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A gritty novel takes a former drug dealer from prison to her own publishing business.
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This story appears in the May 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
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Entrepreneur: Vickie Stringer, 34, founder and CEO of Triple Crown Publications in Columbus, Ohio
Description: Leading publisher of hip-hop literature
Startup: $5,000 in 2001
Sales: 2005 estimated sales of $1.8 million

Mean streets: "I was a madam. I was a fence, and now a drug dealer. This is not how it was supposed to be." Vickie Stringer wrote those words while serving seven years in federal prison for drug dealing. By the time she was released, she had completed a gritty hip-hop novel, Let That Be the Reason . "It was all I had when I left prison," she says. As a single mother, she needed income fast, so she sent the book to every publisher she could find.

Street smarts: Twenty-six rejections later, Stringer self-published the book with money donated by family and friends. In three weeks, she sold all 1,000 copies from the trunk of her car. Street buzz brought the book to the attention of UpStream, a small, New York City publishing house. Soon, Let That Be the Reason zoomed onto Essence magazine's montly bestseller list.

Urban tales: To build on her success, Stringer founded Triple Crown Publications. The company now publishes 16 authors and 24 titles, and Stringer is developing her own production company so she can turn Triple Crown titles into direct-to-DVD films. Stringer herself has a six-figure, two-book deal with Atria Books. She's proud of her story's fairy-tale ending. "This time," she says, "I'm putting things together right."

Edition: May 2017

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