E-commerce companies are relatively easy to bootstrap. Steve tells the story of his journey bootstrapping Seismic Audio to almost $10 million in revenue.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back to the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Steve Acree: I was born in Tennessee, about 60 miles north of Memphis. I went to school for computers but I’ve never used my degree. I chose the wrong computer industry. I chose the repair side instead of the software side.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do after you finished college?
Steve Acree: I only ended up with an Associate’s degree because my business had taken off.
Sramana Mitra: What business did you start while you were in school?
Steve Acree: I was one of the biggest DVD sellers on eBay back when everybody still had VHS and VCR. There was a lot of profit in it at that time. While I was selling the legitimate copies that were out there, the bootleggers took over. I had to look for something else. I had a roommate who was a musician. I basically saw what he paid for his musical gear and the woes he had as a struggling musician in trying to purchase equipment to sound better. I figured that there was a way that this could possibly be disrupted. I attempted to create a speaker business selling just parts and accessories. I still went to school and was waiting tables. Selling the accessories on eBay took off and customers asked for more than just the accessories. I tried to make it happen and ultimately grew the business to what it is today.
Sramana Mitra: What year did you start the speaker business?
Steve Acree: I dabbled with it starting around 2000. I turned it into a full-blown career in 2003.
Sramana Mitra: Between 2000 and 2003, what were you doing?
Steve Acree: I was waiting tables, going back to school, and cutting grass for a friend over the weekend. Essentially, I just started making more money selling on eBay than I was doing all these other things. I’m not an audio guy. I figured out e-commerce through eBay at that time. I thought there’s no way I can do an audio business because I don’t play an instrument. I’m not a DJ. I don’t know music. I only know what my roommate did at that time. My customers said, “You have these parts, which are so cheap. Can I get a complete speaker? Can you get me amplifiers?” For about a year, I researched online for suppliers overseas. I finally took the gamble and ordered some equipment. I asked my suppliers overseas to make speakers to these specs and see how well they worked out. In 2003, I got my first batch of actual speakers and not just the parts. It took off from there. I was able to sell products at a third of the price you would pay at other retailers at that time.