Sramana Mitra: Did you know anything about the lighting business?
Steven Annese: I didn’t but my sister was working at a lighting distributor. She told me that there were some companies that were trying to do business with them in the online world. That’s actually where my lead came from so I have to thank my sister.
Sramana Mitra: For educating you in this business.
Steven Annese: For both. Before I spoke to my sister, I was looking at several products. I was looking into importing my own products from China or another country. I looked at India. I looked at possibly bringing my own product line. I got into a conversation with her and she said, “There are a couple of people looking to do lighting. Did you look at lighting?” That was the time that I looked at lighting and I saw that the competition wasn’t so fierce. I started looking into that and I started asking her questions. She started educating me on the topics.
Sramana Mitra: What year was this when you were toying around with this business?
Steven Annese: This was approximately between 2004 and 2005?
Sramana Mitra: When did you launch the e-commerce venture around lighting?
Steven Annese: We launched probably nine months after I had all the concepts. At that time, I didn’t use an out-of-the-box store. I didn’t go to a Yahoo! store. I wanted something that was much more automated and not directly out-of-the-box.
Sramana Mitra: To put this thing together, what did you need?
Steven Annese: There were a lot of things that I needed. I needed to find a developer and a graphic designer. I also needed to understand the products. I needed to get the actual data of the products. Pretty much to design and come up with an RFP. I happened to be in the IT world and I’ve written an RFP before so it wasn’t so difficult for me, but it took a lot of time to do.
Then there was the expectation from the developer. They were always promising deadlines and those deadlines were never met. They were very aggressive. When we first engaged, they said, “This will take two to three months.” After two to three months, it was five to six months. That was very discouraging. That’s why it took about nine months.
Sramana Mitra: What about financials?
Steven Annese: I pretty much did it on a shoestring budget. The advantage was I was working while I was dreaming up my idea. I did have time because I’d made my decision that I wasn’t going to relocate. I let the company know. I knew I had a year or two to help them transition with the spin-off and the divesting of the company. I knew that I had a set timeframe. I was able to fund it minimally. I didn’t have much overhead. At that time, I had a UPS Store Box. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. You have your own address and you look like you have an office. Today, they’re much more sophisticated. You can get an address in Manhattan if you wanted.