Rita Gurevich remembers the day Lehman Brothers declared for bankruptcy in 2008.
While so many others at the company immediately began looking for work elsewhere, Gurevich — then a 23-year-old in the IT department just two years removed from being an intern from Stevens Institute of Technology — knew her work was just beginning.
The bankruptcy filing prompted an immediate need for some serious reconfiguration of precious company data — a need Gurevich met.
“We had to figure out what existed, what company it belonged to and who already had access to it,” she said. “And we had to do it quickly. It was a project that would take a company years to do. We did it in weeks.”
When she was done, she was on the cusp of starting her own company.
After short stints at two other companies, the Edison native took everything she learned from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and started SPHERE Technology Solutions, a company that primarily does data governance, security and compliance for highly regulated businesses.
It wasn't easy.
When Gurevich, now 29, started SPHERE in January 2010, she was its sole consultant.
Her first calls went to her former co-workers at Lehman Brothers, who had wound up at a plethora of different companies.
After brainstorming with them about what she could offer each of their companies, she realized she was on to something.
Projects started coming in by the dozen: Banks, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies approached her with questions about organizing and classifying their private data.
The amount of clients, who are all kept confidential by SPHERE, soon exceeded what Gurevich was able to handle by herself so she quickly added employees.
The employee pool grew along with the revenue — the latter figure especially so. Gurevich reports SPHERE has seen a 2,500 percent increase in revenue growth since 2010.
SPHERE's snowball momentum is more than a small Hoboken office can handle. Gurevich said the company is planning to purchase commercial real estate in another New Jersey location, potentially a 10,000-square-foot space.
Gurevich, who found her success with SPHERE by filling a niche — focusing on the data side of specific, highly regulated companies — said that's something she'll continue. At the same time, she recognizes a need for the company to diversify some in the future.
“There's always more we could be doing, even with our small piece of the pie,” she said.
“We're going to be looking to branch out by partnering with emerging technologies, focusing more on business development than in the past and reaching more audiences.”
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THE BIZ IN BRIEF
Company: SPHERE Technology Solutions
Niche: Providing niche solutions, specialized professional services, strategic software resale and custom integration
2014 revenue projection: $15 million
Rita Gurevich thinks there are perks to starting a business at a young age — like not having those pesky bad habits ingrained — but she’s equally aware of the hurdles.
She most emphasized the tribulations of getting taken seriously by industry veterans without having the experience to lend you credence.
“It takes work to get people to understand that you do know something,” she said. “Entrepreneurs have to convince others that your vision is more than just a flailing concept in your head, that it’s implementable.
“You have to prove yourself by getting things done. Once you get to that point, age is nothing but a number.”