule. And as far as the whole sexy thing, she says she finds confidence alluring. "I like to associate with entrepreneurs who are out to achieve their goals, whether they do it or not."

Eric C. Sorensen, 35

Wine drinkers are often considered sexy...but does it hold true for wine makers? When you're talking about Sorensen, founder of Golden Angels Cellars in Eureka, California, it does. He specializes in mead, known for its ability to inspire romance.

Sorensen happened upon mead after taking a beermaking class from a professor who was an expert in the art of mead-making. Sorensen and his wife, Suzanne, then opened Golden Angels Cellars in 1998, and they now produce 5,000 cases of wine per year.

But it's not enough for Sorensen just to do well-he wants success for his entire community. "We decided to feature just locally made products [in our store]," says Sorensen.

Is beer your beverage of choice? Read From Beer Into Eternity to find out how to start your own microbrewery.

Devoting his time to local children is also a large part of Sorensen's life. This father of three does volunteer work with his wife, acting as liaisons between government agencies and children involved in court cases. Helping children, running a business, being a good husband and father-that's just part of everyday life. What's sexy? Says Sorensen, "Having a well-balanced life."

Omar Wasou, 29

At the very least, one hopes for minimal interruptions when this mesmerizing baritone opens his mouth to speak. The dreadlocked cybersuperior by the name of Omar Wasow, with his warm, chestnut eyes and charming smile, would cause just about anyone to blush. But what's cool is that he doesn't know it.

Since childhood, this self-proclaimed computer geek has been interested in the way technology has allowed people to network and relate. Seizing the opportunity to create something more social than informational as well as amass the previously overlooked African American online community, Wasow constructed BlackPlanet.comin New York City in September 1999. Says Wasow, a Stanford University grad, "Our core model is to put the power in the hands of our members."

And when it comes to managing his talented staff, Wasow doesn't pretend he's figured it all out. He simply incorporates what comes naturally. "I am really interested in making sure that people are learning a lot when they are working with me," he says.

As if creating one of the fastest-growing community portals weren't enough, Wasow also implements a strategy he calls viral philanthropy through which Blackplanet offers donations to a member's nonprofit organization of choice with every new recruit.

It's such passion for reform and societal enrichment that define Start-Ups' "sexy" standards.

Cheryl M. Woodard, 29

Within the not-so-glamorous desert of URLs, ISDNs and DSLs, there lies a sexy, albeit geeky, oasis. Woodard, president and CEO of The FIX Network, an ISP in San Luis Obispo, California, has introduced her unique blend of deep-seated ambition, fervor for everything high-tech and drop-dead good looks to an industry that isn't renowned for its sexy leaders.

Start your own ISP and give power to the people! Check out At Your Service to find out what you need to make it happen.

At one time, however, Woodard's path to the tech world was almost swayed in another direction: swimsuit modeling. In 1993, she was offered an opportunity to sign as a Hawaiian Tropics model, but her thirst for being involved in business drove her elsewhere, leading her instead into the world of computers. With only two volunteers to assist her (and her garage to house them), Woodard launched FIX Net in 1993; since then, the company has grown to 25 employees and projects sales of $1.8 million by year-end. Woodard admits that her intense passion for technology has served as her personal invitation to the land of geekdom. But she also regards herself as having the ability to carry herself confidently while keeping both feet on the ground. Says Woodard, "I've demonstrated that a young woman can run a business successfully and also be semi-attractive." Semi-attractive? Geeks have never looked better.

Donna Childs, 33

Passion. Enthusiasm. These are words that Childs, president and founder of Chrysalis Capital LLC, uses when talking about her work and anything else that puts her financial skills to good use.

Childs founded her Wall Street risk-financing firm in 1998 after working in reinsurance. Seeing a need for this type of institution, she decided to take a chance. "I think there are wonderful opportunities in the market, and I'm more of an entrepreneurial person, so it's always been my dream," she says. And the dream is paying off. Last year, Chrysalis, whose offices in New York City and London employ 18 people, had a 45 percent return on equity.

When not leading her successful company, Childs finds time to go to school and do volunteer work. Already holding a bachelor's degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale and a master's in international economics and finance from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachussets, Childs is currently pursuing an executive MBA at Columbia University. "It's nice to be able to tap into some of the expertise that exists at the business school when I'm working on a problem for work," she says.

Childs also finds time to lend her financial expertise to worthy causes. In 1993, she was named one of the 100 Real Heroes by Maxwell House Coffee for a business plan she developed to provide home health care to senior citizens in Massachusetts at no cost to taxpayers. She is on the board of governors for a charity that has operations in 25 developing countries and does pro bono finance work for other organizations. "It's a great way to contribute to worthy causes," she says, "but you also learn a lot that you can take back to the business."

Carlo Terrano, 28 & Sean Francis, 28

A Los Angeles Times Magazine scribe covering Fullerton, California, '80s arcade The Reagan Years dubbed its owner Sean Francis "boyishly handsome." And just to layer on the cheese, we think co-owner Carlo Terranova looks wondrous in a toolbelt.

But aside from the fact that these young Orange County hipsters-whose ventures (including The Hub café, adjoining The Reagan Years, The Scooter Shop Inc. in Orange and new bar The Continental) should reap a combined $1 million this year-are able to drive luxury cars, they're attractive simply because the odds were against them, and they made it anyway.

 

Friends since kindergarten, the high school dropouts were in search of life fulfillment. They found it doing what interests them and in service: They started the Fullerton Earth Day Festival, an annual event celebrating earth awareness. This year's bash, sponsored by Hansen's Natural Beverage and Launch.com, drew 8,000 attendees to see 20 bands, including Save Ferris and Reel Big Fish.

The fact that Francis and Terranova built The Hub, The Reagan Years and The Continental from the ground up and have actively involved themselves in the city also says something: The partners aren't afraid of some hard labor. Francis just gets bored silly if he's not working from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m., and Terranova is "building for the future." But, says the latter, "Motivations aside, we both share a really strong drive to produce, and that in itself is sexy."

Contact Sources

The Continental, (714) 871-2233, (714) 448-2144;

English Ideas Ltd., (800) 547-5278, English Ideas

The FIX Network Inc., (888) 781-6301, president@fix.net

Golden Angels Cellars, (707) 443-6323, www.goldenangels.com

The Hub/The Reagan Years, (714) 871-2233

Niad Management, fax: (818) 386-2082, wniad@aol.com

The Scooter Shop Inc., (714) 871-2233

Urban Business Internet Services, (312) 388-3999, www.aalize.com.