How I Did It
Compared with the risk of missing his daughter's childhood, his money gamble was a no-brainer
By Joan Caplin

(MONEY Magazine) – Stranded and away from his family on 9/11, Billy Schlosser decided he would finally quit his job as a technology consultant and start a company with his wife Lisa and daughter Emily. Together, as Laughing Pizza, they write, perform and produce children's CDs and videos that promote peace and tolerance.

"I was traveling so much that I was missing Emily's childhood. We decided to change our life. I had been earning almost $200,000, and I got a severance package. The first thing we did was set aside a $150,000 emergency fund, which we haven't touched. Then we divided up a $350,000 bankroll: a third each for product development, marketing and living expenses. We refinanced our mortgage at a lower rate and took out equity separate from the bankroll to pay off our other debts. We had health insurance through Lisa's work doing voice-overs for commercials, and I figured we could survive 18 months. We've spent $400,000--half on our music videos--and we had $50,000 in revenue last year. But we're close to terms with a distributor, and we've had three meetings each with Nickelodeon and Disney about a TV deal. If we don't get an influx of cash by back-to-school time, we'll sell the house and figure something out--but it will have been worth it. I participate in Emily's life now. I take her to school every morning. I'm here for it all."

Lisa measures their success this way: "Billy sees his family more than any dad I know." Emily, meanwhile, is planning ahead. "I earn $10 an hour in the band," she says. "I'm saving for college."