Sramana Mitra: This is actually an interesting point because we often see entrepreneurs trying to start affiliate marketing as a side business. Did you both quit your jobs and start it full-time or did you still hold on to your prior jobs?
Angie Stocklin: We kept our jobs for several years. We were toying around with the idea of running an affiliate business in 2004. We officially launched in 2005. I didn’t leave my job until the middle of 2007. We put our friends, families, and hobbies on the side for several years while we built our business up. We made sure that we were cash flow positive and our business was growing. It was really important for us to be self-funded and to make sure that we can support ourselves as we grow.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s take it one step at a time. You basically had pay checks coming in. By the way, we have a name for this methodology called Bootstrapping With A Paycheck. If you look in the Entrepreneur Journeys Series, there’s actually a book called Bootstrapping With A Paycheck, which is actually your methodology of starting something and developing it on the side. Let’s double-click into the first few things that you did as you got this started.
Angie Stocklin: After our first season in the Santa letter business, we realised that we needed something to keep us going until the next season because it only happens during Christmas. We started looking for an additional business to buy and that’s when we found sunglasswarehouse.com. At that point in time, we purchased the domain, ordered inventory, and had to learn everything from scratch. While we had been able to dabble a little in paid marketing and learn a little about search marketing, understanding how to take product photos, add things to website, how to arrange the inventory were things that we had to learn very quickly and on our own.
Sramana Mitra: I’m a little bit confused. I thought you were doing an affiliate business. Where did the e-commerce business come in in the middle of that?
Angie Stocklin: We did the affiliate business first and it was a ‘Letter from Santa’ business. It only lasted for two months – November and December. We could have taken the whole of the next year to prepare for the next season but we wanted something additional that wasn’t as seasonal.
Sramana Mitra: Can you explain to me the Letter from Santa business?
Angie Stocklin: We had a website where parents enter their child’s name, talk about a few things they wanted for Christmas. Then a few weeks or a few days later, the child would get a letter in the mail. It was postmarked from Santa Claus Indiana and inside it would have a letter with that child’s information and signed from Santa Claus.
Sramana Mitra: Was it just a letter or was the child also getting presents according to that wish list?
Angie Stocklin: No, it was just a letter. We didn’t have to handle of any of the letters because we were just getting a cut for being an affiliate. The main business was located in Indiana. It was a greetings from Santa Claus. He had additional sites throughout the United States that would send him business. We were getting the traffic and converting, but he was actually claiming the sale.
Sramana Mitra: You were an affiliate of the Letter from Santa business?
Angie Stocklin: Yes.