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.
No. 3 and No. 4 (2008)
"Over the past 12 months, Catch a Piece of Maine has experienced steady growth, toppling projected sales goals and increasing our customer base. We have invested heavily in researching the changing buying behaviors of consumers due to economic conditions we are faced with today. We have expanded our employee base by 100 percent in the areas of sales/marketing and customer service. We've taken big steps in reshaping our sales and marketing plans by adjusting to the challenges that all businesses have faced over the past year.
"We began our business with the innovative idea of selling the ownership of a Maine lobster trap and its catch for an entire year. Although this remains a huge part of our business, to grow and attract a much larger customer pool, we have expanded our products, offering customers the ability to buy one-time, custom, lobster dinners still direct from their personal lobstermen. We've introduced new products with an emphasis on lower price points as well as value added items beginning at $59.
"From the beginning, our trademark has been our customer service, and this has remained unchanged. Customers who order from us return because of the quality of the product and the care they receive with each order. This has resulted in an 80 percent customer return rate, virally growing our venture through customer referrals. Due to the success we have experienced over the past 12 months, we have outgrown our facility and are in the midst of relocating to a much larger state of the art building in preparation for future growth and expansion.
"Our community-based, direct to consumer model has served as an inspiration in the Maine lobster industry and throughout the country, and we are proud to be the leader in this movement."
No. 7 (2006)
"Pinnacle Services continues to grow and has been named to the Inc. 5000 for three consecutive years. We have diversified our service offerings, which has allowed us to expand into new markets. We are doing more work with health plans and long-term insurance carriers than we ever have. We have also continued to focus on the quality of our services, which is evident as we received our second consecutive three-year accreditation from CARF International.
"In 2008, we moved our corporate headquarters and increased our office space twofold to support future growth. We anticipate that our new headquarters will be LEED Gold certified this fall. We have also worked to make the culture at our organization a top priority. We really want to build a great place to work. A few of the things we have done at our new headquarters to promote the fun include having a foam pit you can jump in to from the second story, a Velcro wall, swings, arcade games, workout facility, and an office dog named 'Biggie Smalls.'
"We will continue to work on the culture of the organization and continue to build a great place to work. Culture is becoming even more critical as we are rapidly approaching 500 employees, up from 25 in 2006, and have added approximately 50 new positions during the economic downturn. This summer, we made our first acquisition, which has fueled our growth in 2009. We are positioning our organization to make future acquisitions and to support continued organic growth. We expect 2010 to be another great year!"
No. 2 (2007)
"BizChair.com continues to thrive and expand even in the current economic and business environment. As our company has grown over the last few years, we have focused on expanding our stocked product assortment and forming strategic partnerships with various retailers to help boost incremental revenue and product distribution.
"In addition to implementing various technologies to help streamline processes, BizChair has used numerous incentive programs with employees to better align interests. These programs have proved invaluable and have helped reduce call abandonment while increasing phone sales. We've also launched the first of many niche 'micro sites' that focus on specific categories of product. These sites provide better product insight for customers as well as focus on selling the specific category of product to the customer with more relevant information.
"Revenue has expanded to $42 million in 2008 and is on track for $48 million in 2009. BizChair.com now has over 110 employees and continues to grow."
No. 3 (2007)
"The Menkiti Group has continued to grow (about 50 percent since 2007) and expand our impact on communities in this economic recession. We have taken advantage of a return to fundamentals in the real estate market, and as other development companies and real estate brokerages have closed their doors, new growth opportunities in our residential brokerage and development business have opened up.
"Through our Keller Williams Brokerage franchise, we have been able to continue to grow organically as our brand takes hold. The brokerage now has over 120 agents and recently opened a second office. The brokerage recently became the No. 1 residential Real Estate operations on Capitol Hill and was named to RIS Media's 2009 list of fast-growing companies to watch in America.
"In our sales business, we have been able to shift with the market, deepening our work with first time homebuyers and expanding our work with move-up luxury homebuyers. Our sales team has now sold over $100 million in residential real estate in the past four years.
"In our development business, we have adjusted to the challenging times by generating more fee-for-service revenue through our advisory services arm, and moving quickly to purchase and renovate inventory of foreclosed and bank-owned properties for the growing pool of first time home buyers. We've also sharpened our focus on workforce housing through our foreclosure initiative and our work with City First Homes on a condo project, as well as taking advantage of opportunities to partner with other developers on large-scale mixed-use projects.
"We have also continued to receive national recognition for our work. We have been interviewed on Tavis Smiley, and I have had the honor of serving with a number of the country's leading academics, mayors, governors, and social entrepreneurs on the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government's executive session on 'Transforming Cities Through Civic Entrepreneurship.'
No. 16 (2007)
"This recession has proven to be a tough sea to navigate, but we are rolling along. In 2007, we decided that we needed to restructure our company to capitalize on our strengths and to keep from spreading ourselves too thin. We had two major strengths: our Web dominance, and our strong manufacturing/quality control in Asia.
"We winded down the promotional industry business, and concentrated on our retail online business model, as well as our wholesale business model. Our goal was to pick up large clients, such as Hot Topic, Spencer Gifts, and Target. But due to the weak retail environment, we had to hedge our retail business and build a stronger wholesale business with an emphasis on the market that will spend most money during a recession.
"We concentrated on the 9- to 23-year-old age demographic, realizing that even in a recession, they will still be inclined to spend the most. We realized that in order to do this, we had to either build our own brand, or start manufacturing private label or licensed goods.
"We took out loans and started to build our portfolio of licenses. We are creating items for Family Guy, Cadillac, Insane Clown Posse, Pink Panther, and many others. Some of our categories of products include fashion sunglasses, jewelry, scarves, and headwear. Due to this and other improvements, we have capitalized from the slow economy and are forecasting a record year in sales and profitability."