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Bootstrapping a $40M Niche E-Commerce Business: Stroll CEO Dan Roitman (Part 6)

Posted on Tuesday, Oct 23rd 2012

Sramana: Tell me about hiring your early key players. What roles did they play, and how did you find them?

Dan Roitman: My best friend served as the VP of marketing for about two and a half years. Ultimately, I realized that it was not going to work out. I had to let him go and bring in someone better suited for the role. That was a very challenging moment. The person I brought on board owned another business at the time, but after we met I thought he could be a great addition to our team and I was able to convince him to come onboard as the VP of marketing. He was able to really help get things structured. That was a key hire.

We worked together to think through the entire organizational structure. We were both very analytical and we wanted to create a culture of people who were very data driven. We wanted to combine the art and science of marketing. One of our keys to success was our continual ROI measurement. Our trend has been to initially hire generalists and then to hire specialized talent as operations mature.

We decided to hire a full-time recruiter, even though it ate up 40% of our bottom line at the time, so that this person could have the luxury and time to locate and hire the right kind of people. We had people in marketing with channel expertise. We had analytics to bolster, so we hired a director of analytics. Our recruiter turned into an HR manager. We now have almost 170 people throughout our organization.

Sramana: Do you outsource any of your work centers?

Dan Roitman: In general, we have done studies to determine when it makes sense to outsource but often we can do activities better and cheaper.  We have overflow capabilities for our call center. Web hosting and our back office order management system are outsourced. We often like to have control since we do a lot of experimentation and can execute with precision. This can be important in the call center and in fulfillment. At one point in time, we moved our paid search campaign to three different agencies and ultimately found that we improved results 400% when we took it back in-house.

Sramana: You said that you want to grow to become a billion-dollar company by 2020. What product strategy are you following to get there?

Dan Roitman: Last year we spent a lot of time scouting possibilities in the personal development market. One of the challenges there is that our high growth has made us pull back some of our diversification plans. There are only so many management resources to go around. We are working on some internal infrastructure products as well. We would not have the team to do an integration plan related to an M&A opportunity. Within the next 18 months, that is what we are looking to do. We will hope for a completed transaction that will be one of many in the future that help us reach that revenue milestone. We have the bench strength, now it’s just a matter of executing on the vision.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Bootstrapping a $40M Niche E-Commerce Business: Stroll CEO Dan Roitman
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