Where do America's fastest growing private companies get all those great ideas? A look at some of the strange ways Inc. 500 company cofounders came together.
United as Teenagers
The partners: High school buddies Met: 1981 Fused: 1983 Bonding event: Brainstorming during homeroom
In the summer of 1983, Jason Moskowitz and Michael Napoliello started the magazine that evolved into U.S. Marketing & Promotions Agency (#107). Moskowitz was all of 18, Napoliello 19. Pooling their money, they managed to scrape together $60.18, which they spent on business cards that listed both of their names. They've been partners ever since.
Moskowitz and Napoliello had met at a party when they were students at Westfield High School in New Jersey. "We both talked about entrepreneurship, myself creatively, he from a business standpoint," recalls Napoliello. Napoliello was a running back on the football team and, according to Moskowitz, "a poet, writer, artist" who handed out his poetry on the beach. Moskowitz was an honors student in math and science who played around with computers.
Later, sitting next to each other in homeroom, they conducted an off-and-on bull session that lasted for the school year. In their talks, a concept for a magazine covering the entertainment and social scene on the Jersey Shore began to crystallize. "Mike wanted a vehicle for his creativity," Moskowitz recounts. "I wanted one for my business sense." The magazine, called The Wave, debuted in June 1983. But their partnership evolved quickly, and they redefined themselves, going from simple magazine publishers to "guerrilla" marketing specialists. Both worked at the new business in the summer during their college years and dived into it full-time as soon as they graduated. (For more on their college business, see " Big Managers on Campus.")
Based in Torrance, Calif., U.S. Marketing & Promotions Agency projects $100 million in sales for 1999 and has 240 employees. The business is prospering, the partners say, because they work long hours and because they retain the unusual kinship they forged in their teenage years.
Sticking with Mom
The partners: Mother and son Met: 1970 Fused: 1992 Bonding event: Childbirth
We've gone on for quite a while at meetings, not mentioning anything," says Pamela Hawken, 53. "And then I'll say, 'Hand me that paper, honey,' and we have to tell them."
Eric Rulmont, 29, is Hawken's son. Together they founded Gardenside (#431), a manufacturer of garden furniture in San Rafael, Calif. Hawken entered the furniture business through another family connection: in 1988 her twin brother, Paul, tapped her to start the furniture division of his garden-catalog business, Smith & Hawken. She launched Gardenside with her son in 1992.