Solé Bicycles, a bike company, Venice

EMPLOYEES: About 56 employees nationwide

FINANCIALS: Projected revenue of at least $1.2 million for 2012

What led you to start your own company?

Shriftman: Solé started because we wanted fixed-gear bikes. With an average price of over $700 at the time, they were too expensive to build from disparate parts, and we knew such an investment in a bike around downtown Los Angeles would surely be stolen. We began contacting manufacturers around the world in an attempt to find a low-cost reliable manufacture. We figured other people would be interested in an affordable, simple, stylish bicycle. If we manufactured the bikes ourselves and sold direct to customers, we could offer something incredible.

Where did you get the startup money?

Shriftman: I entered a contest in Inc Magazine to be Newpreneur of the Year. After making it through the contest rounds, they gave us a grant to launch our business. We used that money to go meet our manufacturer abroad, and placed our first sample order. After we sold out of our first shipment, Jake and I took out loans from our families and close friends. Our main income now comes from e-commerce sales, but we just opened a gallery/store in the heart of Venice and are in the process of opening a shop in New York.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Shriftman: Timing is everything. Recognizing a trend or something cool is coming, and being early for its tipping point, is crucial. I’ve also learned that working with your best friends can be truly rewarding.

Could you ever work for someone else?

Shriftman: I could work for Richard Branson.

What was the biggest challenge starting your own company?

Medwell: Balancing my time between Solé Bicycles, another startup I’m involved in called Kairos Society, my social life and school was my biggest challenge. Fortunately, the USC entrepreneur program was very flexible in helping me.

How many hours a day do you put in?

Medwell: Life and business are one and the same when you are an entrepreneur.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Medwell: As my Uncle Ralph told me, “Cash in must exceed cash out.”

Will you ever start another company?

Medwell: As a matter of fact, Jonathan, I and some others are working on Panjia. We’ve outlined a new business model, called MNS (multinational startups) to help other entrepreneurs accelerate growth of their innovative companies into new countries and markets.

What do you do to relax?

Medwell: The beach and the boardwalk are my home away from home. They’re both wonderful places to free my mind.

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