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A Startup Finds an Opening

B.A. Maze, a play on the words "Be Amazing," is a wholesale and retail company that makes simple-to-use products for an aging population. We identify daily living obstacles and design unique products to meet customers' needs. As president, I'm responsible for everything, including information technology, marketing and sales, corporate strategy, and finance. Because we're a small startup, I sometimes have janitorial service responsibility, too.

I currently oversee a team of three employees who report our financials and payrolls. We have several contracted sales reps, contract employees, and another full-time employee who's responsible for assisting with day-to-day operations. We have set a goal of introducing eight new products to the market within four years and reaching profitability by Jan. 1, 2005.

Our first-ever product, PurrFect Opener, helps people open medicine bottles. It's shaped like a cat and has a magnet so it can rest on the fridge. The idea originated in 1998 after my brothers and I observed my grandparents struggling to open their medicine bottles. Heck, I used to use a knife to open an aspirin bottle!

Four years and eight prototypes later, I received a "Dare to Dream" student business grant sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan. With the help of family and friends, combined with the resources (including office space) provided first by the university, my lifelong dream of launching a company became a reality. Now, we're in business.


A typical day in the life of the startup? Yeah, right! Each day is a new opportunity. When the path toward the goal is obstructed, there's always another way to get to the job done.

8:30 a.m. -- Wake up and head for the office.

8:50 a.m. -- I open our cramped, two-room office that my brother, Mike, helped me find. One computer I turn on is my girlfriend's, because mine crashed last month. I check e-mail and Web orders, and get the office ready for Matt, our first-ever employee. What I quickly learned when he started three months ago is that his work space needs to be clean, organized, and functional. With that in mind, I take out the trash.

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