What: A "design your
own jewelry" store
Who: Lindsay Cain of Femmegems
Where: New York City
When: Started in November 2002
Nothing can take away the glow a woman gets when she sees that perfect piece of jewelry-nothing except for an exorbitant price tag, that is. But when customers come to Lindsay Cain's Femmegems store, they're able to bring in pictures of exquisite designer pieces and replicate them at a fraction of the original cost.
Initially, Cain designed and sold jewelry herself, but this 29-year-old found her niche when she realized that other women not only liked to design their own jewelry, but also enjoyed emulating the jeweled adornments they'd see in fancy, high-end department stores. "They'll come from [the department store] across the street and design a piece like the one they just saw," explains Cain, who offers her patrons a wide selection of semiprecious gems. "People feel the value they're getting."
With her Femmegems idea in mind, Cain went hunting for retail space in New York City's NoLIta neighborhood. After finding the perfect location, Cain opened her store's doors in November 2002, and just six weeks later, the store was featured in an article in the "Style" section of The New York Times.
The resulting business kept Cain and her staff busy for weeks-and even garnered attention from buyers at upscale department store Henri Bendel who asked Cain to open a similar setup in one of their boutiques. Now with two locations, Cain expects about $700,000 in sales this year.
Listen While You Work
What: An online music
station for cubicle-dwellers to listen to at work
Who: Joe Pezzillo of Music for Cubicles
Where: Boulder, Colorado
When: Started in February 2003
Joe Pezzillo has long had a passion for Internet radio. In fact, he had tried launching an Internet radio venture in 1996 but was unsuccessful due to the uncertainties of the media at the time-such as how to support it solely with ad revenue. Pezzillo took the lessons he learned from his experience into his new venture, Music for Cubicles (www.musicforcubicles.com), an Internet radio service for people to listen to at their desks.
Thanks to his experience, Pezzillo, 34, knew to launch this service with a different revenue model from day one-it's subscription-based rather than ad-based. "Subscription radio is advertising-free, and the market is currently proving that people are willing to pay for that," says Pezzillo, who hopes for 5,000 subscriptions by year-end.
Now that he's partnered with Real Networks, one of the most popular destinations on the Web, Pezzillo has been able to build traffic and awareness for his new brand. His first channel streams music that's easy to listen to, like classical and down-tempo electronica. He also hopes to add others as soon as he builds his subscriber base.
What: A bed-and-breakfast
inn for dogs and their owners
Who: Mitch Frankenberg and Jennifer Fredreck of The Paw House Inn
Where: West Rutland, Vermont
When: Started in 2001
Dogs should go on vacation, too. That brilliant idea served as inspiration for Mitch Frankenberg and Jennifer Fredreck, dog owners and former New Yorkers who moved to Vermont in search of a change.
These two pet owners know just how difficult it is to go on a vacation when you have a dog. Most vacation destinations either charge extra for what amounts to a basic kennel stay--hardly a fun time for any dog--or don't allow dogs to stay at all. "We had a hard time going out to dinner, a hard time shopping," says Frankenberg, 36. "We recognized the need."
So when the husband-and-wife team sold their house in New York City, they decided to buy a bed-and-breakfast in Vermont-and tailor it specifically to dog owners. For starters, all the rooms are pet-friendly. (Hardwood floors and washable duvets instead of traditional comforters are just a few of the amenities.)
But what really sets The Paw House Inn apart from other vacation spots is Mario's Playhouse--a special inn just for the dogs, where they can stay overnight, mingle and play with each other. The area is designed to keep the dogs not only safe, but happy as well. Background music even plays to soothe the dogs.
Dog owners who've come to The Paw House Inn are giving rave reviews, according to the couple. "They feel like they can relax when they're on vacation," says Frankenberg.
Fredreck, 32, concurs: "When they come, they don't expect it to be as nice as it is. During breakfast, the owners talk about their dogs. It's so funny--everyone has something in common."
They have been so successful, the couple is now looking to add another location, which they hope will double their nearly $250,000 in yearly sales.
On a Shoestring
What: Consumer resource Web
Who: Tim Storm of FatWallet.com
Where: Roscoe, Illinois
When: Started in 1999
How much: $100
As the director of Internet technology for a consumer electronics manufacturer, Tim Storm was no stranger to the Web, nor to how consumers used it to research potential online purchases. As a hobby, Storm started FatWallet.com in a spare room of his home. Although similar sites existed, Storm felt his could emerge as the leader, given his background and capabilities.
He already had a computer and a Net connection, so he only needed to spend $70 for the domain name and $30 for Web hosting. Continuing to work at his day job, Storm, 35, kept costs low by building the site-chock-full of retailer reviews (of electronics, beauty products, books, music, movies and more), special offers, cash-back rewards and comparison shopping for savvy shoppers-at night and during weekends.
For the first few months, Storm submitted FatWallet.com to search engines and got free traffic in return. Once he received a few checks from affiliate programs, Storm used the income toward pay-per-click search engines to drive more traffic. "A general rule of mine is to not spend a dollar unless you can get at least $1.25 in value returned," says Storm.
True to FatWallet.com's modest beginnings and mission, Storm doesn't spend wildly-despite growth that's allowed him to move operations to an office and project gross revenue of $2.5 million for 2003. "In our business, we don't even make our living a dollar at a time-a dime at a time is more like it," says Storm, who currently has 14 employees. "Starting with a shoestring budget gave us the ideals to not spend money before we had it."
-April Y. Pennington