Most Likely to Succeed
During a Beijing layover in 1996, Northwest flight attendant Jeremy Shepherd bought a set of pearls for about $25. When a U.S. appraiser valued the pearls at $600, Shepherd emptied his bank account, returned to China, and bought 200 strands to sell on eBay. He now sells $5 million in jewelry a year through Santa Monica-based Pearl Paradise. Buying in bulk and with cash, Shepherd negotiates cheap prices with pearl farmers, so the firm can sell the jewelry at an 80% discount from retail.