Best startup founded by college students
Equitable Origin, a startup founded by David Poritz, 23, who serves as founder and president, and Christian Seale, 24, its chief operating officer, has created an innovative certification program designed to promote higher social and environmental standards, greater transparency, and more accountability in oil and gas exploration and production.
Poritz is running the company while finishing his senior year at Brown and next year will be a Rhodes Scholar. Seale, a Brown grad, has delayed his admission to Harvard Business School to help Seale run the company.
Best unexpected career switch
"Why can't there be a pair of shoes for women that are both beautiful and comfortable?" Lu wondered. She set to work solving the problem using her engineering background to design a line of couture comfort shoes.
She launched her line, ANYI LU International, in 2005. Her collection is now sold in Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's and 150 other fine retailers. Lu has designed 12 collections and is still responsible for the design and manufacturing of the footwear from early stages to completion. The company, which had $5 million in sales in 2008, is expecting to reach $12 million in sales this year.
Best life turnaround
"There is nothing like personal experience to drive a commitment. I've had 34 surgeries, with 14 on my spine. I was permanently disabled and placed on a multitude of medications to treat my pain, insomnia, anxiety and subsequent depression," she said. "One day I woke and actually saw what I had become. I had gone from a successful international businesswoman to one that was afraid to leave her home. I wanted more."
She eventually kicked the habit and invested $500,000 to initially develop her program.
"We did not show a profit for the first four years and it was seven years before either myself or the other co-founder took a salary," she said.
It was worth the sacrifice, though, she said.
"You must love your work and have a devotion that goes beyond money. For a nonprofit this is especially true, and although the money is not what the private sector can yield, our rewards are the lives that are changed from our efforts," Rain said.
Best use of $10 as startup money
She was fired while home on medical leave from her job as a photojournalist and journalist for a major newspaper chain.
"I started getting jobs within two weeks and was able to make enough to cover my living expenses (rent, utilities and groceries) the first month after that," she said. "I had to take my laptop to the library because I didn't have Internet at home. That was my 'commute,' down the block to the college. It took about a year to generate enough income to cover expenses, taxes and anything over that. There were definitely lean months!"
She said her business is getting better every day.
Best use of a 401(k) to start a business
"Both my wife and I were downsized from our careers," said Wetsell, who said they decided to take a chance because the economy had shrunk their 401(k), making it unlikely they would be able to officially retire on it, anyway.
Now, with their business estimated to be worth $750,000 to $1 million, they plan to sell the business in a few years and use the proceeds for their retirement.
Best entrepreneurial use of a retirement
His company, CoupTessa, harnesses the power of social media to achieve group- buying targets, encouraging customers to share their deal preferences on Facebook, Twitter and email. Since merchants often limit the number of participants due to the significant discounts they offer, CoupTessa customers must act quickly to take advantage of the deal.
Horn said that starting a business after retirement is just part of who he is.
"When you have spent a career building businesses, you are never complete again unless you are building something ... all the time," Horn said. "That is, in essence, the good thing, and perhaps the bad thing, about being an entrepreneur. You see opportunities everywhere you turn."
Best recovery from a tragedy
"At 35 years old, I lost my husband to cancer after a three-year fight," said Wellington, owner of The Giddy Gander Company, which created the television show "The Wumblers" and is currently being acquired by Next One Interactive Inc.
"Left with four very young children to raise and two ailing businesses to turn around (fearing the loss of my family's income on the back of the loss of their father), I became highly aware of the pain other families were coping with in the loss of their own loved ones during 9/11 just months earlier. Wanting to help other children and families cope and move on just as I wanted to help my own, I launched 'The Wumblers.'"
The hardest part, Wellington said, was not letting the business completely consume her.
"It is difficult not to spend too much time on business, which eats into family time and other activities," she said.
Best entrepreneurial inspiration from a personal experience
The hardest part, they said, was trying to find a franchise that was a good fit for them.
After operating their own sporting goods store for 20 years, they decided they wanted the support of a franchise for this venture.
"The initial investment has been well worth it. After having started our previous business from scratch, it has been refreshing to have someone else's expertise to lean on. "
Best recovery from a corporate career
I wanted to do something completely new," he said. "I also wanted to run a company that was not dependent on outsourced foreign cheap labor. I wanted something that had to be done with U.S. employees."
The hardest part, he said, was learning to do everything himself. He had to learn how to apply for licenses, get permits, set up the employee payroll, lay out the financial programs for tracking all the expenses, and more.
Even though his franchises have been open less than a year, Menth says they are already profitable and going strong.
Best relocation to open a business
"We were living in Indiana at the time, [but] we made the decision to start the franchise. For both personal and business opportunity reasons we decided to move to Virginia to start the new business. Making this move with my wife and three children, starting a new business, in a new industry, in a new market location, created some very unique challenges."