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Gloria & Emilio Estefan

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MIAMI LIVING 93 MIAMI LIVING 93 PROFILE Sharper Image's Richard Thalheimer goes it alone … and wins big time! Words by Vanessa Pascale When you've founded one of America's most recognized electronics-and- gadget-touting conglomerates, get pushed out by the board you appointed (though not before you're generously paid for the remainder of your stock), then find that following your departure the company goes bankrupt … what do you do? Have a really good laugh? No, no, no—we're joking. Sort of. Thus was the case with Richard Thalheimer, founder of Sharper Image. Thalheimer candidly explains, "It was funny— they were active as shareholders, and demanded board seats. I was like, 'Sure! Let's all work together. We all have stock; we all want the price to go up. Come on the board!' As soon as they got on the board, they started disagreeing with me and really wanted to get me out of there and to take over. I said, 'Fine, if you want to buy my stock at 9.25 a share—be my guest. And I'll leave.' So they did, and went bankrupt 10 months later and lost all their money." Who said there wasn't justice in this world? After a short-lived retirement (one month), Richard became bored. "I said, 'I'm going to start a new online company and have the fun of doing it all over again, with 35 years of accumulated experience. I'll make it small and fun, and do the part that I enjoy the most, which is creating a product or two from scratch and really advertising them a lot.' Once I started I thought, 'I'll do a few other products as well to make it a more complete product assortment, that way it won't be limited to just one area,' " says Richard. In May of 2007, was born. Boasting a Sharper Image-esque selection of merchandise, has more than 60 unique high-tech gadgets, toys, and products designed to make home living more pleasurable. This time around, Richard opted for a smaller, more intimate online company. So what's the meaning behind the new name? Richard laughs, "It's very simple. Thalheimer is too difficult to use on the Internet. You want a name that's easy to remember and easy to spell.... I left Sharper Image with 4,000 employees and 200 hundred stores and was going to do something on my own in a much smaller office. Okay, I'm Richard … solo... " While sales haven't reached Sharper Image's $800-million peak, Richard is happy with how things are going. "We have a ways to go.... On the other hand, I don't think I want to have that big of a company again at this point in my life. I'm enjoying keeping it where I can personally get involved in all the marketing and product details." His most popular product so far is a backup battery for the iPhone. Richard discovered the battery in Hong Kong's electronics sphere, negotiated an exclusive for the US, and had it on the market by January, 2008. Recently, Richard introduced a newer model; he designed from scratch, the RichardSolo 1800 Battery. "It works better, has new features, more capacity, is the only one on the market that connects firmly to your iPhone, and its dramatic style makes it look like its made for the iPhone," says Richard. Some of Richard's favorite products include the flameless LED candles, the 20-language pocket translator, of which he says, "the best on the market, and a great way to learn a language", a high- tech shower head, which "saves you 60% of your water usage per year, and provides 3 times the water pressure, paying for itself in two years," and the best 3-in-1 personal groomer. "Sharper Image was known for their nose and ear hair trimmer, so with, the first thing I did was find a better one." In addition to his great gizmos, Richard is enthusiastic about the high-level of customer service he's now able to provide. "When someone emails with a question or problem, they almost always get an answer within 30 minutes, sometimes five or 10. It's a level of service that is truly unusual in the Internet Age. We're turning the Internet into a personal experience." So, all you former Sharper Image consumers can still get those distinctive, state-of-the-art gadgets, but now you'll find them by visiting! And one last thing … almost everything ships for free. ML

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