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Two Young Friends Enjoying Eye-Popping Success
Michael Epstein and Nathan Newman were sophomores at Potomac's Winston Churchill High School when they went into business together. They called their company Showroom Detailing.
"You're in Potomac where there's a lot of nice cars," says Epstein. "People will pay a premium to get someone to hand-wax and wash them and come to their houses to do it."
They asked a mechanic for advice, made a marketing plan, and put up fliers. Their brochure compared their prices to those of competitors.
"Nate and I were earning about $25 per hour when our friends were lucky to make $6," says Epstein.
Now the business boys are businessmen, sitting in the basement office of their Alexandria townhouse talking about how, at age 24, they don't want their 2H-year-old company, eDimensional, to get too big too quickly.
Since January 2001, Epstein and Newman have sold more than 20,000 pairs of their "E-D" glasses, which allow PC users to see video games and DVDs in three dimensions. Most games label themselves 3-D, says Epstein, but with the glasses, "it's as though you reach inside the screen and objects appear to be floating out in front of you." The liquid-crystal glasses aren't a new technology—they'd been used in medical simulations—but before eDimensional they weren't successfully marketed to consumers.
The glasses, which sell for $69.95 ($99.95 for wireless), earned a four-star rating (out of five) from PC Magazine. They're available on eDimensional's Web site and in trade magazines.
A third of eDimensional's orders are international, so Epstein and Newman recently hired a distribution company in England. At home, they have four part-time employees: high-school students who handle boxing and mailing.
When the glasses hit store shelves—they're hoping to see them at the Electronics Boutique chain by Christmas—Epstein and Newman want to be ready.
Nathan newman was a junior studying information systems at Florida's Northwood University when a virtual-reality ride at Universal Studios got him thinking. With the 3-D glasses, he could see all colors, a step up from the red-and-blue cellophane-and-cardboard pairs Newman used as a kid.
"I thought, 'What if you could bring a full-color, really cool 3-D experience to a home computer?' " he says.
He'd always planned to own a business—his father ran Bloomin' Newman's Nursery in Potomac—and he'd stayed close with Epstein. They often exchanged ideas, so Newman called Epstein, and they started researching 3-D capabilities.
They got help: A lawyer, a friend's father, gave them free legal advice, and another friend designed their Web site. They didn't borrow money; both had enough saved from summer jobs. Epstein, a University of Maryland graduate, had been working part-time as IT director at the Advantage Group in Bethesda.
Newman stayed at school for the first year of eDimensional, and Epstein sold glasses from his College Park apartment.
"I'd drink a beer for each one we sold—when we were only selling one or two a day," says Newman. By October, it was five a day; by Christmas of 2001, 40 a day.
The motto of edimensional is "you won't believe your eyes"—which is how prospective investors feel if they meet Epstein and Newman, who try to do business by phone and e-mail so people don't know how young they are.
"We're making quarter-million-dollar inventory purchases," Epstein explains. "Our age might deter people."
He talked to one marketing partner on the phone daily for eight months. "He'd say 'What does your wife think?' " says Epstein. "I'd say: 'You know the hours I work; you think a wife would put up with me?' "
Both have girlfriends, but their 100- to 120-hour workweeks leave little time for socializing—or exercising. "We used to have muscles," says Epstein.
Epstein and Newman won't talk profits, but both recently bought townhouses in West Palm Beach. They've also splurged on a $2,500 massage chair, a wireless Internet network so they can work during dinner, and new motorcycles. "Our mothers are happy we don't have time to ride them," says Epstein.
When Epstein and Newman started selling their 3-D glasses, which let PC users see video games and DVDs in three dimensions, Newman drank a beer for each pair sold. Soon he couldn't keep up.