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Smart Ideas 12/05

Lucky wishbones, MP3 loading services and more
December 1, 2005
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/81074

Wishful Thinking
What: Synthetic wishbones
Who: Ken Ahroni of Lucky Break Wishbone Corp.
Where: Seattle
When: Started in 2004

Imagine celebrating as your company's products are destroyed. Ken Ahroni, founder of Lucky Break Wishbone Corp., does just that-and he even joins in on the fun. He has personally snapped a few hundred of his company's synthetic wishbones. "There are literally no defectives," he says. "They are meant to break!"

Ahroni, 53, comes from a family that understands holiday traditions. After college, he joined his family's import business, which manufactured Christmas lights in Taiwan. Later, he created World Masters Inc., a consulting firm that aided factories in product development, working on such projects as increasing the capacity of Christmas-light strings from 50 to 200 lights. "When I'd go to a party, I never met anyone who did what I did," he jokes.

After 20 years of operating World Masters, Ahroni was ready for a change. In 1999, he had an epiphany at the Thanksgiving table when he noticed a "wishbone shortage" and wanted to solve it. "Two lucky people make a wish, and that's it for another year," he explains. What if there were more wishbones to go around?

Ahroni experimented with plastics until he could replicate the snapping of an authentic dried turkey wishbone. He relied on a cavity injection mold and 3-D digital files for testing. Five years and $75,000 later, Ahroni had a successfully test-marketed synthetic wishbone--and closed World Masters.

In just the first six months, Ahroni sold $50,000 worth of the product. Today, custom design and imprinting encourage corporate and personal use at catered events and for ad campaigns. A set of four wishbones retails for $3.99 at the company's website, BridesVillage.com, iParty.com, TrueBlueChristmas.com and even VegBay.com (the product's mostly recycled plastic composition appeals to vegetarians). Now producing 30,000 wishbones daily, Ahroni expects 2005 sales to reach $1 million.
--Sharon Tang-Quan

Fully Loaded
What: An MP3 loading service that transfers CD catalogs onto iPods
Who: Catherine Keane of HungryPod
Where: New York City
When: Started in 2004

Apple Computer's iPods are everywhere these days, and they're hungry. Just ask Catherine Keane, 24, who started her business, HungryPod, shortly after an acquaintance offered her $500 to load his CD collection onto his iPod. Keane took the offer and determined that with two more customers paying similar prices, she could launch a business for $1,500--enough to buy a computer that could handle large volumes of data transfer.

Loosely based on what its first client paid, HungryPod charges $1.75 per CD for the first 50 CDs, and $1.50 for each additional CD. Keane will pick up both the CDs and iPods at her clients' homes or offices in Manhattan for an extra $15--unless they have more than 100 discs, in which case pickup is free.

Keane, who interned at a top 40 radio station in Florida prior to starting HungryPod, also recommends music to clients based on their collections for a fee. According to Keane, 1 in 4 customers requests this service.

Thanks in part to a small story in The New York Times, Keane's advertising efforts on Craigslist and word-of-mouth, HungryPod has expanded to three employees and four computers, and expects 2005 sales to reach $100,000. Now others want to get involved, so Keane has hired a marketing/sales employee and hopes to start HungryPod centers nationwide in the near future.
--Jeran Wittenstein

The Bright Side
What: Landscape and seasonal outdoor lighting and decoration company
Who: Bob Martin of BrightIdeasInc.com
Where: New Lenox, Illinois
When: Started in 1996
How much: $2,500

Bob Martin and his employee-turned-partner, Larry Jones, couldn't help but notice the attention they were receiving as they put up their first client's Christmas display. "We had 25-foot toy soldiers, a 40-foot arch going across the driveway, a 36-foot-long Santa's Express in the front yard, and about 400,000 lights going throughout the property," says Martin, 45. The extravagant display even attracted the attention of the local media in New Lenox, Illinois.

That was in the winter of 1996. Martin got the creative spark for his company, BrightIdeasInc.com, when he realized most people dread the yearly task of hanging holiday lights. Confident that people would pay for the convenience, Martin launched the business from his garage. He spent just $2,500 at startup, purchasing supplies such as advertising signs, ladders, lights, timers and other equipment. Thanks to free consulting help from his local Small Business Development Center, Martin developed a solid business plan and even got help with marketing and financing. By sponsoring the local TV station's toy drive and giving away free lighting displays through radio shows, he was able to score much-needed exposure in his community for next to nothing.

In 1997, BrightIdeasInc.com also began offering year-round landscape lighting services along with its seasonal decorations. Now with two showrooms and four warehouses in Illinois, the company projects nearly $2 million in sales for 2005.
--James Park