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Accidental Entrepreneurs Create a Thriving Textile Business When it comes to theatrical materials, one company is center stage.

By Margaret Littman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Megan Duckett's business started out just one step up from a hobby. A lighting tech/roadie for touring music acts, Duckett was in need of extra cash. In 1992, using a rented sewing machine in her garage, she took on a side job making props for a haunted house. Soon she was sewing theatrical set dressing of all kinds, piecing together props, curtains and other onstage materials for use by concert tours, theatrical shows and other productions.

After a few years, it became apparent to Duckett and her husband, Adam, that her side project, dubbed Sew What?, had become more than that. "We realized it was generating as much income as a full-time job," she remembers. In 1997 they incorporated the Rancho Dominguez, Calif.-based business and hired an accountant and their first employee. "That was a game-changer for us; neither of us had been to college or university, much less business school. The questions from the employees started. We found out that running a business is not like a job. We needed a lunchroom and microwave and more than one toilet stall."

By the end of that first year the Ducketts had three employees and more than $80,000 in sales--all from an 800-square-foot rented industrial space. Growth has been steady ever since. Last year Sew What?, which now operates out of a 16,000-square-foot warehouse and has 32 employees, posted revenue of $5.2 million. A sister rental business, Rent What?, pulled in another $1.5 million.

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