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Upstarts

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Dunham Barney wants to keep failing farms from lying fallow or becoming parking lots. Farmvest Inc., of Simsbury, Conn., offers one-stop shopping people who want to buy a farm. It locates the land, plans what crops to raise, and finds people to manage the farm. "We don't look at it as a vacation home," says Barney. "We look at it as a small business that is also a vacation home."

Companies that need a lot of specialized information often find it in computerized databases. But occasional users can't justify the high cost of subscriptions. So, with a strategy similar to that of some long-distance telephone companies, Telebase Systems Inc., of Philadelphia, subscribes to 517 databases and then resells access to users, who pay by credit card on a per-request basis.

Barry Wax wanted to start a chili business to tap the boom in specialty foods, but he couldn't find a kitchen to use. Figuring that other entrepreneurs might also need a kitchen, he built one himself -- a big one, 8,100 square feet. Now he rents out cooking space at $27 an hour. In its first year, Kitchen Privileges, of Alexandria, Va., pulled in more than $100,000 from customers large and small, including Campbell Soup Co. and D.C. Desserts Inc., a fledgling wholesaler of baked goods. And, yes, Wax does use his kitchen to make chili.

Long gone are the days when private companies owned and operated urban trains -- and even made money at it. But Roger Staehle says they can do it again with his elevated transit system. To build a one-third-mile-long prototype, Automated Transportation Systems Inc., of Minneapolis, has received $1 million worth of engineering support from Davy McKee Corp., and it hopes to tap other potential suppliers for $9 million more. The ATM system would feature three-seat cars run by computers.

Can an American company win a niche in the personal stereo business? Joseph Ekman started American Dreamin', of Menlo Park, Calif., because he worried about the safety of wearing Sony Walkman -- type earphones while jogging on busy streets. His product is a set of tiny speakers that hook onto the shoulders, enabling users to hear warning sounds from vehicles. This year, the company expects to take in about $800,000.

Last updated: Jun 1, 1985




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