How a broke single mom made $16 million from a lunchbox

Yahoo Finance

Each year Inc. Magazine releases its ranking of the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies. Now in its 33rd year, Inc. goes through thousands upon thousands of applications from eligible companies, which submit their stories and revenue over a three-year period, for evaluation. Companies like Pandora (P), 7 Eleven, Toys ‘R’ Us, Zipcar and Zappos.com have applied and won a coveted spot on the list in the past.

Inc. Magazine editor-in-chief Eric Schurenberg joined Yahoo Finance to discuss some of his favorite companies that made the list this year.

EmazingLights

Inc. reports Brian Lim, 27, was a consultant at Deloitte with a passion for electronic dance music (EDM). After spending the week working at a desk, he would spend the weekend dancing to techno and house music with his girlfriend. When Lim’s girlfriend became obsessed with a hard-to-find rave accessory, a pair of $300 light-up gloves, he had an idea. Lim spent just $100 buying materials to make his own pair and eventually set up a website to sell more. A culture of “gloving,” or dances that use the light-up gloves, began to evolve around Lim’s company, and within a year he had enough of a business to quit his job at Deloitte.

“He started something called ‘Friday Night Lights’ in an In-N-Out burger parking lot where he got people interested in it, and it’s really caught on,” says Schurenberg.

According to Inc., Lim’s gloves have been featured on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew,” and in numerous music videos. The store has also evolved to sell more than just gloves.

“We want to be the Nike of EDM," Lim writes in the magazine. "The household name for all products around EDM culture."

“We are talking about 2000% revenue growth over the past three years,” Schurenberg tells us, citing EmazingLights' $6 million in revenue last year selling gloves retailing between $12.95 and $99.95.

PackIt-

In 2008, Melissa Kieling went through a divorce that left her a broke single mom to three children, reports Inc.

“I had no career experience to fall back on after a decade of staying home to raise my kids," she's writes in Inc. "I watched the bank repossess my car. At times, I had as little as $13 in my checking account." As Inc. tells it, one day when her kids were complaining about their lunches becoming warm, Kieling decided to design her own lunchbox. She used her shower curtain, ice packs and safety pins. Eventually she started investigating in gels, found one that could cool food by 20 degrees, and begged a dry cleaner to sew her prototype together.

“It’s just one of those ideas that you wonder why no one thought of it before,” says Schurenberg.

The work was worth it. According to Inc., Kieling showed her prototype to family and friends who invested $200,000 into her product allowing her to create a small first run. She went to every trade show she could and managed to raise $2 million from a group of private investors, who also helped her create an infomercial. Her annual sales went from $150,000 in 2010 to $6 million in 2011.

Last year PackIt made $12 million in revenue and sales are projected to hit $16 million in 2014, says Schurengberg. “PackIt has grown 7000% over the past three years."

Any takeaways for future entrepreneurs?

“It’s not easy and it’s not quick,” concludes Schurenberg. “But it does suggest that if you have an idea, the determination, the creativity and the focus, you can actually succeed. The American enterprise system still works.”

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