3 BABSON STARTUPS AMONG BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK’S AMERICA'S BEST YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS 2011
Vote, through Oct. 20, for the one you think is most promising. Bloomberg will announce the top five readers' picks on Oct. 27. http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/2011youngentrepreneurvote/
• What it Does: Sells custom clothes online
• Founder: Fan Bi, 23
• Website: blanklabel.com
• Based: Boston
• Revenue 2010: $450,000
• Revenue 2011 (projected): $1 million
Fan Bi’s finance internship as a student at Babson College taught him one important lesson: The best-looking dress shirt is custom made. “But it’s also expensive,” Bi says, “so I thought: How can I make the luxury of custom affordable?” He took his last year off and used $35,000 he had saved from jobs in high school and college to launch Blank Label, an online custom men's dress shirt company, in 2009. Customers select fabrics, buttons, collar types, and stitching to design shirts on Blank Label's website. Their creations are stitched in Shanghai and shipped directly to customers for around $75—a fraction of the price charged for custom dress shirts at traditional retailers. Bi says the eight-employee business is profitable and he expects to break $1 million in revenue by the end of this year. To diversify, he plans to launch custom women's blouses this fall.
My Funky Planet
• What it does: Sells toys with virtual counterparts
• Founder: Sebastian Abondano, 24
• Website: myfunkyplanet.com
• Based: Port St. Lucie, Fla.
• Revenue 2010: $1.3 million
• Revenue 2011 (projected): $2 million
Sebastian Abondano was fascinated by the success of Webkinz, stuffed toys that came with a corresponding online persona for kids to play with in a virtual world. In 2008, while a junior at Babson College, he started his own line of toys that bridge the physical and digital worlds. My Funky Planet sells remote-controlled cars and helicopters that come with codes to unlock virtual replicas in an online game. Targeted at boys aged 6 to 12, the toys are manufactured in China and sold through U.S. retailers such as Toys R Us, Sears (SHLD), and Discovery Channel Stores. They retail for from $20 to $120 and come with virtual currency that can be used to soup up the online avatars. Though selling virtual goods is not a big source of revenue right now, Abondano expects it to grow as the user base expands and players can eventually interact with each other in a game world. Abondano says the nine-employee company has raised $400,000 in seed money and has been profitable since its first year.
• What it does: Manufactures energy efficient lighting
• Founders: Dinesh Wadhwani, 21, and Enrico Palmerino, 22
• Website: rethinkrelite.com
• Based: Framingham, Mass.
• Revenue 2010: $500,000
• Revenue 2011 (projected): $3.5 million
Babson College dorm mates Dinesh Wadhwani and Enrico Palmerino got the idea for their company from an ad for an energy efficient light bulb: They thought they could sell businesses on going green by putting the bottom-line savings up front, rather than the environmental benefit. ThinkLite, founded in 2009, manufactures custom energy-saving light systems. Clients typically pay ThinkLite about 40 percent of the estimated two- to three-year savings. ThinkLite licenses its technologies from private laboratories in Germany, uses components from Korea, designs them in Boston, and assembles them in China. After ThinkLite installs the lighting system, the client’s lighting bill drops on average by 50 percent to 80 percent, Wadhwani says. The company has about 100 clients, including AT&T (T), Kodak (EK), and Babson College, as well as smaller businesses ranging from restaurants to offices.
• PrimeTime Lacrosse
2009 Babson businesses
• DeParis Redinger LLC
• Polina Fashion
• Footage Firm
• Paragon Lake
• T35 Hosting
• Telmé Clothing