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Bootstrapping a $10 Million E-Commerce Business: Seismic Audio CEO Steve Acree (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, Sep 17th 2015

Sramana Mitra: How much was your total revenue line in 2009 when you had six employees?

Steve Acree: In the neighborhood of $2.5 million to $3 million.

Sramana Mitra: What’s the next major inflection point in the business after 2009?

Steve Acree: It started to get cumbersome. It was three dashboards. You had to plug in tracking numbers in all of them. was little automation. I was hiring employees to do the work. It could have been automated, but I was tight with my money. Finally, I used Channel Advisor, which allowed automation like crazy. It allowed to try new marketplaces, which at that time, wasn’t a whole lot. As the new marketplaces came out, I was able to get on them through Channel Advisor very easily. It allowed me to try a lot of things. I was able to adjust my pricing on Amazon.

I never borrowed a dime to start my business. Going back to 2000 when I started with the parts, if I got a shipment of parts in, I would almost sell every bit of it before I ordered another shipment. I never had enough money to order all the products I wanted to order and stock it up at all times. By 2009 to 2010, I had a lot more money. I was able to order a lot more inventory. I didn’t have to wait until everything was sold before I could place another order. If an order shipped from overseas today, I could go ahead and place another order today for them to start making it. Back in late 2007, I was getting a container of inventory every 60 days, whereas by about 2010, I was getting inventory every three to four weeks.

Sramana Mitra: Where are you getting these from?

Steve Acree: We have suppliers from China. Now, we have some from Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Sramana Mitra: All along, it’s been this Seismic Audio brand?

Steve Acree: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: How did things ramp in 2011 and 2012? What was the revenue level at that point?

Steve Acree: That Amazon effect started taking over. Everybody started purchasing online. Amazon Prime was kicking in. Best Buy, Sears, and everybody tried to get marketplaces. We got on Shop.com. We got on Buy.com. We got on all of these marketplaces, which ultimately became free advertising. Our biggest search today is Seismic Audio. They saw us on eBay, Amazon, and Walmart. They found us that way. Plus, I got really good SEO. Back then, I couldn’t target model numbers that people have heard of. I couldn’t target Yamaha or JBL. I had to target really generic words like amplifiers and speaker stands. These are keywords that are hard to get ranking in because it’s so generic. Snake cable is a very generic keyword. We usually rank number one or number two in Google. The SEO really helped us out. The Channel Advisor helped us out.

Since 2007, I’ve got musicians, DJs, and installers all working for me. Up until then, I had to excel and succeed in customer service because I wasn’t an audio guy. I knew my product but I didn’t know it in a real use scenario. I never took a speaker to a gig and plugged the guitar in. I had to rely on giving everybody an excellent customer service. If it got damaged in shipping, I’d ship them a new one. If it had a broken handle, I’d pick it up and ship them a new one. At that time, Facebook and all that was not really around. There was a little bit of Myspace. Customer service was what really got the word of mouth going and not necessarily the product. Today, I believe it’s the product and customer service.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Bootstrapping a $10 Million E-Commerce Business: Seismic Audio CEO Steve Acree
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