Newman's Own (sells popcorn, sauces, beverages, and salad dressing, with all profits going to charity)
"Meetings are a waste of time," says partner A.E. Hotchner. "Just do your job."
Newman wears old racing uniforms to work. Eight of the 15 employees have been there from the beginning; the others for six years.
Are there any entrepreneurs having more fun and doing more good than these two unlikely moguls? Since founding Newman's Own 22 years ago, Paul Newman and his partner, writer A.E. Hotchner, have done almost nothing by the book. "From the beginning," says Hotchner, "we agreed that the minute we took it seriously, we really ought to go jump off the bridge of entrepreneurship."
They've eschewed the advice of focus groups and mouth-feel experts, and they've followed their guts -- literally. From their first foray into the food world, mass-producing holiday salad dressing, Newman and "Hotch" have relied on their own taste buds, and thousands of charities around the world are better off for it. To date, Newman has donated more than $150 million -- the company is for-profit but Newman, who owns all of the stock, donates 100% of post-tax profits -- to charities that the company deems important and overlooked and that have low overheads.
Newman's Own has since expanded to include steak sauces, popcorn (which took two years and 70 blends to perfect), beverages, salsa, and pasta sauces. And now it's working on breakfast cereal. The only misstep, according to Hotch: ice cream. Even though the company controls distribution of all its own products, it partnered on this one with Ben & Jerry's, which is distributed by Dreyer's. "So you can imagine who got on the shelves of the supermarkets before us," Hotch says. They discontinued the ice cream, but hope to bring it back under their own distribution system.