"Plus, please share all your knowledge on how to start."
You can surf every board and read every book and ask every beekeeper, and probably still have a long way to go! ;)
I'm in the process of growing my bee operation. The best and most frequent advice I've heard is to start slow, and to take a long hard look at what you consider financial viability. Do you have tons of debt, kids to send to college, a penchant for luxury spending? Seriously, think about it. The more $$ you need, the more bees you need, and the more money you'll spend to make more money.
We're working toward the goal of about 500 colonies (by perhaps 2011 if we really push, and if our bees stay healthy), hiring only part-time help during the flows, with two full-time adults doing the rest of the work--from actual bee work to the books and any honey sales (retail). This year, we hope to go into winter with a couple dozen colonies. We don't want our operation to grow faster than we can learn. I hope to go full time--still doing a few contract gigs in my current career here and there--by 2009, with the beau joining in full time in 2011.
If you want to go 100% full-bore sooner, you could work for other beekeepers for experience for a couple seasons, perhaps with the arrangement of buying them out and hiring them as "consultants" or "foremen". I know that a few people have had success using this approach. The average age of US commercial beekeepers, I believe, is 60, and many of those folks have kids who are the first generation to leave the family business. In today's agricultural climate, you can't blame them.
Mind you, this is from the mouth of one babe to another--I'm in the research phase myself.