Monthly Archives: March 2012

Age may not at all be a factor if you have a great idea and know how to execute it. Some help from an older brother can also come in handy.

Fifteen year old Catherine Cook and her 16 year old brother David were new to their high school in Skillman, New Jersey. As teenagers, making new friends in a new school was a major undertaking. While looking over their yearbook one night they thought it was not the best way to make new friends.

Then Catherine came up with a great idea, digitalizing yearbooks. This would be an avenue for meeting new friends. It was the start of myYearbook in 2005. While Facebook  is more into connecting with old or existing friends, their venture was more into making new friends who were near the area, of the same age bracket or played the same games.

Their older brother Geoff fresh from graduating at Harvard also got into the venture by helping with the start-up capital needed to keep the company going. Six years later, in 2011 the three siblings joined the ranks of young self-made multi-millionaires when Quepasa Corp. bought their company for $100 million in cash and stocks.

One of the strong points of myYearbook is many are using it via the mobile phone. With more mobile phones than personal computers or laptops the market potential is huge.

What started out as a need to make new friends ended up with the siblings creating a great product which has led them to business and financial success.


To those who may not be doing well academically take heart, it does not mean that things will not turn for the better. Take the case of this Canadian who did not do particularly well in one academic subject.

His academic performance did not indicate his true potential. Mathew Corrin flunked his business class in college. He didn’t understand it and found it stressful.  He may have failed in the theoretical world, but in the real world, where it counts, he’s a story of success.

Corrin landed a job as the marketing manager for fashion legend Oscar de La Renta in New York City.  On his lunch breaks he went to the many “mom and pop” delis. The food served was far from healthy. This led him to create a business model that was scalable, branded and made people eat healthy food.  He wanted to provide healthy food that was convenient and affordable.

Armed with this idea he opened his first store in 2005 in Toronto which was an instant hit. Behind the success of this store is a story of trial and perseverance.  To begin with, in his first week of opening, the chef cut his finger. Upon seeing the blood, the kitchen manager fainted breaking his nose and to make matters worse, an employee changed employment status by stealing the store’s earnings turning him into a thief.  These initial setbacks did not stop Corrin from his objective of changing for the better, the way people eat.

Many of the lessons he learned was through mistakes made early on. The important thing was he learned and did better. Now his business Freshii, Inc. are in over 80 locations in North America, Austria, and as far as Dubai.

Aside from business success this endeavor also gave him success in his personal life. When his two injured employees were taken away for treatment, a female staff stepped in to help him in food preparation.  That staff is now his wife. It was truly a blessing in disguise.

So we may not be great in all the things we do, but we can find that special something that with a lot of hard work can take us to new heights.

Anne Pawsat-Dressler has had a successful career which included streamlining the computer operations of a Manhattan office of a large financial company, managing the auction purchases worth millions of dollars of clients at Christie’s in London, and producing a documentary film.  Off from work one thing she loved doing was to travel.

Her many travelling experiences also exposed her to the world of high-end travelers. A visit to Hawaii made her decide she wanted to live there. What better way to earn a living then than to engage in a business that involved travel and do it in a place where she wanted to stay.

She established Hawaii Hideaways in 2004. She noted there wasn’t a market for luxury vacation in Hawaii that provided excellent service for the high-end traveler.  Only 24 years of age when she started the business, she initially had some difficulty in convincing luxury homeowners to let their multi-million property be a part of her inventory of homes for rent.

Over time she eventually succeeded and her company is now a leader in providing luxury vacations in Hawaii.  The company offers rental properties with 24 hour concierge services.  You can have luaus, massages, limousine service, charter jets, to chartered yacht.

Through a great idea and a lot of hard work, Anne has the best of both worlds.  She has a business she loves (and earning her millions), in place that she wants to stay for the rest of her life.

It seems like no one had to tell Gurbaksh Chahal that the early bird gets the worm. It simply did not apply in the waking up early sense but also starting out early in his entrepreneurial career.  He has also been able to achieve success in a very short span of time.

In 1998, at the age of 16, he dropped out of high school and started his first venture, ClickAgents. This was an advertising network using performance-based advertising. In just two years Chahal sold the company to ValueClick for $40 million. He wasn’t even out of his teens yet.

This would have been a great story already but it was just a chapter in Chahal’s young life. In 2004, he started BlueLithium, another advertising company focusing on behavioral targeting of banner advertising. This involved following web users’ online habits so that ads shown to the users are those they will most likely respond to.

In 2007, BlueLithium was bought by Yahoo! for $300 million. Not bad for a 25 year old who only established the company barely three years ago.  He then started a company called gWallet which dealt in the digital payment business.

In 2009, he formed his third internet advertising company this time specializing in the new area of real-time advertising.  The company was re-branded as RadiumOne in 2010. It has been able to raise a serious amount of money through venture capital funding.

Chahal has appeared in the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2008. He has made other TV appearances. Success has come to him in such a short span of time. He was born on July 17, 1982 in Punjab, India. He was able to migrate to the U.S. when his parents were awarded U.S. visa through what is known as the Green Card Lottery.  His parents were of humble means but this did not stop Chahal from achieving success at such an early age.

Both Chahal and America were lucky when his parents won in the Green Card Lottery.

Boxing is a difficult (and painful) way to earn a living. Most boxers come and go and we hear stories of boxers like Joe Luis and Mike Tyson who lost it all outside the ring. There are some boxers that have managed to have a successful life outside the ring as entrepreneurs.

Oscar De La Hoya is a Mexican American who used his fists to earn a living. He had a very successful amateur boxing career that was capped with his winning an Olympic boxing gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in Spain. His good looks and boxing exploit led to the media calling him “the Golden Boy” and the name has stuck ever since.

Oscar went on to become a successful professional boxer. The professional sports of boxing is not only about being a good boxer it’s also about having an appeal and being popular.  Oscar had this with his good looks, good boxing skills, and Hispanic background.  He has won ten world championship belts in not one but six different weight divisions.  The financial return has been tremendous, too. He is believed to have earned over $600 million in pay-per-view earnings.

In 2002, while still an active fighter, he formed Golden Boy Promotions, this was the first national boxing promotion company owned by a Hispanic. The company now has under contract an impressive stable of boxers who rake in money for the outfit.

In Oscar’s last fight on December 2008, he was badly clobbered by Philippine boxing phenomenon Manny Pacquiao forcing his corner to stop the fight at the end of the eighth round.  Oscar retired in 2009. For him there’s life after boxing being the owner of one of the top boxing promotion companies in the world.

We have often heard the phrase “beauty and brains”. One person who fits that description to a tea is Tyra Banks. She made a living by being beautiful then has gone on to run her own business.

You can say that Tryra came from broken home.  Born on December 4, 1973 in California, her parents divorced when she was six years old.  Some credits must go to her parents with the arrangement of having her stay with her mother on weekdays and with her father on weekends.

The arrangement seems to have worked just fine for her because she looked at it as having twice the fun.  She said she wound up having two birthday parties, two Christmas parties, and double the presents.  This is not the usual situation with divorced families. In any case at an early age Tyra was looking at the glass as being half full instead of half empty.

With her great looks and personality she experience being one of the popular girls in school only to become one of the freaky looking ones in high school and the butt of jokes when she started to grow very tall and lanky. She then used her height to her advantage by try her luck at modeling.

She faced rejections at first when apply at various modeling agencies until the world’s largest modeling agency Elite Model Management took her in. She went to Europe and became a hit super model in the early 90s. By mid 90s she was gaining weight and more curves, a no-no in the fashion model world.

This didn’t stop Tyra. She went back to the U.S. and did swimwear and lingerie modeling which appreciated the curves. She was one of the original Victoria’s Secret Angel models. She then used her successful modeling career and popularity to produce and host her own show “America’s Next Top Model”. It was a world-wide success and sealed her place as being an entrepreneur and not just another pretty face. This lady had brains, too.

She also produced and hosted the “Tyra Banks Show”.  She’s done movies, T.V. shows, singing, using her talents to as far as it would take her. She has her own fashion-related website, and managed to take a course at Harvard University, no less.

Fashion model, entrepreneur, beauty and brains, that’s Tyra Banks.

That’s her surname, her father being Peter Fake. Aside from that there’s nothing fake about Caterina Fake. You must have heard of Flickr the photo-sharing website. She is responsible for its creation along with her then husband Steward Butterfield.

It wasn’t a straight forward success story though as the couple’s venture was originally Ludicorp which had as its product a role-playing game known as Game Neverending.  Unfortunately the game ended, the company went bankrupt just after one year in 2003.

A portion of this game had a technology with photo-sharing features. They turned this into a website called Flickr which became a hit. So much so that Yahoo! bought it for a reported $35 million in 2005. After the acquisition she joined Yahoo! but resigned in 2008.

Not everyone would start a venture on a hunch but Ms. Fake and a partner did start a venture named Hunch in June 2009. Its goal is to map every user in the internet and connect to every entity and their ties to that entity.  The company was certainly more than a hunch since eBay bought it for an estimated $80 million in November 2011.

She’s now into another venture called PinWheel. It’s still very early but she already raised $7.5 million in venture capital.  Most of the money is there because of her reputation more than the new product.

Apparently investors genuinely believe in Ms. Fake.