Home-Based Entrepreneurs Share Their Tips For Surviving And Thriving In These Economic Times
By Priscilla Y. Huff
Despite a slowly-recovering economy, the number of U. S. millionaires is increasing. Entrepreneurs have begun modest ventures from garages, tiny home offices, or kitchens that have not only survived, but thrived far beyond their financial expectations. They may live beside you or just down the street. Here are some of their inspiring profiles. Their ventures fall under the following categories: Brand Marketing, Inventing, Management, Personal Services, Product Sales, Writing, Direct Sales, Business Coaching, and Social Media.
MILLIONAIRE # 1
Jay Leopardi, Visionary Marketer; Lifestyle, Pop Culture Branding Expert
Jay Leopardi, a devoted father and husband, was often labeled the “Bad Boy,” by big names in entertainment businesses in which he had been involved since he was thirteen. So he started “Bad Boy Branding” — branding, developing, and producing web designs for companies’ products like Touch Markers, Fuse Science, ChaCha’s new “Social Reactor; automotive industry moguls; and personalities like “Cedric the Entertainer.” He emphasizes the importance of relations like his tight-knit bond with “The Shark,” Daymond John, of the television show “Shark Tank,” and many of the entrepreneurs launched from that show, like the owner of “Liquid Money Cologne,” and others.
“Bad Boy Branding” grew rapidly from clients’ referrals, networking contacts, and his own productions. Leopardi still works from home, and from offices in Miami and New York City. He adds, “I’m also often in Los Angeles helping celebrities market new clothing lines, technology, or movies.”
Leopardi offers clients parts of, or combinations of his “In the Tank” consulting services of video, film and television commercial productions; Internet marketing services, and web development. “I tell clients, just one mistake can ‘kill’ their businesses, so they often hire us for the entire branding-marketing process.”
He advises entrepreneurs to find good lawyers and offer them a revenue percentage in exchange for legal services that he says will actually save entrepreneurs money, and give them more time to grow their businesses. Leopardi adds, “If you are going to fail, fail fast! Otherwise, it will take you and your house down. The more times you are broke, the more successful you will be financially; that is IF you have LEARNED from your mistakes.”
“Keep the words ‘greed’ and ‘money’ out of your vocabulary and statements like, “what’s in it for me,” he says. “Be passionate about your work, but be willing to share success tips with others, because it will always come back to you in the end.” For more information, visit Jayleopardi.com; Badboybranding.com; Whosbig.com.
MILLIONAIRE # 2
Linda Collinson, founder, LaCrista, Inc.
Tired of problems caused by her sensitive skin, Linda Collinson researched and literally in her kitchen sink mixed a combination of pure ingredients, creating chemically-free lotions, soaps, and moisturizers. Noticing her beautiful skin, friends asked Collinson for samples, so she bottled her skin care formulations and began selling them under the company name, LaCrista, (“the best” in Latin).
Collinson found a laboratory to bottle her first product, a natural moisturizer, but no retailers would carry them without a UPC label. She says. “I had no manufacturing background, but I just did it!” After repeatedly calling Izzy Cohen, founder of Giant Food stores, he met with her and market-tested her products. They sold well enough to be sold in both Giant, and then Safeway stores. Wal-Mart sold them, too, after Collinson made a sales presentation to 4,000 people and David Glass, head of Sam’s Club at the time, who was there for a ‘Made in America,’ program.
Television appearances, talks, and newspaper coverage, including a Washington Post feature, were Collinson’s best marketing tactics.
“Operating the business from home with two small children was hard work,” she says, “so after a lucrative offer, I sold LaCrista.” With recent trends for natural products, though, Collinson may revive LaCrista. In the meantime, Collinson’s son, Budge, has hired her to help him in his business, selling “Youth Infusion,” a vitamin-mineral drink with no preservatives, no sugar, or artificial flavors.
“Start your business from even a little cubbyhole in your home. If it succeeds, then you can move elsewhere,” says Collinson. “I started LaCrista out of need. I was educating and helping people because I went through a terrible time, and I was just fortunate it worked out.” For more information, visit www.lacrista.com/; www.drinkyouthinfusion.com.
MILLIONAIRES # 3, #4, and #5
Vincent Porpiglia, Founder, David Lekach, Co-Founder, Joseph Lekach- Executive VP of Sales – Dream Water
One sleepless night while in college, Vincent Porpiglia, a lifetime sufferer of sleeping problems, came up with the concept of a natural, effective liquid that would help him and countless others relax and sleep. “I was not satisfied with the current market place sleep aids, and the associated side effects, so the idea for Dream Water was ‘born,” said Porgpiglia, one of the company’s founders. “Dream Water is a natural, liquid shot with no-preservatives or calories, helping users relax, fall sleep, and improve their quality of sleep.”
Since its inception in 2009, Dream Water has established a nationwide presence in some 35,000 stores, including Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Target and CVS, and also in over 1,000 airports. Joseph Lekach, Executive Vice President of Sales, discovered a unique distribution method into stores to compliment what they were already doing directly with the retailers. “Now we’ve been able to secure great chain-wide deals and programs at many major retailers,” he says.
David Lekach, Co-Founder, and CEO, is proud he and his partners created and developed the first mainstream sleep aid that has helped so many get much-needed rest. Sampling to potential customers so they can experience the positive benefits of Dream Water first hand is their best marketing tactic. This method typically results in referrals to the users’ friends and family network, thus creating additional buzz. Joseph says, “With sleep issues being so prevalent now days, everyone like me (in my mid-twenties) to my grandmother can use Dream Water as a natural and healthier alternative to those other products on the market.”
At the start, all three worked from home, liking the savings and the flexibility it gave them. Even with a Miami office, they still do catch-up and concentrated work from their homes. Porpiglia advises to set boundaries when working from home: “Create a designated work space, so everyone, including yourself, knows that when you are sitting in that chair, you mean business.”
Having more and more people try Dream Water is the company’s goal. “We know if we are helping more people sleep, our business is growing…,” says Porpiglia, and “to come up with an idea one night and see it grow quickly into a multi-million dollar company leaves me speechless all the time.” For more information, visit www.DrinkDreamWater.com.
MILLIONAIRE # 6
Robert D. Smith, “THE [ROBERT] D”
Thirty years ago, when Robert D. Smith (aka, “The Robert D”) started First Image, an artist management company, his friend, Andy Andrews, an aspiring comedian, asked Smith to be his manager. “I wanted to start a business, so I said I’d help him out until he found someone else to direct his career. Thirty years later, I’m still his manager, and he’s now a New York Times best-selling author.” Until Smith recently released his own book, 20,000 Days and Counting, he says Andrews was the only author or speaker he had ever managed!
Smith says their best promotional method is giving away his and Andy’s books. He believes Andrews’ first book, The Traveler’s Gift, made the New York Times’ bestseller list for seventeen straight weeks, because Smith sent out hundreds of personalized books and letters. “Eventually, Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts read a copy…and they had just started a book club. Guess what the second book they picked was?”
Going into a “work” mode without even having to leave his home, is what Smith likes about being home-based. He says his best customers are those who have decided that they no longer want life to just be something that happens to them. “They are ready to step up, take control, and create the lives they want to live.”
After being rejected 51 times, Smith is proud he got Andy Andrews’ book, The Traveler’s Gift, published and on the best seller list. He concludes with an excerpt from his article, “7 Things Every New Entrepreneur Must Know.” “Never lose sight of what makes every business successful — people. You are now officially in the people business. Congratulations!!!” For more information, visit TheRobertD.com; AndyAndrews.com.
MILLIONAIRE # 7
Robin Wilson, CEO, Robin Wilson Home
After realizing a financial windfall, Robin Wilson left her corporate job and fulfilled her dream of getting a Master’s degree in real estate finance. She learned early on growing up in Texas and suffering with allergies and asthma, how interior toxins affected one’s health. Acquiring design concepts from her grandfather who was in the real estate profession, “It became easy to apply those experiences and the desire to express my creativity in a design and construction business.”
Begun as a project manager in 2000 for construction projects, Wilson’s firm transitioned into a multi-service company serving residential and commercial clients and with developer projects. “We are a lifestyle brand that handles a few interior design projects annually. We license our brand name to retail products; market our brand to consumers; and educate consumers about the eco-friendly options for their homes and lifestyles.”
Social media and speaking engagements are Wilson’s most effective marketing tactics, and word-of-mouth brings her best customers: “those who are concerned about their homes’ aesthetic beauty and their families’ health.” With a virtual home office setup, she likes balancing motherhood and work. “I’m still able to consult with team members in various locations.”
Wilson is understandably proud of her company’s progress: how her company’s rebranding enabled it to break even in five years; mentoring young interns; and starting a webisode series featuring her CEO to CEO/Mommy transition.
With future plans to license to new product lines with her Robin Wilson Home brand, she would also like to speak to more organizations interested in women’s leadership, wellness, and work-life balance issues.
Her advice for entrepreneurial success: “Work smarter, not harder,” and “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? For more information, visit www.RobinWilsonHome.com.
MILLIONAIRES # 8 and # 9
Riley Goodman and Jake Director, Co-Founders, Strideline ™
Riley Goodman and Jake Director really have been lifelong partners. Being born in the same hospital, playing together in sports, and attending the same schools, these University of Washington seniors are co-founders of a growing business, Strideline™. Combining their high school graduation gift monies to fund Strideline ™, they produce and sell crew sports socks with colorful designs of different cities’ skylines to young, “fashion-forward” athletes.
Riley says, “We found a manufacturer online and drew our first design on a sock with permanent marker and sent it to an overseas mill.” In 2012, they raised $250,000 in investment capital, and also hired a designer, accountant, and a national sales team. They also won The Arthur W. Buerk Center of Entrepreneurship Milestone Award at the UW — receiving a $25,000 grant and a team of mentors to lend support. Strideline has always been home-based: from the partners’ childhood bedrooms, to a college fraternity house, to the house they now share with eleven other guys.
Their “market manager program,” a grassroots approach of selling from booths at sports tournaments in featured cities, is their most effective marketing method. Having well-known personalities and sports stars such as “Snoop Dog,” and Marshawn Terrell Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks wear their socks has also helped increase national sales.
Strideline socks are available on their website and at small and larger retail outlets like LIDS® stores, Nordstrom stores. These enterprising friends-partners say, “If we accomplish this year’s goal to roll-out our sales program across the U.S in time for the holiday buying season, we should have no problem hitting our sales goal of $2.5 million for 2013.” For more information, visit www.strideline.com.
MILLIONAIRE # 10
Michael Levin, Author and CEO, BusinessGhost, Inc.
Michael Levin, CEO of BusinessGhost, Inc., was a broke, “starving writer,” even after Simon & Schuster published three of his acclaimed novels. When a mentor suggested he teach writing classes to make money, he says, “People also hired me as a consultant, often asking me to write books for them…and from there, BusinessGhost began and has evolved.”
Word-of-mouth referrals bring Levin the most clients; in addition to people he identifies as “Aggregators,” those who recommend him to a large number of potential clients. “Let us write a mini-book for you, so that you can stand out from the pack…” describes how Levin’s ghostwriting services “create preeminence and distinctiveness” for business people, financial advisors, top athletes, broadcasters, celebrities, and others. Levin says these professionals and industry leaders are his best customers as they know what marketing costs to expect to create their marketing materials.
Starting BusinessGhost from his home, and where he did most of his early writing, Levin says, “I do have an office now, but it’s a mile from my house so I can still go home, work there, eat lunch, or even take a nap.”
In addition to being a New York Times best-selling author, Levin edited Zig Ziglar’s last book; wrote books with Dave Winfield, Michael Gerber, and the late Pat Summerall; played an extra in a Disney movie based on one of his novels; and was interviewed by worldwide media and, happy, too, that BusinessGhost has continued to thrive and expand for nineteen years!
“Never give up,” Levin tells entrepreneurs. “Most businesses fail not because the business model was poor, but because the owner quit instead of fighting through a problem. Don’t expect things to be easy. Above all, bust your butt!” For more information, visit BusinessGhost.com.
MILLIONAIRE # 11
Kimberly Cornwell, CEO, Celadon Road, Inc.
In 2007, Kimberly Cornwell, a former attorney for a biotechnology company, worried about her co-workers’ futures when a third of the workforce was laid off. “I knew I had to do something to provide people money-making opportunities to support themselves and their loved ones,” she says. Cornwell, a young mother, was learning more about toxic chemicals in skincare and baby products; so she considered starting venture offering healthier products. “It wasn’t until I attended a friend’s home party that I figured the right business model for me and started Celadon Road.”
Celadon Road, is an organic, direct selling (party plan) company that markets and sells its eco-friendly and organic products through its independent consultants. “Each of our consultants has her/his own business and chooses to market it through home parties, vendor events, and-or Facebook accounts,” says Cornwell. “My best customers are women, especially mothers, as they care about the environment and want to avoid their families’ exposure to toxins in skin care and cleaning products.”
Cornwell likes that working from home enables her to pick her kids up at school and have her children hear her conference calls, she says. “They are ‘sponges’ learning all about business.”
Celadon Road’s operations are also “green.” The company uses recycled packaging and refillable bottles; has an online catalog; and uses a green web hosting company and servers, powered by wind power. Cornwell’s rapidly-growing company has over 335 consultants in 48 states and is experiencing 450% growth in over a year.
Her quest to help others achieve financial stability, while caring for the Earth, is summed up on her web site: “We strongly believe if we all make small changes toward a greener lifestyle, collectively we can have a profound impact on our world.”
For more information, visit www.celadonroad.com.
MILLIONAIRE # 12
Dr. Denis Burke, “The Doctor of Wisdom”
Dr. Denis Burke says he was entrepreneurial since the age of eleven. Coming to New York City from Ireland in the eighties, he continued his entrepreneurial ventures in sales and other enterprises. Dr. Burke, “The Doctor of Wisdom,” provides coaching and consulting services to small- medium-sized businesses. “Many entrepreneurs have not aligned their businesses’ missions and goals with their personal missions, and you need both to succeed,” he says. Burke guides clients with step-by-step processes in programs like, ‘Thinking into Results’ to create models for their lives and business so they have a clear-cut understanding where they are going in their lives.
Dr. Burke reaches potential clients through online social media and his websites like MindDestiny.com, that feature his offerings and webinars. He also launched a “Success Mastermind Program,” that he presents in public venues across the country. Dr. Burke says based on his own life and business experiences he has developed, “…a ‘Blueprint for Financial Freedom,’ a 12-step process to become financially independent, that anyone could follow and be successful.”
What Burke likes best about being home-based, is that he does not have to show up at any particular office, and he can continue to run his businesses doing on- and off-line tasks. “Entrepreneurs can achieve success through multiple streams of income, especially if they automate parts of their business through the Internet,” he says.
Dr. Burke plans to have more speaking engagements; launch a radio show in the fall; and finish his new book, “144 Keys for a Better Life.” He advises: “Create a ‘Master Plan,’ for the next fifteen years or so of your life, so you can follow that pattern to your greatest success.” For more information, visit http://drdenisburke.com/; www.MindDestiny.com.
MILLIONAIRE # 13
Brian Solis, Founder, FutureWorks
Brian Solis says, “My story is one of timing, place, and perseverance.” In 1999, he started FutureWorks, a creative media lab focusing on the future of digital marketing.
“I was inspired by the stark reality that everything I learned in school and through experience would prevent me from finding success in this new frontier. I would literally have to invent as I go…and invent I did.” With the rise of Web2.0, Solis decided to share what he knew and was learning. He started with blogging and evolved to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube; and eventually books, speaking, and investing/advising startups and Fortune 500 companies.
Working at the Altimer Group, and from home, Solis is a principal analyst studying disruptive technology’s impact on businesses and on society. “This allows me to find bridges between the two; and my nights and weekends are spent writing and creating content to help people learn,” he says. Solis reaches his market with blogging; creating a video series, “Revolution;” writing books, (his latest, What’s the Future of Business (WTF)); and contributing to business publications like the Washington Post, Harvard Business Review, and others.
One of the first to recognize the rise of social media, Solis wrote the original “Social Media Manifesto;” and from years spent studying the social media landscape as a form of digital ethnography, he released “The Conversation Prism.” His customers are business executives, top Fortune 100 companies, celebrities, and what he calls, “…some very cool startups. They are change agents looking for ways to turn social media strategies into business drives.”
Though Solis writes from home, his “home” can be traveling anywhere in the world speaking about this global phenomenon of the evolution of technology and consumer behavior.
While there are no shortage of social media and emerging technology experts, Solis says, “I still to this day, fight for my place among them. At this blinding pace of acceleration, striving to become an expert is done so by remaining a student of evolution.”
Solis says, “You have to follow what I call 3D: dream. do. deserve. The distance between who you are and who you want to be is separated only by your aspirations and actions.” For more information, visit www.BrianSolis.com; Facebook.com/BrianSolis; Twitter.com/BrianSolis.
Business startups create many new jobs, but becoming a successful seven-figure entrepreneur is not for the “faint-hearted.” Joseph Lekach of Dream Water says, “Take a risk. Bet on yourself. Work your hardest so you can never say, ‘If I had only done more.’ There is no better bet than believing in yourself.” What is holding you back from launching your own potential million-dollar, home-based business? HBM
Millionaire’s Success Tip for These Economic Times
– “Don’t be afraid to get on the phone and ask questions.” – Linda Collinson, LaCrista
– “The key to business success is to ensure you have these foundation blocks in place: advisors, attorneys and accountants.” – RobinWilson.Home
– “You’re only as good and you can only push yourself as much as your friends and family network allows you; make sure those around you know you appreciate them. – David Lekach, Dream Water
– “Start your business today and transition out of your day job so you do not fail due to lack of funds.” – Kimberly Cornwell, Celadon Road
– “This is a jobless recovery, so you must be entrepreneurial.” – Michael Levin, BusinessGhost
– “Try to unravel your idea, find every hole in it, see how competitors could squash you, then rewrite your business and marketing plan and pursue it.” – Brian Solis, FutureWorks
A Millionaire’s Business-Building Idea
– “Finance your startup yourself. Find that one idea to make more money now…” – Robert D. Smith, (TheRobertD.com)
– “Hire partners not people. You will need people who are as passionate as you are about the idea.” – Vincent Porpiglia, Dream Water
– “You have to be available. If you think you are too big to be available, you have issues. Answer your phone. Money never sleeps.” – Jay Leopardi
– “Create automated, scalable systems within your business.” – Riley Goodman, Jake Director, Strideline.com
– “When I followed the money, I failed; but when I followed my love and passion, I achieved unbelievable success.” – Dr. Denis Burke
Priscilla Y. Huff (www.PYHuff.com) is a freelance writer and author of business books, including Make Your Business Survive and Thrive! 100+ Proven Marketing Methods to Help You Beat the Odds & Build a Successful Small or Home-Based Enterprise (Wiley).