RVC vs. KOA Campgrounds
The challenge: Will campers really go for the gourmet coffee and fitness centers?
What they did: A lot of us dislike camping because ... well ... it's camping. Maybe RVC Outdoor Destinations can convince us otherwise. The Memphis company's niche is providing a cushier camping experience at its seven properties in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. RVC, founded in 2007, offers campers climate-controlled cottages, Wi-Fi, swimming pools, fitness centers, and hotel-like lobbies selling gourmet coffee. (Yes, you can still buy camping gear.) "We're trying to create a brand that offers the amenities you would expect from a high-quality, full-service hotel," says founder Andy Cates, 42. Sales at the company, which is profitable, says Cates, are expected to hit $3 million this year.
1-888-WOW-1DAY! Painting vs. CertaPro
The challenge: Convincing shoppers to abandon the local guy.
What he did: Brian Scudamore, 42, scored big with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, building a $100 million company by helping consumers haul away unwanted clutter. His newest venture: 1-888-WOW-1DAY! Painting. The idea: Yup, the company will paint the interior of your home in a day. His inspiration: a frustrating search for a painter for his own 2,300-square-foot house. "The first few people who came smelled of cigarette smoke and showed up late," he says. In 2011 he ended up hiring Jim Bodden, founder of One Day Painting who brought in a crisply uniformed team that finished the job in 10 hours. Scudamore and Bodden now have 15 franchises in the U.S. and Canada. He projects $5 million in sales by year's end.
Xero vs. Intuit (QuickBooks)
The challenge: Why should entrepreneurs mess with their accounting routine?
What they did: Quickbooks was once the default for small businesses looking for accounting software. But scrappy upstart Xero seems to be pulling in customers with its streamlined, web-based accounting software integrated with ADP payroll services. (Sales, the company says, doubled to $15.5 million during the year ended March 2012.) Users can set up accounts to automatically reflect their bank, PayPal, and credit card transactions. And it's cheap: $29 a month covers unlimited users. One secret, says Jamie Sutherland, president of U.S. operations in San Francisco: Xero (backed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel) offers free practice-management tools to accountants so that they'll recommend it to their clients.