Flower Power

How one former guitarist gave a much-needed woman's touch to the rock 'n' roll music scene
Magazine Contributor
7 min read

This story appears in the May 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

What: Manufacturer of guitars for girls
Who: Tish Ciravolo of Daisy Rock Girl Guitars LLC
Where: Van Nuys, California
When: Started in 2000

Rock 'n' roll has long been a man's paradise, but Tish Ciravolo is hoping to change that with her Daisy Rock line of guitars made especially for girls. After all, Ciravolo, a thirtysomething musician and mother of two young girls, knows from experience what it's like for a woman to struggle to play a large and heavy standard guitar--she did that years ago as a guitarist in the Los Angeles music scene.

Ciravolo's idea for a girl-friendly guitar came to her one day while drawing a picture of a daisy with her then-2-year-old daughter, Nicole. After she added a neck and strings, the idea was born. She knew these had to be real electric guitars--not plastic toys. And she envisioned a guitar ergonomically designed for girls that would inspire them to consider a future in music.

Ciravolo's husband, Michael, happened to be the president of Schecter Guitars, so she pitched the idea to him, describing them as "guitars that fit little girls' fingers with fun, flowery and heart designs." He backed the idea, and Daisy Rock began as a division of Schecter.

But before long, the girl guitars ended up gaining so much attention that Tish spun Daisy Rock off into a separate entity. Today, the guitars are sold through authorized music and guitar stores nationwide.

Still, the road hasn't been paved with flowers, says Tish. Initially, she faced skepticism from some guitar industry mavens, but the buzz from consumers kept her going. With sales of $500,000 last year, Daisy Rock is on its way toward inspiring a whole new generation of musicians.

Flight of Fancy

What: Gourmet meals to take aboard airline flights
Who: Richard Katz and Alan Levin of SkyMeals LLC
Where: Santa Monica, California
When: Started in 2002

On a recent flight from paris to Los Angeles, Richard Katz, 51, and Alan Levin, 59, feasted on a smorgasbord of delicacies they'd brought aboard with them. While satisfying their hunger, the pair noticed jealous looks from other passengers--and saw a business opportunity.

But don't think of SkyMeals' ready-to-eat fare as typical airline food. Rather, SkyMeals cooks up tasty, gourmet dishes such as Seared Ahi Tuna or Chicken Breast Mediterranean and delivers them directly to customers' Los Angeles-area homes or offices prior to their flights. Because the entrées hover between $25 and $30, the company targets businesspeople who are dissatisfied with airline food and are willing to pay extra for restaurant-quality fare. And now that 2003 sales are expected to exceed six figures, the partners hope to expand their business to other major airport hubs such as those in Atlanta, Chicago and New York City.

Katz says their service hearkens back to the travel heyday of the '50s and '60s, when taking a plane was considered luxurious. Though white tablecloths and silver cutlery are out of the picture, Katz hopes their gourmet meals will renew a sense of in-flight indulgence: "[We thought] we could do a little to bring that back."

Canine Cool

What: Sunglasses for dogs
Who: Ken and Roni Di Lullo of MidKnight Creations LLC
Where: Los Gatos, California
When: Started in 1997

Ken and Roni Di Lullo came up with the idea for Doggles--sunglasses designed especially for dogs--after noticing their dog, MidKnight, was always squinting in the sunlight. "We'd be wearing sunglasses to the park, and [our dog] didn't have anything on his eyes," says Roni. "We decided he needed something."

The couple tried putting some regular sunglasses on their dog, but nothing would stay on MidKnight's face. After they experimented with some sports goggles, the innovative husband-and-wife team developed a special pair that fit their dog's face perfectly.

Soon, MidKnight was sporting Doggles in public, and other dog owners began to approach the Di Lullos, dying to know where the dog-friendly sunglasses came from.

That's when Roni, who worked in computer science at the time, began making Doggles on a part-time basis. After their first son was born, she decided to pursue the venture full time. Meanwhile, Ken continued to work as a network engineer. But all that changed last year, after an e-zine called Daily Candy ran a story on Doggles, opening the door to a CNN story--and quadrupling sales overnight. Says Roni, "It's growing extremely fast at this point."

These days, both Roni, 32, and Ken, 35, work full time running their $1 million business, selling their innovative product through the Petsmart and Solutions catalogs, on the Doggles Web site (www.doggles.com), and in small boutiques. Says Roni, "People tell us they've been looking for this product for years, and they're happy we can help their dogs."

Keeping Watch

What: A watch equipped with a GPS to track children
Who: Timothy Neher of Wherify Wireless Inc.
Where: Redwood Shores, California
When: Started in 1998

When Timothy Neher lost track of his niece and nephew at an amusement park a few years ago, he felt "that panic feeling that every parent feels." Thankfully, he found them--but Neher, 37, wondered what parents would do if they didn't know where their child was.

Neher's idea for Wherify Wireless Inc. was born. He envisioned a device with a GPS that could pinpoint a child's location within minutes. Today, his vision is embodied in the Wherify product--a wristwatch that can only be unlocked either manually with a key fob or remotely through the Internet or over the phone. Sold for about $399, the product comes in a variety of colors and designs, making it fun and fashionable for the 4- to 12-year-old kids it's designed to protect. Customers must sign up and pay for the monthly service, which lets them check on their children via phone or the company's Web site (www.wherify.com).

With a background in developing and marketing products, Neher raised $10 million in venture capital in 1998. His product is sold nationwide through retailers such as CompUSA and The Good Guys, and Neher expects 970,000 subscribers by 2005.

"We're scratching the tip of the iceberg with this technology," says Neher. Future plans include Wherify locators designed for the elderly, joggers, hikers and pets.

On a Shoestring

What: An art production company
Who: Dave Link of FrameFetish.com
Where: Costa Mesa, California
When: Started in 1991
How much: Less than $1,000

Art inspires many, Dave Link included. But it was the lack of originality displayed in the art galleries where he did framing part time that inspired him to let his creativity flow with a venture of his own.

Keeping his gallery jobs while he launched his company gave Link the creative and financial elbow room needed to perfect his craft, which includes specialty matting and framing. Using his own available funds, Link bought framing tools and a matte cutter. He also saved money by fashioning many of the tools himself. Having designed work spaces at his other jobs, he knew how to maximize his own--his one-car garage, where he also built his work table out of 2-by-4 plywood purchased from The Home Depot.

Like most artists, Link, 35, treasures his solitude and has remained the sole employee, ensuring quality results. In 1999, Link launched his Web site, FrameFetish.com, which relies mostly on word-of-mouth to entice frame-seeking customers with a colorful gallery of his work.

Link quit his other jobs a year later to pursue what he still calls his "hobby." With projected 2003 sales of nearly $1 million, Link's "hobby" has earned quite a following among abstract art collectors. "With the word 'business,'" he explains, "I see a tie and a desk. I consider myself an artist who's fortunate."

-April Y. Pennington

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