Advertisement
business

How to Create a $1 Million Business

Get inspired to turn your vision into reality.

Charging at Dulles image

It takes chutzpah to decide that Apple’s products need a little something extra. And it takes guts, a flair for design and a willingness to put the kids’ college money on the line to turn that something extra into a million-dollar-plus business.

Andrew and Leigh Ann Green, of Charleston, S.C., put all those traits to work in founding Twelve South, which produces cases, stands and other add-ons exclusively for Apple products. They formed the company in 2009 after deciding that MacBook (and later iPad) buyers deserved accessories worthy of Apple's iconic products and made by a company that does nothing else. They created their first prototypes -- for a stand that holds a MacBook upright and a back-of-the-Mac shelf for portable hard drives -- out of scrap metal and a manila envelope and sold them to Apple's retail-store buyers on the first try.

Advertisement - Article continues below

How did the couple work their way into Apple's famously closed corporate culture? Andrew, 41, a self-taught graphic designer, had already worked for a company that made accessories for iPods and other electronics; Leigh Ann, 44, had spent 15 years in wholesaling and merchandising for a design firm in New York. The couple relied on their design experience to create the prototypes and used Andrew's industry connections to get a meeting with Apple's retail-store buyers.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

After the Apple buyers bit, the couple traveled to China to set up production, but their first connection fell through. Their second -- remarkably -- turned out to be a former classmate of Andrew's at his elementary school. Even with that stroke of luck, "it was terrifying," he says, adding that they felt especially uncomfortable after sending payment for the first order to "somewhere in mainland China."

For seed money, the couple cashed out their three kids' college accounts and took a second mortgage on their house, enough to get their first products into Apple stores. They later made a short-lived effort to get into big-box stores. "Because our stuff is unique, it takes explaining to people as to why you need it. That didn't work in a big box," says Leigh Ann. The lesson was a costly one, says Andrew, "but it refocused us on where we needed to be early on. We're more nimble and can take more risks than a super-big company." Revenues from the business topped $1 million after about a year.

Now, Twelve South -- named after the Nashville neighborhood where the Greens once lived -- sells its products to Apple stores and on its own Web site. The biggest seller is the BookBook, a MacBook case that looks like an antique book. "The idea is that on the outside, it looks like a vintage leather-bound book. But it unzips and opens up to reveal a new, modern Mac hiding safely inside," says Andrew.

Running a business together "makes for an interesting office environment," says Leigh Ann, laughing. "So far, we've been able to make it work. As long as we're able to do the things we enjoy, we're happy." They admit to sneaking back to their desks after the kids are in bed, but that's the benefit of sharing the same goal, says Andrew. "Who better to work with than your life partner?"

Advertisement

Most Popular

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?
tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?

The IRS unveiled the 2020 tax brackets, and it's never too early to start planning to minimize your future tax bill.
June 20, 2020
65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On
stocks

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On

These 65 Dividend Aristocrats are an elite group of dividend stocks that have reliably increased their annual payouts every year for at least a quarte…
July 8, 2020
Find a Great Place to Retire
happy retirement

Find a Great Place to Retire

Our cities provide plenty of space to spread out without skimping on health care or other amenities.
July 2, 2020

Recommended

Nursing in the Time of COVID-19
Financial Planning

Nursing in the Time of COVID-19

This health care professional warns that the pandemic will worsen the nursing shortage.
July 2, 2020
Chiropractor Trying to Get Business the Wrong Way – Illegally
careers

Chiropractor Trying to Get Business the Wrong Way – Illegally

A new chiropractor’s fledgling business plan to attract patients may sound reasonable at first look, but it’s actually against the law, and the same p…
June 30, 2020
13 Tax Breaks for Homeowners and Home Buyers
income tax

13 Tax Breaks for Homeowners and Home Buyers

Owning (or buying) a home is expensive. But at least there are some tax deductions, credits, and exclusions that can help you recoup some of those cos…
June 22, 2020
Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year
tax law

Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year

Americans are facing a long list of tax changes for the 2020 tax year...and it's never too early to start thinking about next year's return.
June 22, 2020