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What: Personalized romance
Who: J.S. Fletcher and Kathy Newbern of YourNovel.com
Where: Raleigh, North Carolina
When: Started in 1992
Who knew regular people could star as protagonists in romance novels? Upon hearing a friend's passing comment about the idea, writers J.S. Fletcher, 52, and Kathy Newbern, 46, decided it would make a great business. After purchasing a computer and a printer, the two launched YourNovel.com and immediately set out to write their first customized romance novel.
Initially, the partners used simple search and replace commands, but today they use a custom-made software program to personalize each book. Since 1992, they've written 10 novels together under the pen name Fletcher Newbern; customers can choose either wild (steamy scenes) or mild (hugging and kissing) versions. They've even released a book written by the winner of their romance novel contest.
Customers who log on to the Web site simply fill out a questionnaire, which gathers such data as names of characters (real or imagined--the most popular bachelor is George Clooney) and romantic setting of choice (such as exotic Caribbean islands, cruise ships and North Carolina lodges). The order is then sent to an outsourced printer; the personalized book, featuring a full-color cover and professional binding, is shipped and received in a matter of days.
Last year alone, the company sold 6,000 copies. And although sales were $300,000 in 2001, the payoff for Fletcher and Newbern has been more than just financial--they got married two years after launching the business.
What: Fresh-baked cookies
delivered to homes and offices
Who: Geoff Auslen and Andrew Koven of Geoff and Drew's Incredible Cookies
When: Started in 2001
When Geoff Auslen, 35, and Andrew Koven, 33, went into business together by purchasing the assets of an existing bakery, making cookies was only part of their vision. Intent on leaving a lasting impression with customers, the longtime friends added delivery services--to Boston-area dorm rooms, homes and offices--to the mix.
Available until midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends, the cookie delivery service, which doles out fresh-baked cookies in six flavors, has been a hit with customers, especially college students. In an effort to boost growth even further, Auslen and Koven have since expanded the business to include cakes, pastries and brownies as well as corporate sales of gift baskets and tins and catering services for corporate parties and events. To date, success has been sweet: 2002 sales are estimated to hit $500,000.
Auslen and Koven say they plan to build the business one recipe at a time. "We're not out to beat the world just yet; we're out to make good cookies," Koven explains. Next up: adding a few new cookie flavors to the menu.
- Geoff and Drew's Incredible Cookies