Things I Can't Live Without: Michele Connolly
Occupation: CEO of EarthRoamer, which makes and sells rugged -- yet chic -- four-wheel-drive recreational vehicles. Since Connolly and her business partner, Bill Swails, founded EarthRoamer in 2002, they've sold 25 vehicles for about $185,000 each.
Annual revenue and employees: $2.5 million; 9.
Age and home: 39; Superior, Colo.
Breaking away: During vacations with her husband and two children, Connolly cringed at the sight of crowded RV parks along Colorado's highways. The problem with RVs is that they rely on generators or campsite hookups for electricity, Connolly says, so people wind up spending vacations "on a concrete slab." She and Swails, both engineers, designed the EarthRoamer to be energy-efficient. Its appliances, heater, air conditioner, and low-draw lights run both on fuel and on batteries charged by the vehicle's engine and rooftop solar panels.
Ode to soy: Connolly encourages customers to reduce harmful emissions by fueling their EarthRoamers with a mixture of regular diesel and soybean-based biodiesel.
Not your mother's RV: EarthRoamers -- available in silver, gold, or white -- feature airy cabins accented with light maple wood and equipped with European appliances, doors, and windows. "I think of our customers as people who couldn't picture themselves in an RV," says Connolly.
Things I Can't Live Without
Garmin StreetPilot III GPS, $1,000: "When I don't have my GPS tracker, I get anxious about where I'm going. I use it every day, when I'm visiting suppliers, going to trade shows, or meeting someone for dinner. It's a little larger than a sunglasses case, so I can take it on business trips."
No Doubt, The Singles 1992-2003, $12: "I really like Gwen Stefani. She shows a lot of originality and strength in both her looks and her music. I listen to this album when I'm doing a monotonous task at the office, like paying bills."
1992 Stags' Leap Winery Merlot, $30: "This is my special treat. It has a very smooth finish, without a lot of tannin. I bought a case of it 10 years ago. Once a year, Bill and I open a bottle and talk about our business."
... and What I Covet
A log cabin in the mountains with a large deck, hot tub, and to-die-for view: "I envision this as an escape from work for the whole family, where we can just focus on hanging out."