Black Money, Black Wealth, Black Enterprise: Getting Rich

14 Jul

Twelve years ago, Julie Aigner-Clark was looking for a way to expose Aspen, her 18-month-old daughter, to music and the arts.

So she and her husband, Bill, shot a video in the basement of their home. “We borrowed equipment from a friend, put up a black velvet background and used the toys my daughter liked,” she says.

The star of the video is a dragon puppet that Aspen used as a washcloth. Other scenes feature Julie’s hand slowly turning the crank on a jack-in-the-box. It’s all very low-budget but also quite soothing. Can you imagine the path to becoming a millionaire starting with such a mundane project?

Here at Kiplinger, we’re old-fashioned. We think it’s a lot more fun becoming rich than being born that way. Our culture and economy encourage risk-taking, pursuing good ideas and dogged determination. Luck plays a part, too.

There’s no denying it. But you can also make your own luck through perseverance.

To inspire you, we looked for people who have become rich. Just how did they do it? For some, like Julie and Bill, everything flowed quickly from one good idea. Others spent a working lifetime patiently building wealth.

More from MSN Money and Kiplinger

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We also asked what they’ve done with their wealth — and what advice they have for others. We demonstrate how to find the cash to invest your way to millionaire status.

Look, we know it may not happen. But a growing number of Americans are achieving millionaire status. And in these eight stories, you’ll find information to make your life richer, whether you become a millionaire or not.

8 millionaire profiles

The video that took on a life of its own: Julie Aigner-Clark and husband Bill learned about the power of word of mouth as their Baby Einstein empire took off.

Know when to make the call: Mark Wilson took the leap from managing a corporate call center to starting his own, Ryla Teleservices, providing a much-needed alternative to offshore outsourcing.

Pounce when the time is right: Real estate is an accessible path for independent investors to make money. Robert Norton, a former entertainment lawyer, shares his method.

It started over cocktails: The Internet has made many millionaires, but don’t expect an overnight success story. Mediabistro’s Laurel Touby reveals what it takes to make it big on the Net.

A 30-year plan to make a mil: So you’ll never leap to start your own business and do not trust the real-estate market? You can still build a million the old-fashioned way — just ask Gary Gardelli.

Breaking with family tradition: One of the first to produce eggs from cage-free hens, Cyd Szymanski can tell you it pays to go against convention when you believe in what you are doing.

Accumulating a fortune on $11 a hour: There’s more than a money lesson behind Paul Navone’s story of accumulated wealth from a wage-paying job.

Suddenly, it clicks: You don’t have to go it alone. Gurtej Sandhu has earned his wealth creating patents at Micron Technology.

Millionaire lesson No. 1

Build a strong brand, and don’t be afraid to promote your product with passion.

Julie Aigner-Clark and husband Bill’s amateur video was such a hit with their daughter that Julie, 41, became determined to market what they called Baby Einstein to parents everywhere.

The couple invested about $15,000 of their own money in production and packaging and targeted Right Start, a small chain of baby-product stores, to be their distributor. Julie went to a toy trade show in New York City to try to find a buyer from the company.

Video on MSN Money

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“I couldn’t afford a booth,” she says. “On the second day, I found a group of women from Right Start, and I attacked them because I was so excited.”

The chain agreed to sell the video on a trial basis. “Parents would take it home, babies loved it, and there was amazing word of mouth,” says Julie. (Some researchers question the effectiveness of such videos.)

She and Bill made more videos set to classical music and started raking in the money. Sales, which topped $100,000 in the first year, snowballed to $1 million in the second year, $4.5 million in the third, $12 million in the fourth and more than $20 million in year five.

Their production costs remained very low. “Duplicating videos is not very expensive,” Julie says. Bill, whose background is in physics, eventually quit his job and became the firm’s chief financial officer.

Julie Aigner-Clark © Scogin Mayo

Julie Aigner-Clark

In 2001, the enterprise started to get bigger than the couple could handle by themselves. “It was taking a lot of time away from family,” says Julie. So they contacted Disney, which bought Baby Einstein for more than $22 million.

Now Julie’s back, partnering with John Walsh, the host of “America’s Most Wanted,” to produce “The Safe Side,” a series of videos to teach kids about safety. And once again, she’s cracked the kid code: What may look like a silly video to grown-ups is a big hit with the elementary-school set.

Meanwhile, the Clark family spends more time together at their Centennial, Colo., home. And in a few months, they’ll leave for a yearlong trip around the world with Aspen, now 13, and little sister Sierra, 10.

Millionaire Lesson No. 2

Don’t be afraid to go out on your own if you possess the competence and know people who can help you reach your goal.

Click to Read More.


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