CNBC News Releases


Erin Kitzie


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CNBC's "How I Made My Millions" goes behind the curtain to reveal how everyday people have taken ordinary ideas and turned them in extraordinary businesses. Companies that have surpassed that magic number of a million dollars.

Each of these entrepreneurs took a risk, believed in their dream and, thanks to a lot of hard work and a little luck, became millionaires.

"How I Made My Millions" puts the American Dream on display and shows you that it's alive and well if you have the heart, the desire and the know-how to make it big.

Show 9:

“Milking It” CYPRESS GROVE CHEVRE (Arcata, CA)

Wanting a source of healthful milk for her kids, Mary Keehn began raising Alpine goats in the 1970’s. Her selections were good and her herd began winning awards… but she didn’t know what to do with the surplus milk from 50 goats. With a degree in biology but no prior experience in the cheese making industry, Mary decided to try her hand at making chevre, or goat cheese. In 1983, with the help of friends and family, Mary started selling the product from her kitchen to local restaurants. Business was slow at first; at that time, goat cheese wasn’t very popular or well known in the U.S. But the company took off when, after her first trip to France, Mary decided to create the renowned Humboldt Fog cheese. Today, Cypress Grove is known for its innovative range of artisanal cheeses—many invented by Keehn— and earns annual revenue estimated at $10 Million.

“Found in Translation” TRANSPERFECT (New York, NY)

Just after graduating from NYU’s Stern School of Business in 1992, Liz Elting convinced her friend, Phil Shawe, who was still a student, to start a new language services company. Having worked in the translation industry, Elting felt there was a need for a service-minded enterprise that could deliver complex projects quickly and accurately. They ran their fledgling business—called TransPerfect-- out of Phil’s tiny dorm room. Eventually, their hard work paid off. Today, TransPerfect has over 1,600 employees, a network of over 4,000 linguists and offices in more than 70 cities around the globe. The company’s annual revenue for 2010 was more than $250 Million.

“Bandz of Gold” SILLY BANDZ (Toledo, OH)

Robert Croak came out swinging with an idea to bring silicone wristbands to the U.S. and he hit a grand slam. Croak was visiting a trade show in Japan when he saw a product similar to Silly Bandz. He thought a thicker version would make a great fashion accessory; he just didn't know how great. Croak decided to bring the rainbow colored bracelets, which he named Silly Bandz, to the United States and the toy took off. The company started slowly in 2006, but it began to take off in late 2007. Croak went from selling 100 packs a week to a couple of million worldwide in about six months. They went from 17 employees to 350 in the U.S. alone. But they aren’t sitting on their success- Croak says BCP is debuting a new product this spring, and they have high hopes that it will be just as well received.

“Millions in the Making” LUKE’S LOBSTER (New York, NY)

A former lobster fisherman from Maine, Luke Holden became an investment banker after college and moved to New York City. After sampling the local fare, Luke realized he could make a better, less expensive lobster roll than those he found in New York, and decided to try to open a small restaurant. He placed an ad looking for someone to help and Ben Conniff responded. Together, they opened Luke's Lobster in October 2009. Luke gets the lobster from his father Jeff's sustainable Maine seafood company, making his the only roll that's traceable from the sea floor to your plate. Their signature lobster roll has been named and voted the best in NYC. It's been a little over a year and the company has grown from one location to 5 (including one in Washington, DC) and a lunch truck—all with lines that often run out the door.

Show 10:

“Smokin’ Success” Rocky Patel Cigars (Naples, FL)

As an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, Rocky Patel was introduced to cigars on the back lots of Hollywood studios. Fine cigars quickly became a passion for him, and he became one of the original founding members of the Grand Havana Club. Patel was approached with the opportunity to manufacture his own brand and he decided to create a new product- though friends and colleagues warned him against leaving his lucrative practice for the cigar industry. He developed the Indian Tabac Cigar Company and debuted at the 1996 Retail Tobacco Dealers of America trade show in Cincinnati. Customers flocked to the booth, drawn in by the distinct packaging and they stayed for the product. In 2003, Patel put aside the Indian Tabac brand name to focus on the Rocky Patel Vintage Series. The company produces 20,000,000 cigars annually.

“Out of a Jam” Stonewall Kitchen (York, ME)

In 1991 Jonathan King and Jim Stott started making jams and jellies, experimenting with different herbs and vegetables to create interesting flavor combinations. A friend suggested they try selling their products at a local farmer's market. There was a stone wall outside of their kitchen window… so they called themselves Stonewall Kitchen. The products were a hit, so King and Stott decided to take their hobby one step further and start a business. Twenty years later, they can produce more than 50, 000 jars of jams, barbeque and dessert sauces—in one day—at their 46-thousand square foot plant. This year, the company expects to exceed $50 million in sales.

“Millions in the Making?” VEEV ACAI SPIRITS (Los Angeles, CA)

In 2007, two former investment bankers -- brothers Carter and Courtney Reum-- left their jobs at the height of the market to move to California and start an acai liquor brand, VeeV. The move was prompted by the state’s laws which allow liquor brands to self-distribute; this was critical in the early days, because it meant the brothers could drive to hotels and restaurants and sell VeeV themselves, rather than having to find a distributor right away. VeeV is the world's first acai spirit, is produced in a wind-powered distillery and is certified carbon neutral. The company recently created a new cocktail menu for Ruby Tuesday’s, including a “Skinny Pink Lemonade” cocktail, which is expected to be a boon for revenues.

Show 11:

“Wheels of Fortune” MID AMERICA MOTORWORKS (Effingham, IL)

Mike Yager was a tool and die maker who loved cars. In 1974 he borrowed $500 to begin printing a one page flyer which he used to sell car manuals, decals and other accessories out of his trunk at large car shows on weekends. Yager quickly became a leader in the Corvette accessory business. Now his catalogues are hundreds of pages, and he hosts car shows, runs his own car museum and even manufactures interiors for Volkswagens. Yager’s company, Mid America Motorworks, has revenues of about $35 million.

“Bodies at Work” A10 CLINICAL SOLUTIONS (Cary, NC)

In 1987, Leah Brown lost her Uncle Allen to AIDS. Brown was upset that there was little education about the disease back then and she wished there were better treatments available. In 2004, divorced and out of a job, Brown decided to pursue a way to help underserved populations receive better medical treatments. She moved from New York to North Carolina and used her severance, savings and the mortgage on her house to start A10 Clinical Solutions—a company that provides research and trained help for clinical research trials undertaken by government agencies, pharmaceutical companies and universities. The company focuses on clinical trials for cardiovascular treatments, women’s health issues, oncology drugs and children’s illnesses. In 2010, A10 Clinical Solutions posted annual revenues of close to $20 Million.

“A Real Longshot” WEST POINT THOROUGHBREDS (Mt. Laurel, NJ)

Terry Finley was finishing his military service in 1990 when he and his wife bought a $5,000 horse. The horse, “Sunbelt,” won its first race and Terry was hooked. He decided to build on a passion for horse racing which began when he was a child. Now he buys 20-25 horses a year and forms groups of investors who profit when the horses win, breed and sell. Terry has offices in New Jersey, Florida, California and Kentucky, and has horses that race all over the country.

Show 12:

“Amy’s Kitchen” AMY’S KITCHEN (Petaluma, CA)

In 1987, Andy and Rachel Berliner experienced 2 life changing events: the births of their daughter… and their company. They named them Amy and Amy’s Kitchen, respectively. They started the company, a frozen food business, as a way for busy parents to make quick and delicious vegetarian meals. The operation was originally run from their home and barn, but rapidly expanded to keep up with demand. Today, Amy’s kitchen employs nearly 1,600 people and sells 140 vegetarian products, as well Kosher, gluten-free and other special diet products.

“The Soft Sell” E.S. KLUFT & Co (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)

Earl Kluft is a third generation mattress maker whose grandfather taught him the hand crafting technique when Earl was about 14. After a successful career in the bedding industry with his company Spring Air, Earl decided to found Chattam & Wells in 1996. Earl Kluft says he designed and created the original modern luxury mattress: the "Spring Air Four Seasons," and "Chattam & Wells,” and holds patents for his designs. After selling the businesses, Earl decided to up the ante—and make ever more luxurious and pricier beds. In 2004, he founded his most recent company, E.S. Kluft & Co. It is the only company in the U.S. that manufactures handcrafted, luxury mattresses. The mattresses are made from silk, cashmere, cotton, horsehair, flax, wool and other materials.

“The Bag Lady” BAG MAKERS, INC. (Union, IL)

Looking for a way to support herself and her children, in 1980 Maribeth Sandford decided to use her experience in graphic arts to begin printing logos and designs on shopping bags. She borrowed a $10,000 loan from her father to buy a $20, 000 printing press. Sandford set up shop in a barn and focused on printing small quantities of bags to suit her customer's needs. Slowly, her business began to grow. She paid her dad back... and then some. Now a grandmother, Sandford runs a company that has topped $40 million in sales two years in a row and Bag Makers is becoming a family affair. The company has long named different bag styles after family members and featured her children and grandchildren on its catalogue covers. Now two of the children are helping to run the company too.

“Millions In the Making?” BROOKLYN FLEA (Brooklyn, NY)

Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler, looking for business opportunities, thought that Brooklyn, New York needed a flea market. Four months after they started working on the idea, they opened Brooklyn Flea, and 20 thousand people showed up. The business model is pretty simple: rent a big vacant lot, and then rent smaller spaces in that lot to dealers – and “curate” the vendors, so they’re selling cool stuff. Add some food stands, and voila – crowds every weekend. They now run one of the trendiest scenes in New York’s trendiest borough – two flea markets, and a food market called Smorgasburg. Now come the next questions: Can they grow it, and how?
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