Blue Fountain Media vs. Digitas
Blue Fountain Media vs. Digitas
The challenge: Can a freelancer grow his agency enough to grab Fortune 500 clients?

What they did: Frustrated by working in corporate gigs where it was hard to get his bosses to share his ideas with clients, web designer and online business consultant Gabriel Shaoolian, 38, started a freelance business from his New York City apartment in 2003. It grew quickly through word-of-mouth referrals, and today he employs 150 people at the company, where he expects sales to rise to $16 million in 2011, from $8 million last year. One secret: bigtime talent. Clients such as the NFL and Procter & Gamble pay rates averaging $125 to $150 an hour for his employees. How does he keep the troops happy? To ensure that his best people don't jump ship, he gives everyone equity after one year of employment -- along with a vote in key company decisions.

This article is from the December 12, 2011 issue of Fortune.
By Elaine Pofeldt, contributor @FortuneMagazine - Last updated February 06 2012: 1:42 PM ET
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