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Real Winners These long shots overcame the odds and emerged triumphant.

By Nichole L. Torres

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Starting a business is one of the hardest things a person cando, but there are times in life when a person must overcome evengreater obstacles, such as serious life-or-death issues that dwarfany other concerns. We talked with two entrepreneurs who overcamesuch obstacles--and started businesses to boot.

Don Katz, 29, founder of the Symposium WineBar in Irvine, California, is an entrepreneurial success usingany definition of the word. With an extensive educational andexperiential background in restaurant management, Katz was movingsteadily forward in his career--until 2001, when he was struck withspinal meningitis. After awakening from a coma, he was blind, anddoctors were unsure if he'd ever walk again. Six months later,he left the hospital, and with continued physical therapy, Katz isback on his feet.

In 2003, while brainstorming ideas of what to do next, Katzthought of blind taste tests for wine and figured he could make ago of a wine-themed business. The business he founded in November2004, which offers tastings and seminars and also sells wine,gourmet chocolates, cheeses and more, specifically appeals to newwine connoisseurs who want to taste wine in a non-intimidatingatmosphere. And thanks to his heightened senses of taste and smell,he's able to describe the wine in interesting and accessibleways--like "honey almond notes with a creamy finish."Says Katz, who expects 2005 sales to hit $400,000, "You canmake a lot of plans, and things can change overnight--it's justone day at a time."

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