Ken & Jennifer Miller

43, 40, co-founders of Thousand Mile, in Vista, California
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

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

Description:Outdoor-clothing company

Start-Up: $166 in 1993

Sales: 2003 projected sales nearly $5 million

Swell Idea: Ken started his career in emergency services as a lifeguard in Carlsbad, California. The ill-fitting and faded trunks the lifeguards wore prompted him and then-girlfriend Jennifer to buy $166 worth of fabric and make 30 pairs of trunks. When the trunks quickly sold to Ken's co-workers, the couple knew their big wave had arrived.

Swim Meet: Free samples won over lifeguard agencies that ultimately switched when larger companies didn't deliver on time. Now the leading provider of trunks to professional lifeguard agencies as well as the Coast Guard, Ken contends: "[When] you're competing against the big boys like Nike or Speedo, the only way we could win is if we had awesome customer service and were a lot of fun to deal with. We did, and we won." Thousand Mile has since added a complete line of mail order outdoor wear.

Lifesaver: The thrill of saving lives pulled Ken back into the tide five years ago. "I wanted this company to grow, but there's nothing more rewarding than a surf rescue." Ken now commutes by plane to Half Moon Bay, California, two days a week, where he's a firefighter/paramedic for the Fire Protection District and teaches its surf rescue program. "I can come back to the business and see things [from a different perspective], see what's working and what's not."

More from Entrepreneur

Get heaping discounts to books you love delivered straight to your inbox. We’ll feature a different book each week and share exclusive deals you won’t find anywhere else.
Jumpstart Your Business. Entrepreneur Insider is your all-access pass to the skills, experts, and network you need to get your business off the ground—or take it to the next level.
Create your business plan in half the time with twice the impact using Entrepreneur's BIZ PLANNING PLUS powered by LivePlan. Try risk free for 60 days.

Latest on Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Media, Inc. values your privacy. In order to understand how people use our site generally, and to create more valuable experiences for you, we may collect data about your use of this site (both directly and through our partners). By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the use of that data. For more information on our data policies, please visit our Privacy Policy.