This conversation is a comprehensive discussion on how to bootstrap a niche e-commerce venture with a lean team and effective use of inventory financing.
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?
Sean Dawes: I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I haven’t gone too far away from my hometown as my company is based out of West Chester, Pennsylvania, which is 20 or 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia.
I just turned 33 a couple of days ago. I feel much older than 33. The entrepreneurial journey definitely takes a toll on the body for sure.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do for school?
Sean Dawes: I actually went to college for Zoology, which is completely unrelated to what I’m doing currently. I was a big advocate of going to school for something that you’re passionate about learning. I feel that too many people nowadays go to college just because they feel they have to. They graduate with a degree and never do anything with it. They almost regret it.
I had an interest in Zoology. I volunteered a lot when I was in high school. I had the option. There’s nothing wrong with people going to school for business but I did have a passion for Zoology. I said, “Why go to college and learn something that I don’t have an interest in?”
I ended up going to college for Zoology. I took a lot of extra electives. Technically, I didn’t graduate yet. I stopped in my senior year because I was taking all the additional electives. To be frank, the only thing I needed to do is take a couple of core courses and I’d have had my degree. I just never did it. I was constantly taking electives because they were of interest to me. I passed on the basic requirements.
In my college years, I realized through my volunteering and interning that there wasn’t good financial success for those who are in Zoology. Similar to the teaching industry, a lot of these education positions don’t really offer good compensation from a salary perspective. A lot of them struggle after they get out of college.
Pretty much, their whole career is spent in doing multiple jobs just trying to make ends meet, especially if they have families. I said to myself, “I could either continue down that path or I could become financially successful and really help some of these non-profit institutions grow.” That’s the pivot that I made a number of years ago and transitioned into the marketing world.
I was working entry-level jobs. That’s where I gained experience by picking up an entry-level marketing position at another online retailer when I was in my early 20’s. I surrounded myself with people who had gotten to a position that I wanted to get to.
The business owners that I worked for were in their 20’s earning well over $100 million in revenue. I surrounded myself with coworkers who really were intelligent and put myself in the environment that allowed me to cultivate my own experience.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back to when you graduated. When did you graduate college?
Sean Dawes: I stopped going to college in 2008. I did go to college for four years. It was Delaware Valley University which is in Pennsylvania.
Sramana Mitra: That was 2000?
Sean Dawes: That was 2004 to 2008.