Where Are They Now?

Despite the economic gloom and doom, the honorees on this year's 30 Under 30 list are building wildly successful ventures with the help of their peers, parents, professors, and patrons. Why enlisting these loyal tribes of support has become so important in the start-up world -- and how the smartest companies foster that same loyalty among their customers.

James Messina, Messina Wildlife Management
No. 16 (2006)

"2009 has been a record year for Messina Wildlife Management! With the economic downturn transforming Americans' spending habits, more and more people are gravitating towards beautifying their homes, making the most of their property and in many cases, learning how to garden. What they may not realize is that their seemingly insignificant seed purchase for their vegetable garden may lead to thousands in dollars spent developing their new hobby! To plant the seed, you need good soil, which means fertilizers, watering products, dirt, pots, tools, etc. And if a garden pest or neighborhood animal should come along at the end of all this hard work and eat or ruin all of your hard work, it could be a disaster. So, our products have enjoyed national attention to help our established customers as well as this new customer pool.

"We started the year acquiring one of our competitor's brands and integrating their products into our catalog. As a result, we recouped the cost of that acquisition within 1 week due to our distribution network jumping at the chance to work with us.

"Our products have also been featured in Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes & Gardens, and on ABC, NBC and CBS morning shows. On top of that, Messina Wildlife kicked off the Better Homes & Gardens new website as the official sponsor, giving away a brand new Toyota Prius to one lucky winner in Pennsylvania. Entries for the contest topped 1.2 million.

"Our brand is growing by leaps and bounds, and our company is becoming a force in the lawn and garden market with Lowe's, Sears Hardware, Home Depot and other national retailers all offering our products to their customers. We already eclipsed all of 2008 by June 24 of this year, and we are on pace to double again in 2010!"

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Michael Hyacinthe, Urban Liberty
No. 28 (2006)

"Urban Liberty has continued to maintain its No. 1 focus as the primary e-commerce retailer to the military community. Our partnership with Army & Air Force Exchange Service has continued to grow via their program Exchange Online Mall. This partnership gives us direct marketability and accessibility to millions of military families worldwide and gives us exclusive benefits over our competitors.

"We continue to try and outcompete our competitors by offering military discounts, different payment methods, and employing veterans and spouses as sales reps on the bases. Due to the hard economic times, Urban Liberty has focused on different channels to diversify our company portfolio. We are currently working with American Apparel to make the American Apparel brand more accessible to the military and a potential U.S. Army licensing agreement is in the works. The goal is to make the current military P.T. uniform more eco-friendly and manufactured in the United States.

We are also working with TVGOODS.COM to reach out to the military community. The last and most personal diversity opportunity is the creation of the Urban Liberty clothing brand. The Urban Liberty logo was created by an American soldier deployed in Iraq. It is a clothing brand inspired by the sacrifices made by American soldiers. The concept of this brand is similar to the very successful Join Red campaign, but benefits would support American soldiers returning home from our many conflicts around the world.

"Urban Liberty continues to grow as a grassroots company that creates different partnerships in order to become a global brand. It has been an extremely tough year for the American economy and we to have had some setbacks and hardships, but as an entrepreneur, I have learned that the American hustler fears no defeats and continues to progress."

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Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith, Box.net
No. 8 and No. 9 (2008)

"The past 12 months have been very exciting for Box.net. When we started this company, our mission was to build a service that makes it easy for people to manage, share and access their content from anywhere. Along the way, more and more businesses told us that they wanted a Box that was built for their needs, without sacrificing the simplicity and ease-of-use that put us on the map. We committed ourselves to making Box.net the best solution for businesses and it has paid off tremendously.

"Building on the momentum of an all-new Box we launched this year, we have nearly doubled our customer base, which now consists of 3 million users and 50,000 businesses like P&G, Nike, MTV, and Intel. Traffic to Box has doubled as well. We expanded our service offering with a number of partnerships and integrations with Dell, Salesforce.com, LinkedIn, FedEx, Intuit and others. We also invested in great people to take Box to the next level, hiring talent from companies like Google, Apple, Cisco, Yahoo and PayPal. Because of these efforts, Box.net's revenue has grown 300 percent, which is even more remarkable in these still-challenging times.

"The multibillion-dollar mobile space presents another huge opportunity for us. We just announced a new initiative called OpenBox Mobile, which will help iPhone and other mobile app developers integrate Box.net into their applications, making mobile content instantly accessible and sharable to other platforms, services and people. We think it's a game-changer and can't wait to see where it goes.

More and more businesses see Box as the right alternative to expensive and complicated offerings like Microsoft SharePoint. We will continue to expand our development, sales, marketing and operations teams to meet this demand and hopefully make the coming year our best ever."

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Rob Van Etten, Brighton Cromwell
No. 15 (2008)

"Despite the economic downturn, Brighton Cromwell has done extremely well. We finished 2008 at over $16 million. We are on target to do $22 million in 2009 and have increased our staff to 40 employees. We are growing up as a company and we realize that in order to reach our goal to become a $100 million business, we must focus on our own internal processes and procedures. We must have the processes and procedures of a large business, but still have the flexibility of a small business. Our culture continues to focus on continuous improvement, systems efficiencies, and operational excellence. We want to be the Google of the defense industry and we working to develop our proprietary systems to get us there. We are very excited about our future as a company and our looking forward to growing up as a company."

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Claire Chambers, Journelle
No. 10 2008

"To some extent, every entrepreneur must have the confidence (or naïveté) to believe that his or her business will survive no matter what, and I am no exception. I built Journelle, a multi-brand lingerie retailer, with a strong understanding of the market, the opportunity and the business model, and so when the economy started to head south, I focused on making the most of the opportunities a recession would bring, rather than worrying about the risks we would face.

"The challenging economic environment was good for Journelle -- first and foremost because it reversed the cost structures that the boom years had put in place. It caused some of our weaker competitors to go out of business, allowed us to negotiate better terms with our suppliers, and let us sign leases in places we previously couldn't afford. We open our second store this winter and our same-store sales are already up 25 percent for the year.

"Equally importantly, the recession required us to really focus on our ultimate business goal. With our angel investors backing out and credit sources drying up, our growth plans were delayed, and so we had no choice but to hunker down to selling lingerie, and selling it better than anyone else. It may take longer for us to grow, but we're positioned even better for growth now."

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