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Monkey Business

Think art and entrepreneurship don't mix? The secrets of one designer's success.

This story appears in the February 1999 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

I first met Paul Frank a few years ago in Huntington Beach, California. Introduced as the newsstand guy who hand-stitched wallets for local kids, he seemed the shy, observant type. Though I didn't know why at the time, his name (and nature) stuck. I didn't forget either.

Two years and one telephone interview later, I find myself in Costa Mesa, California, at the headquarters of Paul Frank Industries Inc. Although Frank, 31, doesn't remember me, you'd never know it by the way he whisks me around the room like a long-lost friend, showing off everything from vinyl fabric samples to sock monkey dolls, even his first sewing machine. Still seemingly shy when it comes to success, it isn't Frank but president Ryan Heuser, 26, and CEO John Oswald, 31, who fill me in on the company's international status--Paul Frank products are sold not only in the United States but throughout Canada, China, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom--and its 1998 sales figures, which were just under $5 million.

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