We continue to be bullish about niche e-commerce as a category to build sustainable businesses in. This story is a further illustration of the trend.
Sramana: Pavel, let’s start at the beginning of your story. Where are you from? What is the genesis of your entrepreneurial aspirations?
Pavel Sokolovsky: I was born in Minsk, Belarus. I moved here with my family at a very young age in 1989. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. My father had an entrepreneurial background. In the mid-1990s he started his own contracting business doing heating and cooling work. That was his second or third business by that time. I grew up watching him in action. I watched him go through the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship. I was inspired by it and when the time came I wanted to have a shot at it.
Sramana: What is your academic background?
Pavel Sokolovsky: I went to the University of Illinois where I earned degrees in Accounting and Finance. I finished school in 2007.
Sramana: What happened after you graduated school?
Pavel Sokolovsky: The company my father had started in the mid-1990’s was heavily involved in residential construction. In 2007, we faced the end of residential construction as we had known it. I got a chance to apply my finance and accounting background in that business and I worked hand-in-hand with my father and my brother to try and balance the business with a struggling economy. I had a lot of trial by fire and gained valuable on the job experience. That is what introduced me to the heating and cooling space formally, which is the space my company is involved with today.
Sramana: What was the genesis of eComfort.com?
Pavel Sokolovsky: I spent about three years in the contracting business. During that time, I met my co-founder Victor who was working in a distribution business at the time. I learned a lot from our contracting business as we re-positioned our company out of construction into services for homeowners. Homeowners had a purchasing experience that was far from ideal. It was a low-information, high-cost purchase that they make three or four times in their lives. Each time, they would go into the situation blind and end up spending thousands or tens of thousands of dollars without having a clear window into the equipment they were buying.
I did not feel that the industry was adapting to how times were changing. We decided to start a new venture and change the situation for consumers.
Sramana: How did you finance the new business?
Pavel Sokolovsky: We did not start with any money at all. We were completely bootstrapped and we are still that way today. We grew from revenue streams only.