Each month we like to spotlight our merchants who have found success by running the businesses that they love. This month we spoke with Mike Brenner, the Social Media Manager at American Flags Express.
What inspired the start of your store?
The owner of American Flags Express, Thomas J D'Amico, had a personal interest in American flags. He had been photographing American flags waving in the wind for decades. In 1998, there were very few companies on the internet with working shopping carts. No one was selling flags and flagpoles on the web. At a dinner party, Thomas drew up a website plan on a cocktail napkin. Within a few weeks, work on the first website started. Everything had to be hand-coded, including the shopping cart. Even the credit card companies were not prepared. Most websites offered products and a printable form to fax orders in.
By 1999, we were the first website offering American flags, flagpoles and 15,000 other related products with a working, hand-coded shopping cart. Orders started slowly; people were very skeptical of entering credit card numbers at that time. By 2001, consumers were getting used to the idea of buying online and our orders began to increase.
After September 11, 2001, our sales dropped to zero for three days while the country sat idle in shock. On the third day, American flag orders began to pour in online, by fax, on the phone, and from people at our door. We ran out of American flags and anything red, white and blue. It took months to catch up on orders. A few years later we decided our shopping cart could no longer handle our volume. After intense research, we signed up with Volusion.
What was the biggest thing that surprised you about starting your own business?
I've owned several businesses previously. Business relationships can occasionally be unpleasant, but not in this industry. We have incredible commercial and residential customers all over the world.
What advice do you have for other people trying to build their store from scratch?
Don't do it. It takes a large team of specialists, especially now that security has become increasingly complicated. Volusion manages the backside so we can focus on manufacturing, our customers and American Flags Express.
What does the future hold for your store?
We continually add new products and improve content on existing products. Anytime a customer asks a question we update the website with additional content for future customers. Constant improvement is easy with the Volusion interface.
What do you like about Volusion?
We have very few problems with Volusion and the phone support has been exceptional, when needed.
What's the Volusion feature you use most?
We are constantly adding new products, and Volusion makes it do easy to duplicate a current product and just make small modifications. It’s a huge time saver.