Sramana Mitra: Who was making these t-shirts?
Michael Nemeroff: They had a friend in the industry who did the printing for them. It wasn’t a partnership. It was like, “I have my own business. Do you want to start your own?” They went to the same guy to do the printing.
Sramana Mitra: You decided that this needs to go online and take orders online?
Michael Nemeroff: Yes. There was no automation. There was no e-commerce. It was just a website. It had blinking images and was a very old school website. The biggest thing was I made a big investment in advertising. Luckily, we closed a big tech school. They placed a big order with use and that allowed us to continue to invest in advertising and marketing. I was learning how to sell, print, project manage, and design. My brothers and sisters were there helping me organize the orders. That’s how it all started.
Sramana Mitra: You’re talking 1999?
Michael Nemeroff: 1999 was when I started on computers, but the business started in late 2001.
Sramana Mitra: How much did you do in terms of orders in 2002? What was the revenue level?
Michael Nemeroff: To me, it felt like a lot. It was around three or four orders a day. I didn’t understand business or project management. I didn’t understand customer experience. I think we were doing $15,000 to $30,000 a month by the end of 2002. It was a very small beginning and we were working very hard.
Sramana Mitra: What happens next? By the way, how were you acquiring these customers? What was the customer acquisition strategy? Google AdWords was just starting to become popular at that time. Keyword prices were quite low, right?
Michael Nemeroff: I didn’t even know about that then. All I knew was SEO. I knew a friend who did link building. I also did link exchange networks. I didn’t know what was working back then. They didn’t have analytics like they do today.
Sramana Mitra: How were you acquiring customers?
Michael Nemeroff: It was through sources like Yellow Pages.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do in 2003 that was above and beyond what you were doing in 2002? You said you did $15,000 to $20,000 a month in revenue? That’s pretty good by the way.
Michael Nemeroff: It was pretty good. In that first year, I decided I can’t go to school anymore. I have to stop going to high school. My brother and sister had finished school. In 2003, what changed was I dedicated everything to the business. That was my graduating year. We started learning how to print ourselves. Until that time, we were just contracting it out. I took a course with a local facility here.
It’s hard to keep it together because we also realized that 70% of customers we had needed orders on a deadline because their vendor didn’t print it right or didn’t hit the deadline. The best thing I can do is just do whatever our customers ask and do whatever we promised them. The only way to do that was by controlling our own production. I was bottlenecking with our vendors. I took a risk in investing in our own equipments. We actually brought it into the house. We cleared out the dining room and put a small printing press inside the dining room.