She Got Rich Doing What?

Custom-sewn backdrops for megawatt rock shows. Sleek, fashion-friendly fanny packs for fitness enthusiasts. Skin creams cooked up in the family basement. Here, women who turned their interests into big-money businesses. Where will your passions take you? Read, learn and earn

by Amanda Robb
megan duckett image
Megan Duckett stitched together her love of rock and roll and her talent with a sewing machine to launch what is now a dream business.
Photograph: Chris Buck

Though Carol’s Daughter had become bigger than Price ever dreamed, by industry standards it was still a small, indie beauty brand. She wanted to make it major, and just when she thought she’d never figure out how, Price got a call from Steve Stoute, best known for producing albums by U2, Eve and Eminem. Stoute had a lot of friends who used Carol’s Daughter products, and many of them traveled to the Brooklyn store to purchase them. Price remembers that Stoute was incredulous. “He said to his friends, ‘You go all the way to Brooklyn to buy that stuff?’ ” she says.

In 2004, Stoute and Price became partners. The next year, they put together a group of celebrity investors, including Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z. Today the line, pared down to 75 products, is carried in the company’s seven retail stores around the country, as well as at Sephora, Dillard’s and Macy’s; it’s also sold on HSN and on military bases. This spring the company opened its first salons, called Mirror—The Hair Salon at Carol’s Daughter, in Harlem and Atlanta. In 2012, revenue was $35 million.

Price, who has just turned 51, thinks there are many keys to being a successful entrepreneur. First are traits you always hear about, like passion, tenacity and hard work. But there is another that has been essential to her success: openness to change. “You’re always growing,” she says. “It’s not that you’re not satisfied and that you’re not proud of what you accomplish. You take that moment to say, ‘That was great.’ But then it is, ‘What’s next?’ Because if you stand still too long, you get run over.”

What She Does: Makes “Personal Item” Exercise Belts
What Her Business Brought In: $4.8 Million

In her twenties, Kim Overton was living in New York, tending bar while she studied jazz vocal performance, when a friend at one of the joints where she worked got her into website development. Very quickly, Overton started earning more than twice as much as she had mixing drinks. In 1998 she cofounded her own tech/Web company, and about a year later, a huge advertising company recruited her, with an annual salary of about $90,000. But then came the terrorist attacks of September 11. “I was riding my bike over the Brooklyn Bridge and saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center,” Overton says. “It was a big, life-­changing experience. All of a sudden, there was nothing in my heart that ­really loved developing websites.”

Laid off a few months later as New York’s economy struggled, Overton found that only one thing lifted her spirits: exercise. “Staying in shape was a passion of mine,” she says. “But when my roommate suggested I become a personal trainer, I dismissed it as a joke.” As Overton’s unemployment benefits ran out, however, she had no choice. “I gave it a shot,” she says. “It was humbling. I made $8 an hour when I was first hired at a gym. But I would chat with people, and I was a natural. I very quickly started making around $75 a session.”

A few years later—after an adventure abroad and a broken engagement—Overton returned to her home state of Texas. There she got another lesson in humility. “I was 35, had only $5,000 in savings, was living with my grandparents in Austin and was starting at the bottom at another gym,” she says. But again she quickly built a large customer base. She launched a website and produced a DVD called Love Your Legs.

One Sunday, Overton was out on a run, dreaming up ways to promote her DVD, when her car key, which she’d stuck in her bra top, began irritating her skin. “I thought, Gosh, I need a little belt to hold my keys,” she says. “From the trail I went to the hobby store. I spent about $30 and got materials. I handsewed a few belts and wore one to the gym that Monday. My clients were like, ‘That’s cool! What is that?’”

First published in the July/August 2013 issue

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