Jon West has shown everyone the perfect example of starting small, he started his company 3tailer with his buddy Chad Ledford with only $500 each and now they both run the multi-million dollar company.
Jon west shares in this interview:
His experience starting 3tailer
How he coped with college work and running 3tailer
His average workday
Enjoy the interview and don’t forget to leave comments
Jon, can you briefly give us some background information about yourself and what you do?
I'm a 25 year-old Co-Founder and CEO of a niche eCommerce company named 3tailer, based out of Charlotte, NC. My buddy Chad Ledford and I started the company during senior year of college at Appalachian State University. My focus in college was Information Systems under the Walker College of Business.
Jon, it’s great to have you on YHP, how is business going so far?
Business is going well. We've had a crazy year of growth and all the pains that come with growing. We're in the process of building a strong foundation so next year we can really blow up.
You said you started your company while at college, how did you cope with studying and setting up a business, i know a lot of students lose focus and drop for the other?
It started during Senior year so my more intense college days were winding down. I was fortunate to have a good amount of free time and on top of that one of our college professors let us build our company during one of his entrepreneurship classes. Students should try to work out a similar deal with a college professor if possible. There should be enough time in the day to attend class, study, and make headway on your business. You're young, sleep less.
Tell us the story on how 3tailer has become this big and successful, how did it all start?
Chad's grandfather had been selling socks for over 10 years so Chad decided to see how they'd sell online. Meanwhile I entered ASU's Pitch Your Idea entrepreneurship contest and went on to win Most Likely to Succeed Online. After the win we decided to form a company to pursue my eCommerce idea and put his existing sock website under the new company. Thus 3tailer was born and the peasants rejoiced!
Is this your first business?
It's my first established LLC. Growing up as a kid I would build websites for companies but never anything organized.
How did you finance your business?
Chad and I put in $500 each, so $1,000 was our starting capital. We sold our first eCommerce website a little over a year after creating it which gave us enough cash to pursue the company full-time.
What are the revenues of the business?
I don't like to give specifics but we're in the millions per year.
How many employees do you have? Full- or part-time?
We have 10-15 employees right now. Most are part-time Customer Service Reps. We also have Data Entry, Copywriting, and Web Developer positions.
What is an average workday like for you?
I really need to move my schedule forward a couple hours but here goes... Wake up around 9ish, check email/Twitter while I'm eating breakfast. Take a shower then get in the office around 10ish. I catch up on all my RSS feeds/news and figure out my to-dos for the day. After lunch I'm my most productive and that lasts until about 6 or so. Most days I'll grab dinner and then hang out at the office doing some work or playing video games/ping-pong until 10ish.
How has your market changed in the past few years? How has your business changed to keep pace?
eCommerce as a whole is constantly evolving but the larger eCommerce players with huge be-everything-to-everyone sites have to innovate the quickest. Niche eCommerce shops have to evolve but not quite at those break-neck speeds. Our size does allow us to be nimble within our space and we try to be on the forefront as much as possible.
How have sales grown in the last few years?
Year over year sales have grown anywhere from 200% to 600%.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
We've built systems that scale and automated repetitive processes. Bootstrapping from our initial $1,000 investment has taught us to be extremely cost-conscious which has served us well over the years. Hiring the right people is extremely important.
What plans do you have now to expand your business further?
We plan to continue increasing our product offering and website catalog while improving our technology.
What systems have you used to automate your business to give you more time for business planning and development?
Google Apps gives us dependable email and allows us to collaborate on spreadsheets, documents, and presentations easily. Oh yeah, it's free too. Setup buffers between you and minor issues so that you have employees handling more day-to-day items and you can focus on growing the business.
What has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique?
We've seen a lot of success from Search Marketing. Aside from that, Social Media marketing is big and only poised to grow.
What advices would you give to young entrepreneurs starting up their business?
Start as early as you can; before you have a mortgage, kids, and more responsibilities. Take calculated risks and don't do anything too dumb.
Thanks Jon for taking the time to do this interview with us, we wish you the best in the future.
Check out their website: 3tailer
Connect with jon on twitter
His personal Blog
Jon west on LinkedIn