Karen Appel and Jody Frank are making money by making other people shop. The San Francisco duo organize events at which shoppers pay $10 to enter; designers pay $350 to exhibit, and sponsors offer $500 just to be visible. Thanks to a roster of fashion-forward designers and sponsors' chic freebies, Appel & Frank events have become de rigueur for the Bay Area fashion set. The firm will expand along the West Coast next year.

Since August 2004, Umbria Communications, in Boulder, Colo., has offered businesses a way to gauge what their buzz in the blogosphere is. Founder Howard Kaushansky says traditional market research creates bias, whereas blogs offer authentic opinion. For $2,000 a month, Umbria scans nine million blogs daily for customers such as Sprint and Fizzy Lizzy.

Chicago inventor John Guenther's new kids' car seat, the Safety Egg, is a podlike cradle on a rotating joint. Guenther used the nonprofit Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program, which provides free technology consulting, to refine his design. He plans to launch the seats via safetyegg.com, priced at about $400 each, in 2006.