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Tough as Leather

Building a business isn't easy, but how much can one entrepreneur take?

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

When Julia Duren arrived from Hamburg, Germany, at the San Francisco Airport in 1982, she was a 30-year-old mother with two children, ages 5 and 2. Her second husband, an American, was doing life at San Quentin. She had almost no money and no friends, family or contacts to speak of. But Duren knew something about leather, and she had a dream.

That put her on the road to success. Today, she's the largest shareholder of K.L. Manufacturing Inc., a Larkspur, California, firm that had revenues of $1.2 million last year. She has 24 employees, all of whom have profit sharing, 100 percent health benefits, paid vacation time and all the other benefits successful businesses can afford. But the ups and downs Duren endured are perhaps better-suited for the trampoline business.

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