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Best of Bootstrapping: How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million

Posted on Friday, May 3rd 2019

Niche e-commerce still produces compelling success stories. Read on to see how CEO Brian Lim built iHeartRaves.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?

Brian Lim: I was raised in LA County. My parents immigrated here to escape communism in China and Cambodia. I grew up very poor. We bootstrapped our company back in 2010 with $100 and turned it into a $20 million a year company.

Sramana Mitra: Were you born in the US?

Brian Lim: I was born in China. My parents owned a donut shop. They were basically working 24 hours a day. If you wanted to get anything in life, you really had to earn it yourself.

Sramana Mitra: What about education? What kind of education process did you go through?

Brian Lim: We went through the normal public school system. I got accepted into UCLA. I did my degree in Business Economics with a minor in Accounting. I got exposed to a bunch of different internships and consulting. Ultimately, I went to Deloitte Consulting after graduating.

Sramana Mitra: Were you working for a big firm as far as consulting is concerned?

Brian Lim: The main client I was on was Southern California Edison.

Sramana Mitra: What years are we talking?

Brian Lim: In 2008, I interned during the summer. Then in 2009, I had a full-time offer. I stayed there for about two years. During my second year, I was exposed to gloving. I had started Emazing Lights on the sides.

Sramana Mitra: What was this company that you were trying to build on the side? What was the concept? How did you come up with it?

Brian Lim: My girlfriend at that time, who’s now my wife, got me into gloving. It’s basically an LED dance art form. I was able to entertain 5 to 10 people around me. I fell in love with the art form. Me and my girlfriend would go to these music festivals. We fell in love with the rave scene and with each other.

Sramana Mitra: Wonderful story. How did that drive the company?

Brian Lim: We wanted a better product so that we could practice our art. It simply wasn’t available. I would buy off-the-shelf products and resell them. That’s how we turned our $100 to millions. We would then take our profits and reinvest and create the best products that we personally love and would use.

Sramana Mitra: What does that mean?

Brian Lim: Gloving is a dance art form like breakdancing. It’s when you have LED lights at your fingertips and you’re dancing to the beat of the music while being able to control and manipulate light.

Sramana Mitra: There’s a product involved. There are products that are necessary to make this kind of experience happen. What are the components of that product?

Brian Lim: The first gloving lights were basically keychain flashlights that people would attach to their keychains. You would put them in white gloves. They were very bulky and not customizable. We had to develop our own products specifically for the gloving art form.

Our conversation continues here.

This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping

. Bootstrapping to an Exit
. Why is Bootstrapping Important?
. How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently?
. Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings
. Excess is NOT Required for Success
. Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later
. Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies
. The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit
. Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping
. Bootstrapping to Unicorns
. Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million
. Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue
. Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million
. Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy
. How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million
. Bootstrapping with a Paycheck
. How CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan
. Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses
. How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million
. Bootstrapping with Services
. How The Intern Group CEO David Lloyd Bootstrapped to $13 Million
. How Passageways CEO Paroon Chadha Bootstrapped from Indiana
. How SmartBuyGlasses CEO David Menning Bootstrapped to $50 Million
. Death by Overfunding
. How RainmakerForce CEO Mack Sundaram Bootstrapped Decisively to $5 Million+
. How FormAssembly CEO Bootstrapped a Virtual Company with a Paycheck
. TimeSlips CEO Mitch Russo Bootstrapped to Exit with Sage
. The VC-Entrepreneur Compensation Disbalance
. BioConnect CEO Bootstraps with Sophisticated Strategic Maneuvering
. Tremend CEO Marius Hanganu Bootstraps from Romania
. Gesture CEO Jim Alvarez Bootstraps to $10 Million
. SproutLoud CEO Bootstraps to $30 Million from Florida
. Tuft & Needle CEO Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Co-founders Bootstrap Linguamatics to Over $10M from the UK
. Ownership Matters
. Vainu Co-founder Mikko Honkanen Bootstraps from Finland
. Entrepreneur Couple Bootstraps to $10M from Colorado
. Power2Motivate CEO Bootstraps to $80M from Canada
. Financial DNA CEO Bootstraps to $10M+ from Australia
. Big Barker CEO Bootstraps a Niche E-commerce Brand
. PrecisionLender CEO Bootstraps to Over $10M from North Carolina
. Master Bootstrappers with Over $1B in Exits
. Ultra Mobile Founder Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Bootstrapping a Two-Sided Marketplace to $10M
. Can You Bootstrap a Virtual Company to Over $5 Million?
. Capital Efficient Entrepreneurs Turn $1M into $80M
. Discussing the Journey Through Failure to Success
. From a Small Town to $12 Million
. Bootstrapping to Y Combinator and $10 Million Series A
. Bootstrapping a Marketplace to Over $10 Million
. Freightwise Bootstraps to $33 Million
. Bootstraps First to $5M ARR, Raises $10M Later
. Bootstraps in Europe, Raises Money and Goes Global in the US
. English Major Bootstraps a Tech Company
. Bootstraps with a Paycheck to $15M from Tennessee
. Queue-It Bootstraps from Denmark to the US
. Bootstrapping A Virtual Company To $25M
. ActiveCampaign CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $40M
. Alteryx Bootstrapped with Services to a Public Unicorn
. Inspyrus Bootstraps Using Services to an Awesome Business Model
. CEO Bootstraps Using Services to Millions from Russia
. Wiredrive CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $10M
. Scaling to Over $10M by Bootstrapping Using Services
. Bootstraps Using Services from Poland to a US SaaS Company
. ButcherBox CEO Bootstraps a Perishable Meat Business to Significant Scale
. Waveform CEO Bootstraps to $8M
. Bootstrapped Entrepreneurship from Estonia
. From Laid-off Engineer to Successful Startup CEO
. Imagine Easy Solutions CEO Bootstraps to Exit
. BannerBuzz CEO Bootstraps to $35M
. Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to Scale
. Bootstrapping Using Services from Wisconsin
. Best Tactic for B2B Startups
. Bootstrapping by Piggybacking from Romania
. Bootstrap First, Then Scale with VC Funds
. Bootstrap to +$10M First, Raise Money Later
. Madwire CEO Bootstrapped First, Raised Money Later to $120M
. Bootstrap Using Services First, Raise Money Later

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