American Entrepreneur: The Fascinating Stories of the People Who Defined Business in the United States

By Larry Schweikart; Lynne Pierson Doti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Entrepreneurs:
The Essence of Enterprise

Sometime in 2001, shoppers began to see an odd sight: Kids in malls would appear to walk a few steps and then strangely seem to glide on their heels. A closer look revealed they were wearing “Heelys,” athletic shoes with wheels in the heels. Heelys are the brainchild of Roger Adams, who invented the shoes while taking time off with “a midlife crisis.”1 Adams was a manager who was constantly on call and “totally burned out,” and he was on vacation at Huntington Beach, California, in 1998 when he saw kids going up and down the sidewalk on their inline skates. Suddenly Adams had the idea for a combination shoe and skate—a shoe that could roll on command when the wearer shifted body weight. He cut up some Nike running shoes, put some skateboard wheels in the back, and a prototype was born. Adams started his company in December 2000, went public in 2006, and sold out his stock in hours. In June 2007, Heelys, Inc., was worth $800 million and was number one on BusinessWeek's list of “Hot Growth Companies.”2 Just getting to that point was a journey of its own: On his way to Texas to meet with an investor, his car was rear-ended and caught fire. His prototype, his business plan, and even his clothes were in that car. A short time later, however, the son of a patent attorney showed Adams's promo-

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