From dishwasher to CEO, and other inspiring startup stories

Three entrepreneurs share how they turned an idea into something big, bold and profitable.

Starting a new business takes a good idea – and drive, determination and tenacity. At UPS we are always on the lookout for success stories to share, and here are three winners:

“I had a ton of people tell me to think about doing something else. But I believed in myself and I believed in this product. When you put everything you have into it, that can really pay off.”

Chocolate Pizza company Inc.

In his teens Ryan Novak, pictured above, started working part time at his hometown chocolate shop in Marcellus, N.Y., washing dishes, mopping floors and taking out the trash. Four years ago, at age 21, he bought Chocolate Pizza Company from Bonnie Hanyak, who taught him the business and served as his mentor.

A graduate of Syracuse University’s entrepreneurship program, Novak saw potential in the company’s signature product: gourmet chocolate blended with homemade toffee, poured into pizza pans and topped with nuts or candy and white chocolate drizzle. His idea: Expand it into a national brand.

Since 2010, Chocolate Pizza has grown 365 percent, adding a website, opening three more brick-and-mortar stores and landing major wholesale accounts like Hallmark stores.

Novak’s partnership with UPS goes back to the beginning. “When I took over the business, they were using another shipper. There was no reliability, a lot of damage, and customers were upset. With UPS we got reliable shipping, awesome customer service and personalized help,” he says.

Novak shares this example: “During the middle of Christmas rush we ran out of printer labels, and our UPS account rep ran to another customer and got a roll of labels to tide us over. You can’t pay for that kind of service.”

His No. 1 piece of advice: “I had a ton of people tell me to think about doing something else. But I believed in myself and I believed in this product. When you put everything you have into it, that can really pay off.”

Yogibo LLC

When Eyal Levy’s wife, Noa, was pregnant, the two of them searched for something comfortable and supportive that would allow her to sleep on her belly. It didn’t exist. But on a trip overseas they found a stretchy fabric that would make it possible. After partnering with Giora Liran, Yogibo’s chief technology officer, their company and flag product, the Yogibo Max, was born. It’s a 6-foot-long new generation of bean bag filled with tiny foam beads; you can use it as a chair, recliner, bed or couch.

The two launched Yogibo from their Nashua, N.H., basement five years ago. At first, they demonstrated the product at outdoor fairs and craft shows. “Once people sit on it, they understand the level of comfort and that it’s not just another beanbag,” Levy says.

In 2010, Yogibo opened its first retail showroom, at a Massachusetts mall, and growth mushroomed. Now Yogibo has 18 stores across the Northeast, and revenue is five times higher than just three years ago.

“Big malls attract people from the West Coast, Miami or Chicago that want our product delivered,” Levy says. “Working with UPS we were able to find creative solutions and ship [to them] at reasonable costs.”

On the inbound side, the company uses UPS to import fabric and accessories from overseas sources. The company uses UPS Capital® services to finance imported materials. “There are long lead times and sometimes you have to pay up front – UPS Capital helps finance the inventory for a month or two,” Levy adds.

His No. 1 piece of advice: “Entrepreneurship is a marathon that you run at a sprint pace. There are a lot of difficulties, but you just have to persist and keep moving forward.”

“Honey, when are you going to fix the cabinet door hinge?” That’s the question that fueled one of the largest online cabinet hardware distributors. Today, the company sells some 20,000 parts to customers in 28 countries.

Patton Abbe launched in 1997 to fill a niche for do-it-yourselfers and small contractors. Every year since, the company has experienced double-digit growth. The product line has expanded to other kitchen and bath hardware, ranging from drawer slides, pulls and handles to lazy Susans and organizers. ships from its home base in Pompano Beach, Fla., and five affiliates throughout the country. “We handle the front end, so all the affiliates do is pick, pack and ship,” Abbe says. “UPS helped us set this up so that each affiliate has its own account number under our name, and we get the tracking information we need.

“Aggregating the volume gives us favorable pricing, too. We’ve saved 15 to 20 percent on shipping packages under 2 pounds,” Abbe says.

Partnership with UPS has helped in other ways. uses systems that integrate with WorldShip® to save staff time on shipping- and billing-related tasks.

His No. 1 piece of advice: “Understand your own limitations. Surround yourself with people who have the skills you don’t, and let them help you be successful.”