Sramana Mitra: You sell apparel through them or shoes?
Katie Echeverry: Apparel.
Sramana Mitra: That’s awesome actually.
Katie Echeverry: It is. I really knew nothing about wholesale. They were so patient with me with all the terminologies. I remember saying, “What’s EDI?” They were very patient and have taught me a lot. I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher. I was so impressed and touched by the way they treated me when I was the one selling them my line that I actually flew my entire company up to Vegas to tour the Zappos headquarters. They’ve had a very big impact on me.
Sramana Mitra: Can you give me a quick anchor timeframe? For how long did you do this company in this mode of doing the pharmaceutical sales job and bootstrapping the company before you went full-time with it?
Katie Echeverry: Five years.
Sramana Mitra: We have a terminology for this – Bootstrapping Using a Paycheck. We even have a book called Bootstrapping Using a Paycheck.
Katie Echeverry: I really paid myself very low for a very long time. I put everything back into the company.
Sramana Mitra: You can do it slowly. You didn’t try to grow so fast that you would topple everything. You grew organically and steadily.
Katie Echeverry: I was constantly playing catch up. We didn’t have any system. I was consistently trying to figure out how to do things and how to do it right. One problem with being an e-commerce business is, you’re in a bubble. Now, there’s so many conferences where you can network with other people. Back then, I was alone trying to figure it out.
Sramana Mitra: In general with online businesses—it’s true about e-commerce and most online businesses—you have to roll up your sleeves and do what you need to do. It takes up all your time.
Katie Echeverry: That’s true. I didn’t even think about it. It was just about getting through the day.
Sramana Mitra: People who are doing that don’t have a lot of time going out to conferences.
Katie Echeverry: That’s true.
Sramana Mitra: What else is interesting with your story that you would like to share with our audience?
Katie Echeverry: Our culture is very important here. I’ve had some bad bosses in my history, and so I’ve always tried to be the exact opposite. I think that culture has taken us really far. A lot of my employees here would take a bullet for this business. They’re very dedicated. We’re like a family here. In fact, some of us are family. My nephew works for me. My sisters are photographers. We keep it close. There have been some challenging times. Changing from an entrepreneurial-driven company to a professionally-managed company probably was the hardest part. Hiring people smarter than myself, letting go, and learning how to delegate are all important steps in this whole process.
Sramana Mitra: Congratulations! Very nice maneuvering.