Sramana Mitra: Sunglasses is a fairly big category on the Internet. How did you compete with the existing larger players?
Sramana Mitra: How did the business ramp? We are talking 2005?
Angie Stocklin: We purchased the site in early 2006.
Sramana Mitra: You said you quit your job in 2007 which is two years later, right?
Angie Stocklin: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: You said you were already profitable at that point?
Angie Stocklin: Yes. For the first two years, we didn’t take anything out of the business. We pumped everything back in. We got to a point where we were 100% sure that we could support my salary. At that point in time, the business had ramped up enough were every single second of free time was spent working on it. We could support my salary and I needed to work on it more often. We decided that was the time for me to come on board full-time.
Sramana Mitra: How about your husband?
Angie Stocklin: He came on board full-time in 2008.
Sramana Mitra: E-commerce businesses must be relatively simpler to do on weekends while keeping your job. Both affiliate marketing business and e-commerce businesses actually lend themselves well to that mode of doing business as opposed to something where you have to actually talk to customers yourself and sell during the day. It’s a good observation that those are two categories of businesses that were conducive to doing it in this Bootstrapping Using a Pay Check mode.
Angie Stocklin: Yes, absolutely. We did have customer service needs. I would let people leave a message and then I would go out to my car at lunch and give them a call back.
Sramana Mitra: What happened after you came on board full-time? What were some of the major next milestones?
Angie Stocklin: When I came on board full-time, we were ready to acquire or start additional businesses. Our model, at that point in time, was to acquire low-performing businesses or homegrown businesses where the owner didn’t want the business anymore so we can get it at a decent price. We started acquiring businesses and we also ramped up a few businesses from scratch.
We looked at our current product, which was discount sunglasses, and we tried to purchase other brands that had products that were similar to sunglasses either from an accessory standpoint or something that had similar margins. We loved the non-branded space. We launched a reading glasses business in 2008. We sold cloth diapers for a while.
Sramana Mitra: You sold what?
Angie Stocklin: Cloth diapers. We were new entrepreneurs at that time. In 2007, diapers.com had just gotten funded. We got really interested in the model but then decided that cloth diapers were actually more interesting. It turns out we were wrong. The margins are terrible. We held on to that business for a couple of years and then sold it along the way. That was our plan—buy underperforming businesses for a good price, pay ourselves back, and then get them to a point where they could grow or divest them.