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Best in Shoe

Knowing what's hip has helped this shoe expert build a footwear empire.

Vital Stats: Udi Avshalom, 32, president and CEO of Training Camp in New York City

Company: Retail stores carrying urban shoes and apparel

Projected 2003 Sales: About $15 million

Paternal Instinct: "My father was in the variety goods business. Our job was to watch the merchandise outside [his store] or sell in another location. His motto was 'Don't come home 'til you're sold out.' And that's how it started."

"The customer is the boss. I'm just the schmuck who makes sure the bills get paid."

Shoe Fetish: In 1983, the day his father got in a pair of purple KangaROOS to sell, Avshalom fell in love. "Being the kid who always had rejects, and looking at all the shoes other kids had, [the shoes] gave me a lot to study. I started looking for more footwear resources." He launched his first shoe store in 1996 and now has six locations in the Tri-State area.

Floored: Avshalom's reputation as an urban gear and shoe expert has hip-hop celebrities stopping by for new gear and companies seeking consultation on the hottest trends. He plans to build his brand and open more stores outside New York City. But he still manages to spend two full days a week working the sales floor, trying to outsell every employee.

You Suck! In Avshalom's weekly "Udi Sucks" contest, one random employee is asked to list five criticisms about the business. "My father said, 'Someone who's good for you is someone who's going to criticize you.' When a [salesperson] tells me something I'm doing wrong, we make changes quickly."

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