Snapshot 10/04

Cindy Kauanui, 46, founder of Jet Set Management in La Jolla, California
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This story appears in the October 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Description: A model/talent agency that lives by the equation: "Beauty + Confidence = Jet Set"

Startup: $10,000 in 1995

2004 projected revenue: $5 million

Blown away: On September 11, 1992, the small Hawaiian island of Kauai trembled under the vicious winds of Hurricane Iniki. As a result of the storm, Kauanui lost both her home and the movie production company she co-owned, and was forced to flee to Los Angeles with her three sons. A loan and a job as a modeling scout put her back on her feet. But when Kauanui attended a fashion show and caught a glimpse of the fate that awaited the models she recruited, she knew something had to change. "I saw the girls backstage-they were so emaciated, they were like skeletons," she says. "I said, 'This is so wrong. I am sending girls out there to get skinny and have eating disorders.'"

A natural glow: This stark realization was just what Kauanui needed to start Jet Set Management and promote a whole new type of surfer model. She hit the water in search of girls who loved to surf and had a natural, healthy and beautiful look. The response was favorable-Jet Set models were instantly booked for Abercrombie & Fitch as well as Ralph Lauren. They even became the first models for trendy junior-clothing line Roxy.

Healthy rewards: Kauanui has taken Jet Set to new heights. Models range from children to young adults, and the agency has expanded to include artists, entertainers and athletes. Jet Set model Sanoe Lake graced the big screen with a lead role in the film Blue Crush, and Kauanui represents various female professional surfers. Says Kauanui, "My biggest accomplishment is [helping] kids want to be healthy and get out there and have fun."

Edition: July 2017

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