Sheena Lindahl and Michael Simmons met their third day of college and started dating on their fourth. Both are business-oriented by nature; Lindahl juggled five jobs to pay for New York University and Simmons ran a Web development shop in high school. "My friend and I made $40,000 our senior year of high school, working 10 hours per week," says Simmons. "It completely changed my paradigm of what was possible as a young person." The couple launched their company in 2003, their junior year of college.
While at NYU, Simmons wrote the Student Success Manifesto, a guide to the entrepreneurial mindset. He and Lindahl self-published it. "I wish the Manifesto had been around when I was younger," wrote Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko's, in a book endorsement.
Lindahl and Simmons also started speaking about entrepreneurship—at college campuses, high school groups, and other organizations, and they built a website to promote themselves. In 2006, their start-up became Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour.
A year later, Simmons and Lindahl were joined by the third person in their trio: Arel Moodie, a high-energy motivator and Extreme Entrepreneurship event emcee who has his own inspiring story. Moodie grew up on welfare in the Brooklyn projects, but went on to graduate college and start and sell a real estate Web company of his own. Moodie became a partner in 2009.
Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour now organizes 100 entrepreneur events, conferences, and panels a year. Speakers include Ryan Allis, 27, who leads iContact, a $50 million e-mail marketing company, and Scott Becker, who sold his InviteMedia ad firm to Google for an estimated $80 million last year, when he was just 23.
Lindahl, who handles operations, is president, and Simmons, the big-idea person, is chief executive at Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour. Moodie is the lead emcee at tour events. They bootstrapped in the beginning and got seed funding when they won the NYU Undergraduate Business Plan Competition, but they also accumulated credit card debt to fund their business. Last year, revenue was close to $800,000, and this year they expect it to surpass $1 million. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Campaign for Free Enterprise sponsored all Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour events last year, and renewed in 2011 as well.
At the same time Lindahl and Simmons launched the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour, they also got married, and had two children, now two-and-a-half and five months old.
"Way back in the day, people told me, 'You shouldn't be a business partner with anyone you're dating—you've got to be careful'," Lindahl, recalls. "Now I can't imagine what it would be like not to work with Michael."