But what to start up with? He had the answer after a friend in Argentina told him it had become fashionable there for smokers to slip a thinly packaged brand of gum between their cigarette pack and the outer layer of cellophane. So he began his search for a breath cleanser that would fit inside his own container, which he would market to smokers. At a factory in France, Shurman was awed by the tiny, iridescent, jewel-like mints turned out by a company's new technology. Nimbly switching gears, Shurman backed off on the plan to niche market his product to smokers and seized the moment with a flashy new product he called Momints.

First Real Hit Peppermint-flavored Momints Bold Liquid Mints debuted in 7-Eleven stores in summer 2003 and shot straight past Altoids, Certs, and Tic Tacs in sales.

Reasons for Success "It's hard to innovate in this category. Momints is clearly unique and we were first with a liquid center mint," Shurman says, calling this eye-catching breath mint the next new thing in breath fresheners.

Initial sales have been boosted by selling into nontraditional channels of distribution, such as Ricky's (a hip chain offering ­beauty and health products and funky novelties), thereby avoiding direct competition with much larger brands of breath fresheners. He also credits creative (and inexpensive) buzz-building campaigns, like giving away free samples to Hollywood and TV makeup artists, whose close proximity to the stars makes them heavy users of breath mints.

Latest Offering Cinnamon-flavored mints packed five to a tiny tube that sells for 50 cents. Shurman hopes his newest innovative packaging and lower price point will again shake up the industry.

Year founded 1997
Headquarters Glendale, CA
Start-up funds $15,000
1st year sales $100,000