Pick an idea-any idea-and you can probably turn it into a thriving commercial enterprise. That's the lesson to be learned from the following entrepreneurs, who weren't satisfied with business as usual.
Setting The Tone
"I sort of made this into a [successful] business," says James Martin, founder of The Color People, a Denver-based company that chooses the paint colors used on hotels, office buildings and apartment complexes nationwide. "I had many, many doubts along the way."
Clearly, Martin's doubting days are far behind him-and for good reason. Despite the occasional encounter with skeptics ("You just pick colors for buildings?"), Martin posts annual sales increases of 10 percent-far more than just a drop in the paint bucket.
"Color is a phenomenal marketing tool for buildings," insists the 50-year-old entrepreneur, whose brush with Victorian house renovation steered him in the direction of color consulting. "We're taking [clients'] maintenance dollars and turning them into marketing dollars."
As a mother of five, Laurie Bucaro was sick and tired of the unsanitary toys kept in doctors' offices. "[The toys] the kids were touching were either broken or dirty," she explains.
With Fun Things Toy Service Inc., Bucaro is fixing all that. Her 6-year-old company cleans toys not only in doctors' offices but in fast-food restaurant play areas and day-care centers as well. It may be a dirty job, but the New Berlin, Wisconsin, entrepreneur is happy to do it.
"We're not afraid to do anything," says Bucaro, 38, whose sales have grown 40 percent annually since the company started. "There are just certain ways we approach each problem."
It helps that Bucaro's partner in grime, husband Michael, 41, is a certified sanitarian. With such clean credentials, no wonder Bucaro boasts a client list 100 strong-and growing.
Dressed For Success
There's nothing original you can do with uniforms, right? Au contraire. Consider 36-year-old Sandi Richter. After an emergency appendectomy brought her up close and personal with the rather impersonal nature of hospitals, the former pharmaceutical sales representative designed a line of patterned scrubs for medical professionals. Her Littleton, Colorado, Crazy Scrubs Inc. now sells scrubs featuring everything from pink flamingos to surfing Santa Clauses.
"I think patients like to see a human side to their doctors," explains Richter, who is confident she's doing her part to calm patients' fears. With 1995 sales of $100,000, why shouldn't she be?
Rochelle Huppin Fleck is confident, too-confident that her and partner Kathleen Magee's contemporary chef clothing is taking a bite out of the restaurant apparel market.
"Every year, we seem to be doubling [our sales]," says Huppin Fleck, 33, who co-founded Chefwear Inc. in Chicago with Magee, 36, in 1990. The company's contemporary baggy-style uniforms appeal to cooks worldwide.
"We just felt we needed to do something a little bit different, a little bit more comfortable and fashionable," says Huppin Fleck, who, like Magee, formerly worked as a pastry chef. Fashion, in this instance, translates into a veritable feast of patterns-from chili peppers and tropical fish to wild mushrooms.
Hail to the chefs!
Chefwear Inc., 833 N. Orleans St., 4th Fl., Chicago, IL 60610, (800) 568-2433, (312) 654-2201;
Crazy Scrubs Inc., 10633 W. Ontario Ave., Littleton, CO 80127, (303) 978-0063;
Fun Things Toy Service Inc., 16680 W. Cleveland Ave., Ste. D2, New Berlin, WI 53151, (800) 942-4949, (414) 796-1484;