MIKE BERTELSEN, 57 | $120,000 per year
Home: Salt Lake City
Previous life: Lobbyist and television producer
How he did it: Make something for yourself that other people want to own. We lived in Virginia, right by Mount Vernon. One year they decorated the estate with a brazier full of coals for their Christmas celebration. My wife said, “We should do something like that.” I started to play with a design, and the next thing you know we had a cauldron.
How he succeeded: When my old college buddies saw my cauldron, they’d say, “Hey, I want one.” I agreed to make a couple more. Then one day I get a call from New Jersey: “Hey, you the cauldron guy?” So I figured out how to ship one to New Jersey, and it just kinda got out of hand.
What you need to know: If you’re serious about starting a business, pick something you care about. I love entertaining, and the Cowboy Cauldron creates that kind of environment. And make sure you have a financial plan: The cost of making something should be about 34 percent of what you can sell it for. Look hard at the competition, and seek out legal and accounting advice right at the beginning.