Christian Griffith does all his research and development, marketing, and brainstorming in one place: clinging to the side of a sheer rock face, 500 or so feet above the ground. The world-ranked rock climber, who at 27 is already one of the sport's venerable figures, saw a toehold in the climbing-equipment-and-clothing market and lunged for it. "I'm against the multiuse-apparel concept," says Griffith, whose company, Verve, (named after the "divine wind of the Muses"), provides equipment and apparel designed by a climber for climbers. Griffith started the company out of the back of his car a year and a half ago, when he was peddling a high-tech chalk bag of his own design at climbing competitions. Verve today remains a one-man, personally funded operation that outsources production as needed. The start-up, which posted 1991 revenues of $170,000, is based, fittingly, in Boulder, Colo.

-- Alessandra Bianchi

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