Erika Worth was a Hollywood actress eating on $1 a day when she started a detective agency in her living room.
This year, the company will celebrate its seventh anniversary, moved its headquarters to Vancouver and is on track to earn at least $2.3 million in revenue.
“I haven’t learned anything by taking the easy way,” Worth said. “If you’ve never starved, you’ll never really know how good that steak is.”
Worth moved the company’s headquarters from Los Angeles to Vancouver in May seeking lower operation costs and higher quality of life.
“Here you can still do a deal on a handshake,” she said.
Eight of Worth’s employees made the move with her and five remained at the LA branch, where Worth works about 10 days a month.
The local office primarily provides background checks whereas the LA office is a full-service detective agency handling investigations such as employee theft, identity theft, child endangerment and stalking.
“I have seen so, so many things nobody should ever see,” Worth said. “You see people that are just not in their right mind.”
Collective Intelligence’s largest clients include TV networks CBS, MTV, VH1, Lifetime and BBC, which require background checks on long lists of reality show participants.
But smaller companies also are contacting Worth, particularly since Sept. 11. The company has about 400 clients in the United States and 15 in other countries.
“Regardless of what’s happening with the economy, this (service) is here to stay,” Worth said. “You can’t afford to not be stringent. It can put you out of business if you aren’t.”
Her career was sparked by childhood interest in TV detective shows.
“I grew up (with) Charlie’s Angels,” Worth said. “I had the purple satin hot pants.”
After working as an actress and stuntwoman, she shifted gears and was licensed at LA.-based West Coast Detectives Academy in 1998. Her previous career helped her blend in for undercover work and helped build her company’s image while operations were small, Worth said.
“I would answer the phone with 10 different accents to make it sound like there were other employees,” she said.
After one year, Worth had enough business to move operations – and five employees – outside her home. The company made its first profit a year later.
Worth also is developing two new businesses, both based in Vancouver.
Evepreneur will provide women business owners with mentoring, consultation, seminars, e-book publishing and an online directory of women-owned businesses. IncredibleGreen will help local sustainable product vendors and producers market their wares.
“It’s all about sharing information,” Worth said. “What’s the point of having success and knowledge if you don’t share it?”
Collective Intelligence Inc.
Erika Worth, president
6715 N.E. 63rd St., Suite 103-333, Vancouver
Charity Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.