Frontier -- Features
Where Are They Now?
A second look at some of frontier's most memorable entrepreneurs
When Michael Schall, chief executive of Austin (Tex.) snack-food company Guiltless Gourmet Inc., appeared on the cover of frontier last April, he was literally buried in a pile of tortilla chips. It seemed apt. While Guiltless Gourmet's baked tortilla chips had been a hit in the early 1990s, the company was in big trouble. Frito-Lay had introduced a baked chip of its own and was snatching market share. To survive, we opined, Guiltless Gourmet would need "not only a careful plan, but some Texas-sized luck."
So where is Guiltless Gourmet today? Schall shuttered the plant, outsourced production, and began searching for a partner. Enter RAB Holdings Inc., a specialty-food distributor and owner of kosher-food giant B. Manischewitz. In November, RAB bought Guiltless for an undisclosed price and installed Schall as Manischewitz' new CEO. Now he's living in Jersey City, N.J., managing 200 employees, and he has big plans for Guiltless Gourmet and Manischewitz.
Over the past five years, we've profiled hundreds of entrepreneurs. We decided to check back and see how some of them had fared. It's no surprise that a company's fortunes can change overnight. But even we were astonished at some of the twists and turns we discovered. In the pages that follow, you'll meet a mild-mannered manufacturer-turned-business-guru; a well-regarded consultant who, at the age of 57, suddenly decided to start a company of her own; and a stressed-out entrepreneur who abandoned a $7 million company to live on the beach in California.
Revisiting the past proved to be an instructive exercise for us. Part of our job at frontier is to find interesting and innovative small companies, outfits that have the most to teach their fellow business-owners. Many of our entrepreneurs thrived; others no longer exist. But that's the way it goes for small businesses: You never know what's going to happen next. Just ask Schall, who quite unexpectedly finds himself in the matzo business. "It's a fascinating journey," he says. As well as one without a map.By Stephanie B. GoldbergReturn to top
Spin Master Plays to Win
When a startup toy company creates a fly-off-the-shelves winner three years in a row, someone there must be in touch with his inner child. That's certainly the case with BEN VARADI, RONNEN HARARY, and ANTON RABIE, the three founders of Spin Master Toys in Toronto. When the trio appeared in frontier, they had scored a hit with a pet-rock-type toy called Earth Buddy, and they were pushing their next creation, the Air Hog, a compressed-air-powered toy plane. Cars and rockets followed, boosting 1999 sales to $35 million, from $10 million in 1998.
Spin Master next launched Flick Trix, finger-toy replicas of the bicycles used in the ESPN X-Games and Gravity Games. That pushed 2000 revenues to $70 million, as the company added 70 employees, including a 20-person Hong Kong office. Remarkably, the owners haven't borrowed a cent and have no plans to go public. "We're still young and have a lot of growing to do," says CEO Rabie, 29. Spin Master is their toy, and they're having too much fun to share it.Return to top
Even Cowgirls Pay Their Dues
Six years ago, when most of her peers were still struggling to adjust to middle school, CASEY COLLIER started ArenaWest Inc., a women's western-themed apparel company. With the help of her mother and younger sister, the Shawnee Mission (Kan.) teen was soon bringing in revenues in the low six figures, selling shirts, sweats, and other items at rodeos throughout the Midwest.
But something had to give when she started college this fall at the University of Kansas. So Collier, now 19, handed ArenaWest to family members, who are keeping it going so she can jump in later. But Collier has bigger plans. She is ready to declare a major in--what else?--marketing, and is developing a "top secret" idea for a new business. "I'm going to have to put in my time in Corporate America," she says, "so I can accumulate some money." Clearly, this is one cowgirl who doesn't need to be shown the ropes.Return to top