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Necessity Spurs Creation of Washable Paint Firm

THANKS to Joel Goobich, a rainbow of children's paint has been splashed across all 50 states. Fortunately for the parents, the paint is washable. Along the way, Advanced Material Concepts has turned a profit.

``I started this company with two goals in mind,'' he says. ``I wanted to be able to stay in Cleveland and have something to do while I watched Cleveland Browns games. I've been able to stay in town.... But I don't really have any time to watch football.''

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His new company has turned into a 100-hour a week job, complete with whirlwind tours of trade shows. Without any real background in business, he has managed to pull off a textbook example of successful entrepreneurship.

Most of the business counseling he received, including pointers on writing a business plan, has come from Enterprise Development Inc. (EDI), an economic development organization for growing business, which is associated with Case Western Reserve University.

``Out of every 100 calls from people who want to start businesses, about 10 will actually take the plunge. Of those only one of 10 will actually succeed in turning a profit,'' says Erica Collins, vice president of EDI.

Ms. Collins describes Goobich as the one out of a hundred who does it right. ``He has the fire you need to get past all of the hurdles in launching a business .... He also listens to the marketplace. Many entrepreneurs fail because they focus on their ideas rather than paying attention to what the market has to say.''

``Most business plans never get off the ground,'' says Thomas Briggs, a business broker in Coral Gables, Fla. ``Many would-be entrepreneurs expect to get their businesses off the ground without putting in any of their own capital. The truth is, however, that most venture sources will only invest in companies where the owner has put in his own money.''

Goobich launched his business with $20,000 from a second mortgage. Ironically, he never really wanted to become an entrepreneur. The former head of research and development at Roman Hass Chemical in Philadelphia was content on the corporate track.

``My department developed $30 million worth of products for that company in seven years,'' Goobich says. ``I only received $100 in bonuses for that work, but I was happy - until the company announced it was downsizing and I had to leave. Then I took a job with another firm in Cleveland. Then after a year and a half, the company announced that they were consolidating operations in North Carolina. I didn't want to move.''

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``You see it all over the country,'' Goobich says. ``People get bounced out of corporate America and want to put to work what they have learned.''

And so, Advanced Material Concepts was launched literally in Goobich's kitchen. ``My background was in electronic circuitry, but I went into paint because if I was going to be home playing Mr. Mom, I wanted to be able to give my five-year-old and my three-year-old something to do.''

Many of today's newest crop of entrepreneurs are looking for ways to make a living in the face of corporate downsizing, says Norris Christian, director of the Kentucky Capital Network, based in Frankfort, Ky.

Soon word about Goobich's new paints spread around Cleveland. Parents starting asking for the special formulas. ``There are not any other washable paints on the market today,'' Goobich says. ``And if you have ever had to clean up after kids, you know why that's important.''

Then came requests from a few schools.

A trip to the National School Supply Education Association meeting in Las Vegas in 1991 netted him his first major order. Next came advertising in five school catalogs.

In September, Goobich got a licensing agreement with Creative Works, an arts and crafts merchandiser that had ties with K mart and Wal-Mart. The two chains will be selling his paints by the beginning of 1994.

He brings to that market the competitive advantage of unique packaging in wide jars and jealously guarded secret formulas, including scented and glow-in-the-dark paints.

``I expect my sales to double next year,'' Goobich says. He projects that there is a potential $150 million market. But he says that he gets his greatest satisfaction from the knowledge that he is promoting creativity. ``One of the biggest problems in American schools and businesses,'' he says, is that they do not nurture creativity.

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