Dan Lauer, Haystack Toys
Dan Lauer, 39, is serious about toys. In 1988, he left a 10-year career in banking to try to sell a line of water-filled dolls he had designed. After some 700 submission letters went unanswered, Lauer raised $250,000 from friends and family to make and distribute the doll himself. His Waterbabies became the second-biggest-selling baby doll ever and made Lauer a millionaire. Last year he launched a new venture, Haystack Toys. It uses the Internet to talk to parents about the kinds of toys they want to buy and then scours the country for great ideas that fit the bill. His first line--including child-size butterfly wings and plush fish--is already selling out at some Zany Brainy and FAO Schwarz stores.