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SMALL BUSINESS | LEARNING CURVE: Business Lessons From
Southern California Entrepreneurs

Sometimes an Idea Needs to Age

Maker of '80s Senior Fitness Tapes Is Back With Big Plans

May 10, 2000|KAREN E. KLEIN

It was the mid-'80s when television producer David Krieff, working in Florida on "Miami Vice," first dreamed up a senior fitness videotape called "Silver Foxes." Inspired by his young-at-heart, 80-something grandfather, Krieff produced a successful video series but realized that his idea was ahead of its time. Last year, however, Krieff thought about revisiting the concept and quickly found that the market had caught up with him. He talked to freelance writer Karen E. Klein about persistence and waiting for the right timing.

The original "Silver Foxes" videos sold well, and we got all kinds of press, from People magazine to "The Oprah Winfrey Show," because we featured the parents of celebrities and presented the idea of seniors as hip, vibrant and even sexy. I loved the product, but I thought of it as a one-off video deal. After all, the generation we were selling to at that time didn't even own VCRs, unless their sons or daughters had given them as gifts.

I spent the next 14 years producing TV specials and prime-time sports entertainment, which I still do with my entertainment company, Destiny Productions. But about a year ago, a lot of people in my life suggested that it was time to bring Silver Foxes back because the marketplace had really changed.

When I started looking into it, I realized they were right. The baby boomers are graying now, and all of a sudden a whole lot of people have embraced the idea that they can be fabulous at 50. Where I had a singular purpose 15 years ago, producing some exercise tapes, now I have a comprehensive program that includes not only the videos but also a Web site with information and products revolving around nutrition, travel, clothing, fitness and companionship.

I've found that when the timing is right, things just come together. Top brand-name companies are calling me wanting to jump in on this concept, from Special K cereal to Hansen's soda. They all realize that the boomers' biggest fear is going into old age and living longer than their parents did, but being too unwell to enjoy it. This is a generation that is health-conscious and has the time and money to get what they want.

We have just produced two new Pilates videos hosted by Stephanie Powers that are designed to prevent the decline of body strength associated with aging. They star the moms of Cindy Crawford, Patrick Swayze, Magic Johnson and Tony Robbins, and the dads of Al Pacino and Quentin Tarantino.

In September, we're rolling out more products, including a line of vitamin- and herbal-enriched nutritional sports juices by Hansen's with the Silver Foxes label on them, an apparel line, a book, a travel network and a friendship dating service. I find that I can pick almost any area that I want to get into and the doors are opening for me. Not only do we sell to the 50-plus market, but to their kids and grandkids as well.

When you tap into a market that is really hot, one thing that is important is attracting the right partners and the right investors. I had four or five investment entities that were raring to go with this start-up idea, but I chose a board that is extremely cautious and has a wealthy parent company that is committed to and passionate about this idea. They saw the long-term potential and helped me make alliances that have been extremely important. Just as I've experienced in the entertainment industry, there is always money available somewhere. Instead of going with the first opportunity that arises, it is vital to find people who will not only back you financially, but who will also champion you and your idea.

My partners, including William Morris Agency, have embraced this idea and helped me package it. Rick Hersh, who is the head of the agency's worldwide commercial division, has been instrumental in everything we've done. An entrepreneur really needs these types of high-level people to get behind him. When I say I can deliver talent and I show investors that William Morris Agency is one of my partners, they know that I can really deliver.

Finally, there's the persistence factor. If you believe in something, don't ever give up on it. My grandfather was in his 80s when I did the first series. He's 99 now, and he still drives. He has an 81-year-old girlfriend. He invests in the stock market. He's on his computer every day. I'm 40 now, and by the time I'm 65, I think I'm going to be a really happening guy like he is.

I think if you stick with something that really works, it's all in the timing.

*

If your business can provide a lesson to other entrepreneurs, contact Karen E. Klein at the Los Angeles Times, 1333 S. Mayflower Ave., Suite 100, Monrovia, CA 91016, or at kklein6349@aol.com. Include name, address and phone number.

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At A Glance

Company: Silver Foxes Network Inc.

Owner: David Krieff

Nature of business: Fitness videos, products and services for seniors

Location: 11693 San Vicente Blvd., Suite 296, Los Angeles 90049

Year founded: 1999

Employees: 5

E-mail: destiny142@aol.com

Web site: http://www.silverfoxes.com

Annual revenue: $500,000

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