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Small Business Owners Reinvent To Survive And Grow

So Cabot combined survival, know-how and personal interest and Darn Tough Vermont, a line of socks for outdoor activities and sports was born.

Well, it wasn't that simple. There were some things about socks that he didn't know, like how to make ones that appeal to style-conscious hikers, skiers and runners. So he had to hire someone who did.

It took about two years for the socks to hit the market. Now they can be found in many stores that sell outdoor gear. The brand has been successful enough that the company has grown to 150 workers and annual sales have quadrupled from the low they hit in 2003. Cabot still has a small private-label operation.

Cabot says he has learned a lot from the experience.

"Almost going out of business, if you leverage it properly, is one of the best experiences to emerge from because you see the mistakes, the warning signs a lot sooner," he says. "You try to take a longer-term view of the businessâ¿¿ not just what I need to do today, but what will ensure the best tomorrow?"

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A DRINK COMPANY GETS FOCUSED

Arnulfo Ventura and his business partner, Jose Domene, decided while getting their MBAs at Stanford University to start selling aguas frescas, beverages made from plants like tamarind and hibiscus, that are popular in Mexico. The partners called the drink Bonadea and ordered the first batch of 3,000 bottles from a manufacturer by the time they graduated in June 2008. They found several customers: Six delis and natural food stores in the Palo Alto, Calif., area.

Over the next year, the duo attracted enough money from investors to increase production, working their way up to a run of 15,000 bottles. They got a distribution company in the Los Angeles area and Bonadea was in hundreds of convenience and small grocery stores. Things seemed to be going well.

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