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What: A line of one-piece
baby clothing designed to look like multipiece outfits
Who: Jennifer Hughes of Liloebe LLC
Where: Traverse City, Michigan
When: Started in January 2002
Jennifer Hughes and her friends always loved the look of the cute baby clothes they received at baby showers. But when it came time to put the layers on-the shorts, the shirt and the overshirt-it hit home to Hughes, 36, how inconvenient the baby separates were. "I had tons of these outfits that were completely impractical," she explains.
Hughes wondered why no one had thought of designing one-piece outfits for babies and toddlers that just looked like they were made up of two or three pieces. After all, a one-piece outfit would be much easier to get on and off, and it wouldn't bunch up as the baby moved.
After the birth of her second daughter, Hughes started seriously researching what it would take to launch her line of baby clothes. After coming up with the corporate name, Liloebe LLC (a combination of her daughters' names, Lili and Phoebe), Hughes initially focused on securing big corporate accounts. However, "They wouldn't touch me with a 10-foot pole," she explains, because her operation was so new. So Hughes went to Plan B and embraced the boutique market, which fell head-over-heels in love with her stylish, affordably priced (around $20 retail) creations.
The most difficult part of her marketing, says Hughes, has been explaining the product to customers. Because the outfits in her Stylease line look like they're made up of separate pieces, potential buyers have to actually touch her products to understand why they're so special. Now Hughes is mounting a grass-roots consumer marketing campaign. "That's the kind of word-of-mouth that's going to grow this product," she says. With 2003 sales projected into the six figures, word is definitely getting out.
What: A trash disposal and
street maintenance service that employs people in the social
Who: Chris Martin of CleanScapes Inc.
When: Started in 1997
chris martin lived in an area surrounded by missions, homeless shelters and trash-filled alleys in the Pioneer Square section of Seattle. It was there that he got the inspiration for his business. Martin, 36, wanted to start a service that would not only help clean up the area, but also employ the very people who needed jobs the most: clients in Seattle's social services network.
"We try to hire employees [who] are what people might describe as marginally employable people, people who might not otherwise have a job," says Martin. "It's pretty rewarding when you take someone who has been on the streets or in a drug-treatment program and they [come] to work every day, clean, drug-free, confident about their place in the world and confident in their jobs."
With $1,500 in start-up capital, Martin formed his business as a for-profit enterprise. He based this decision on the advice of a man who ran a Lutheran community center in the neighborhood. "He said, 'You ought to be a for-profit company, because when [your employees] go to apply for and work another job, it would send a much stronger message,'" says Martin.
Armed with his good idea, Martin first had to sell it to local private property owners in Seattle who expressed some interest in his service. But Martin really lucked out when he contacted a property owner who happened to own buildings on both sides of an alley. He was the first to buy the CleanScapes service, and additional clients soon followed suit. Today, CleanScapes has a presence both in Seattle and San Francisco, with sales set to hit $1.2 million this year.
A Helping Hand
What: A job search and
networking Web site for former employees of Arthur Andersen
Who: Jonathan Goldsmith, founder of AndersenAlumni.net
When: April 2002
After getting laid off from accounting firm Arthur Andersen, Jonathan Goldsmith was inspired to make a fresh start-not only for himself, but also for his co-workers who had also lost their jobs. "Andersen was such a family," explains Goldsmith, 29. So he started his Web site, AndersenAlumni.net, a place where former Andersen employees could network, post resumes and find new job listings.
His sales are based on advertising, as Goldsmith didn't want to charge the Andersen alums a membership fee. At first, people had their doubts. "Everybody was telling me it was a stupid idea," he says. But not charging membership actually helped Goldsmith build a user base and attract advertisers. In fact, the advertisers sought him out after they heard about the site via word-of-mouth.
Now, with a user base of more than 6,000 Arthur Andersen alums and sales expected to surpass $70,000 this year, Goldsmith is looking to expand his business. He'd like to hire a staff (he's currently a sole proprietor), seek out more advertisers, and add new features and services for Andersen alums.
On a shoestring
What: An Internet-based
Who: Richard Bondurant of Tahitian Travel Planners
When: Started in 1999
How much: $3,800
When Richard Bondurant saw a breathtaking picture of Moorea, French Poly-nesia, on the cover of a magazine in 1997, he knew he had to go. After traveling to French Polynesia many times, Bondurant, as a hobby, launched a Web site for those planning to visit the islands. But when requests flooded in from people asking him to help organize their travel plans, he left his Internet and business development job at MCI.
Working out of his home as a sole proprietor, Bondurant subcontracted extra work and designed his own Web site (www.gotahiti.com), eliminating costly fees. With no advertising or marketing, Bondurant gained clients through his policy of "efficiency, service and knowledge of the destination."
Offering pre-designed itineraries and customized packages, Tahitian Travel Planners has a loyal following: About 40 percent of its bookings are repeat clients. Currently, Bondurant projects 2003 sales of $3 million. Now, with five employees, Bondurant's commitment to service and knowledge has him and his staff visiting French Polynesia often to keep tabs on hotels, restaurants and activities and maintaining relationships that let his business offer the best vacation packages.
While Bondurant remains lean operationally, he's rich in
experience: "I was looking for a stronger quality of life, and
I've achieved that. I can't imagine being more