Newman's Own Inc. Years ago, a renowned actor and his good friend, a best-selling author, used to package the actor's homemade salad dressing in old wine bottles for Christmas gifts. Then, in 1982, the two buddies found a small bottling company in Boston and sold the dressing locally under the label of Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar Dressing.

What began in Paul Newman's basement one Christmas has flourished into a successful all-natural food company. And even today, Newman and friend A.E. Hotchner keep the spirit of giving alive through Westport, Conn.based Newman's Own Inc.

Newman's Own donates 100 percent of its after-tax profits (a sum that's expected to reach $100 million by the end of 1998) to educational and charitable causes, from Habitat for Humanity to the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. It's this generous spirit that motivates the company's 14 employees, says Senior Vice President Ursula Hotchner. "Everybody is very proud and excited to be associated with the company and to be giving to charity. The more we sell, the more we can give away."

Newman's office philosophy can be described in one word: relaxed. Pool furniture and a Ping-Pong table are the staple decor.

"Paul wants to make sure that we are all having fun," says Hotchner. "He still sits under his beach umbrella and plays Ping-Pong with employees, writing scores on the ceiling. It's always casual Friday for us."

Meetings reflect the company's laid-back attitude. They are casual gatherings, held on an ad-hoc basis as the need arises. "Paul comes around [to the office] when he comes around," says Hotchner. And employees are motivated not by formal incentive programs, but by the nature of the company. "Even if you don't have any money to give away, you are indirectly giving it away by working here. Newman's Own culture is charity-driven--and the spirit hasn't left us," Hotchner says.