(Bloomberg) -- When Debra Wetherby started her investment advisory firm in 1990, she was 32, just married and had less than $50,000 of capital.

She plunged into an emerging industry of advisors who run their own businesses rather than operating inside big brokerages such as Morgan Stanley, which she’d left in 1988. With 10 clients betting on her, working without a salary and living on credit cards, she rented an office on San Francisco’s Sansome Street and gave herself a deadline: make money in three years, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its January issue.

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