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Media Mogul

Making deals for unsold airtime helped this entrepreneur fund business growth.

One way to reduce the risk and cost of launching a new consumer product is to get TV stations to run your ads for free. That's exactly what R.D. Smith did when he launched Drive & Grow Rich Inc. This year, Smith, 33, will sell more than $10 million worth of motivational and business CDs and sign up 100,000 new subscribers without paying a cent for advertising.

Smith calls his secret formula "joint venturing" with the media. "Every media outlet has some unsold airtime," he says. "Instead of taking a loss on it, they give it to me in exchange for a split of the sales."

Because Smith's products are attractive to a broad demographic, his media partners run the Drive & Grow Rich advertisements at every opportunity. His 30- and 60-second ads run more than 1,000 times a day on radio and TV. Smith says media companies have literally funded his startup and growth. He has used more than $5 million worth of media in two years and never paid for any of it out-of-pocket.

This story appears in the April 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »