What a wonderful story of an ecommerce company bootstrapping to $12 million from a small town called Horsens in Denmark. All of the 60 employees working under TrendHim CEO Sebastian Petersen work out of Horsens currently.
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?
Sebastian Petersen: I’m from Denmark. I would say I had a pretty ordinary background. Both my parents were working in the public sector. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit together with one of my best buddies growing up. We were always together.
We knew when we were 15 that we wanted to build something on our own. I tried different things when I was young. That’s how I started. I went to a regular high school. I thought I was going to be an engineer. I quickly found out that’s not what I wanted to do.
I ended up doing an e-commerce company. We started out thinking that we were going to deliver bread in the morning. We found out that getting up at four in the morning and delivering morning bread is not our thing. We decided to start an online store instead. We could see that the local jewelry stores got a lot of money from men’s jewelry. That’s how we started. That’s 12 years ago now.
Sramana Mitra: Where were you doing this out of?
Sebastian Petersen: In my own room in my mom’s house is where we started.
Sramana Mitra: What city of Denmark was that?
Sebastian Petersen: Horsens.
Sramana Mitra: It was just you and your friend doing it out of your mom’s house 12 years ago. This was how it started.
Sebastian Petersen: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: What specifically were you selling?
Sebastian Petersen: Jewelry for men such as necklaces, cufflinks, and bracelets.
Sramana Mitra: Why did you choose that?
Sebastian Petersen: It was a coincidence to be honest. We just wanted to sell something online. We didn’t care much about what it was. We found the supplier and that’s how we started. We started admiring the fashion industry a bit more. We moved into the fashion industry with the accessories. We still sell jewelry, but it’s not our main thing anymore.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back to 12 years ago when you were just starting out. Were you selling this on your own site, or were you selling this on some exchange?
Sebastian Petersen: Only on our own site.
Sramana Mitra: How did people find out about you?
Sebastian Petersen: It was a very different game back then. That was before the first iPhone came out and before Facebook came out. Google was very big back then, so it was just the traditional e-commerce channels back then. We started out becoming good at Google, becoming good at building a customer-friendly website, and getting the logistics set up. It was everything from A to Z.
Sramana Mitra: How did you finance the inventory?
Sebastian Petersen: We started small. We bought three pieces of this and three pieces of that.
Sramana Mitra: You just sold them, made money, and bought some more.
Sebastian Petersen: Yes. We bought two pieces at a time and then sold one. Then we could afford to buy six. Then we sold two. That’s how we grew it. We invested about $5,000 each. That’s how it started. The first three years, we couldn’t afford any salary, so I took a part time job at the post office.
Then we finally got our own apartment. We slept on two mattresses on the floor in the living room. Then we grew out of the apartment into a house. We still slept on the floor in the living room on two mattresses. We just filled the rooms with boxes and packing stations.