You may be familiar with famous entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, but have you met their ecommerce equivalents? Read on to meet five of our favorite startup entrepreneurs here at Volusion.
What makes a great entrepreneur? Take a lot of ingenuity and hard work, throw in just a little bit of crazy, and you've got the recipe for someone who can change the business world.
By definition, an entrepreneur “organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise,” but what does that really mean? Successful entrepreneurs use knowledge, passion, generosity, persistence, creativity and quite a bit of hard work to make something tangible from their ideas. And one of the best things about our job is that we get to work with people like this every day.
We love entrepreneurs at Volusion. They impress us every day – innovating within their industries, cultivating new markets and striving to continuously improve the buying experience for their customers. So we'd like to take a few minutes to tip our hats to a few of our very own Volusion entrepreneurs (or “Volusioneurs,” anyone?).
Here are five of our favorite online business owners who are hitting it out of the park:
1. Dr. John Bruinsma
Dr. John Bruinsma is the licensed doctor behind Dr. John’s Candies, an online store selling healthy, dentist-approved gum and candy.
We love that Dr. John and dental-hygienist-wife Debra are using their professional expertise to transform the candy world and bring teeth-friendly candy to anyone with a sweet tooth. Since 1995, they’ve been adding new, tasty sweets to their store and are now the best-selling sugar-free candy brand for dentists. Their famous Herbal Lollipops were even featured on Good Morning America!
Lesson learned: Leverage your specialized knowledge. Create a business plan around your expertise and sell something not just anyone can offer. These candies excel in the market because they’re unique, and they're advertised to the right audience in the right way (Dr. John actually introduced them at an annual American Dental Association Meeting). So don’t be afraid to leverage your network to market your business, either.
2. Kentrell Martin
Kentrell Martin started the Shelly’s Adventure book series as a way to open up conversation between the deaf and hearing populations. Growing up with a deaf brother, Kentrell has an intimate awareness of the inherent communication gap posed by hearing loss, and the need for a fun way to encourage children to learn American Sign Language.
We love the way this Volusioneur is connecting with and benefiting the deaf community, and we have no doubt his fun stories will have a lasting impact.
Lesson learned: Take note of your personal experiences. Look for business opportunities where you find meaning in life. Bring that passion to your business– it may just be what sets you apart.
3. Chad Vordemesche
Tiger Fitness CEO, Chad Vordemesche, is one CEO we really admire. From the top down, all of Tiger Fitness’ staff rocks the golden rule. While there are many nutritional supplement sites on the market, Tiger Fitness distinguishes itself by putting products to the test. Products delivering on their claims get a “Tiger Seal of Approval.”
The Tiger team brought in industry expert Marc Lobliner, a professional bodybuilder and owner of top body supplement companies, MTS Nutrition and EthiTech Nutrition, to conduct these product reviews and provide bodybuilding tips for Tiger Fitness customers and non-customers alike. Their commitment to their customer shines through not only their booming site, but their engaging social media channels, as well.
Lesson learned: Treat your customers like you want to be treated. Not only does Tiger Fitness actively work to find the best products, they take their value proposition one step further by offering free samples so anyone at home can try out products for free. When the products live up to their claims, customers can come back to order them online and receive free shipping.
And they're not all about the bottom line, either. The Tiger team consistently donates some of their profits to help find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. In a word, they’re grrrrreat!
4. Greg McEvilly
Greg McEvilly started Kammok.com in June 2010 with the mission "to equip and inspire for Life Changing Adventure™." When launching this new outdoor lifestyle brand, he encountered major adversity and doubt. But Greg couldn't be stopped. Instead, he turned to Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, and raised over $208,000 in 50 days, beating his original goal by almost 1300%.
This makes funding sound easy, but it wasn’t. The Kammok team dedicated over a year-and-a-half planning and researching before the campaign to ensure everything was in place for a successful launch. In fact, the team applied and was rejected three different times before getting accepted. As Greg said in his 2012 TED talk: “We didn’t let ‘No’ stop our decision to keep applying.”
Financing a new business wasn’t the only priority in Greg’s life at this time; in early 2011, he and his wife found out they were pregnant. In his words, “this was definitely not in the forecast for 2012 fiscal year,” but they didn’t shy away from their business dream.
Lesson learned: Never quit. It's not always easy, even if you have a really good idea. Sometimes you have to persevere to achieve your dreams, to welcome a challenge and not be afraid of jumping into a competitive vertical.
5. The Haney Family
President of Hillbilly Stills, Mike Haney, and his family always dreamt of starting a family business, and now their dreams are a reality. Hillbilly Stills, despite the honky-tonk, playful name, is a site for serious home distillers.
We love their commitment to customer service and quality. Every still and still part is handmade through a laborious process in the Hillbilly Stills factory, and parts are of the highest quality metals. Take a peek at their photo gallery and you’ll get a picture of just how detailed their process is – the factory looks like a science lab!
Lesson learned: Don't be afraid to involve your family. Any up-and-coming business owner with a dream can learn a thing or two from this family: be creative with your ideas, and work hard! Equip yourself with the best materials possible, and do what you love WITH people you love.
If you’re thinking about starting an online business or you've started one, you've probably heard a lot of advice. Some business mentors teach that the only way to succeed is to find a niche market and get in early. Others may say the only way to succeed is to have a ton of money upfront. And some may warn you not to go into business with your friends or family.
But none of that advice will help you to succeed as an entrepreneur. We say use your knowledge to develop an idea with creativity, pursue that dream with passion and then, turn it into reality through perseverance and hard work.
We love hearing from our Volusioneurs. What qualities you think make an entrepreneur? Who inspires you? Do you know a small biz entrepreneur we should highlight? Do you have a seemingly crazy business idea? Let us know in the comments section, or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.