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Snapshot 05/04

Doug C. Smith, 33, founder of Dean Miller Surf Sheets in Santa Ana, California

This story appears in the May 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Description:Dean Miller Surf Sheets manufactures tropical and surf-themed home furnishings

Startup: $10,000 in May 1999

2004 projected sales: $2.4 million

Catching the Wave: An avid surfer, Doug Smith was just waiting to catch the right entrepreneurial wave. While he was working toward his MBA, it finally came. Hawaiian shirts casually tossed on a bed caught his attention, and he was inspired to fill a niche by designing tropical bedspreads. After a trip to the fabric store and the local dry cleaner, which sewed his first product sample, his company was born.

Beach Boy: Smith used a variety of marketing and advertising methods to keep the company afloat. He placed ads in surf magazines, sent out small brochure mailings, attracted press from the Los Angeles Times and gained exposure through the Internet. Behind it all, his passion for surfing and his beach-culture background gave him confidence and insight. "I felt I had a pulse on what consumers are looking for in this type of product, and I could market it and distribute it successfully," he says.

Surfing USA and Beyond: Expanding beyond duvet covers and pillow shams, Smith's product line now includes rugs, lamps, window draperies and even dog beds-sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens 'n Things, Macy's and Robinson's May. By Christmas, he hopes to be selling his tropical home furnishings in Australia, Europe and Japan. Smith is sure his colorful and vibrant designs will have universal appeal: "The love of the ocean and the beach will bring us all together."