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Best of Bootstrapping: Big Barker CEO Bootstraps a Niche E-commerce Brand

Posted on Friday, Sep 27th 2019

We’ve talked about niche, proprietary e-commerce brands and how entrepreneurs are building businesses around different concepts. CEO Eric Shannon shares the story of Big Barker, a dog bed for large dogs.

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?

Eric Shannon: I was born in Pennsylvania in a suburb about 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I went to Temple University. I was a Finance major. After school, I moved to California and took a job in banking. I hated it and was terrible at it. I had a couple of other jobs and eventually discovered the internet side of the economy. I became very attached to it. I started in that industry in 2004.

Sramana Mitra: What kind of company was that?

Eric Shannon: When I was still at Bank of America, I discovered Google AdWords and I started buying ads and sending them to affiliate products. That was a fun game. When I saw the first dollar coming in, that was very exciting. I was building very terrible websites and making a couple of dollars with AdWords. I just got hooked on it. I ended up getting a job at a catalog company outside of Philadelphia called Taylor Gifts working in their e-commerce department.

Pretty soon, I became in charge of their entire e-commerce department. It was a very old company. They had started in the 50s. They were primarily direct mail and catalog-based. It was a large company. I think they were at about $30 million to $40 million in annual revenue at that time.

I, with very little experience, was in charge of the whole e-commerce division. It gave me a lot of freedom to try things and figure out what worked and what didn’t. It was a great opportunity for me. That’s where I learned what I needed to know before I started my own business.

Sramana Mitra: How long did you do that for?

Eric Shannon: A little over two years. While I was there, I started my first business on the side. It wasn’t really even supposed to be a real business. I was at a conference back in 2006. I met another guy who was in charge of e-commerce for a furniture company. We just got to talking. We were talking about opportunities that might have been available.

We both had a big interest in the pet market. We both thought that there was an opportunity in starting a business that offered products that you couldn’t find at a pet store. This was back in 2006. There was a much higher quality of stuff that was being made, but wasn’t being sold at your Petcos, the mass-market retailers. They weren’t really carrying any upscale products. We thought that if we started a business that did offer that kind of thing, it might be somewhat successful. We only viewed it as a side business.

Within about a year, we were ranking at the top of Google for pretty much every major phrase in the dog supply industry. We were getting a ton of Google traffic for all these terms. By the end of 2007, neither one of us needed a job anymore. I left my position to focus on building that company full time. That company was called Oh My Dog Supply. I ran it from 2006 until about 2012 when I decided to start something different.

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
. Wonderful Bootstrap with a Paycheck Story

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