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Sky's The Limit Ever thought of starting your own airline? Now that's an entrepreneur.

By Elaine W. Teague

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The unlikely roots of Ned Homfeld's success story can betraced back further than any of his entrepreneurial ventures.Although the ultimate result has been a multimillion-dollarcompany, Homfeld has traveled a long road and faced the challengesof starting and outgrowing a number of businesses since he honedhis survival skills in the competitive arena of sailboat racing asa teen. "The competition in sailing is much like thecompetition in many of the businesses I've been in," saysHomfeld. "If there are 40 boats that are exactly the same--thesame sails, the same hulls, the same weight--they ideally have thesame speed. It's how you sail your boat that determines whetheryou win or lose a race."

As Homfeld studied to earn his degree in naval architecture, hisgoal had been to design America's Cup racing yachts. But afunny thing happened on the way to the Cup: A string of businesses,beginning with a trucking company he started while in college, keptHomfeld's beloved hobby just that.

At the end of that string is Spirit Airlines, which offerslow-fare jet service to 14 popular leisure and businessdestinations, including Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; AtlanticCity, New Jersey and several Florida locations. The FortLauderdale, Florida-based company grossed more than $135 million insales last year and boasts the highest load factor (proportion ofseats filled) in the industry. And the addition of five new MD-80slast year increased seating capacity by 20 percent; as a result,1999 sales are projected at $230 million-plus.

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