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Bootstrapping to $10 Million: Gesture CEO Jim Alvarez (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Nov 14th 2017

Sramana Mitra: It was not e-commerce. You were getting golf clubs made in China and wholesaling them to retailers.

Jim Alvarez: Yes, I did have an e-commerce site as well but majority of our business was from wholesaling it to big golf retailers.

Sramana Mitra: How long did that go on?

Jim Alvarez: I did that for three years. Natalie Gulbis, a famous golfer played with our product on her tour. She won a tournament only oncein her life. It was when she was using my product. That was cool. After three years, my wife said, “You have to make money again.” I tell people that that company was not a financial success, but I learned a lot. I tell people that that was my business school.

Sramana Mitra: You shut down the golf club company?

Jim Alvarez: Yes, I ended up shutting it down five or six years later. This was now 2006. I decided to buy a license for Sprint. 2006 was right around the time when the iPhone came out. One of the things I learned from my golf company was about marketing and how powerful a brand is. While we were successful getting it into major retailers, there was no sell through because nobody had ever heard of the brand before.

I decided to leverage the $1.2 billion that Sprint was going to spend on marketing that year. I bought a license. I had one store and I was able to grow those to seven. I learned a lot about retail and inventory management. I had about 65 or so minimum wage employees. Next to one of my Sprint stores was a tanning salon. I couldn’t even believe how many people went tanning. I decided to build my own tanning salon in 2008.

In 2010, I had seven Sprint locations and one tanning location. At the same time, I was able to successfully sell on my Sprint stores as well as partner with the largest tanning salon chain in the nation called LATan. I did that in 2010. I still am a partner of LATan. I own 11 tanning salons in the Seattle area. My family had this abandoned farm. I asked them if I could rent it for the Fall. I decided to build a haunted attraction. I didn’t know anything about haunted houses.

What I did know was with my golf company, I built a great team. With my Sprint stores and tanning salons, I built a great team. I just had a feeling I could build a team of haunted house people that could make a really cool haunted house. I did that in 2010. In 2013, we were voted the number one haunted attraction in the whole Midwest.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping to $10 Million: Gesture CEO Jim Alvarez
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