Founder of WIN Products in New York City
The Problem: In 2000, Konjevod was running marathons and working as the business development director at Cox Enterprises. He noticed that his moisture-wicking running clothes were stinking up the house even after he washed them. No matter what the detergent or how much he used, a sweaty odor lingered.
The Moment: Konjevod started asking athlete friends if they had the same problem. The answer: an overwhelming yes. He used his connections to find an experienced chemist who mixed up a special concoction to fight lingering bacteria that get caught inside the high-tech fibers used in performance sporting apparel. In 2005, Konjevod sent the detergent to friends at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs. The athletes loved it.
The Payoff: Konjevod's business, Win Products, posted $5 million in sales last year. Win detergent earned endorsements from the U.S. Olympic Training Centers and Nike, which now recommends the soap to callers on its toll-free consumer phone line. The detergent will be sold in 20,000 grocery stores this year.
Innovation Tip: Just because big companies dominate a market doesn't mean there isn't room for a niche product or service. Konjevod, 39, had no background in detergents or chemistry, but he decided he could compete with Procter & Gamble by selling through gyms and athletic stores and catering to the $15 billion performance fabrics market. -Jennifer Alsever