In this episode, senior contributing writer Burt Helm talks about a handful of Inc. 5000 entrepreneurs who built multi-million dollar companies in niche retail industries (equestrian goods and supplies, essential oils, and off-road recreational vehicles).
When Inc. 5000 honoree Ethan McAfee visited his parents in a retirement community in Florida, he was a technology investment analyst. At the time, his parents (and seemingly every other elderly resident) played pickleball, a sport that mixes tennis and Wiffle ball. He decided to set up a site, pickleballdirect.com, to sell equipment for the game to retirees. Four and a half years later, his business -- now called Bois Blanc Sports -- grew 3,248 by percent. It had pulled in $9.7 million in sales at the end of last year, which was enough to place his company at No. 105 on the 2015 Inc. 500 list.
Next, Will Yakowicz talks about Poly Molding, a small New Jersey family-owned business that started selling polystyrene (Styrofoam, but not made by Dow Chemical, which owns the trademark) beer coolers and mannequin heads in the 1960s. Polystyrene, which is both stronger and cheaper than dirt, does not erode or wash out and absorbs shock better than dirt or soil foundations. In 2002, Adam got a contract to provide the material for the foundation of 1 World Trade Center. His foam blocks would soon help build a golf course in the Bronx, Citi Field's baseball diamond, and Yankee Stadium parking lot.
Diana Ransom discusses her story on how fashion designer Rachel Roy (who has dressed leading ladies like Michelle Obama and Kim Kardashian) rose up from meager circumstances -- only to come within inches of losing it all. It's a harrowing entrepreneurial tale about partnerships run amuck, and one of survival, too. Today, Roy's eponymous brand is a subsidiary of global manufacturer Topson Downs.
And as with every episode, find out what made every member of the podcast team hit the "Like Button" this week.
Senior writer Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, who covers technology, startups, and culture, is this week's host of the Inc. Uncensored podcast, which is part of the Panoply network. Regular participants include features editor Diana Ransom, who manages the online flagship packages (Inc. 5000, Inc. 30 Under 30) and covers the nexus of business and politics; Burt Helm is a senior contributing writer who writes features for Inc. magazine; and staff writer Will Yakowicz, who covers legal cannabis, tech, and cybersecurity.