Posted on Friday, Jul 17th 2020
From setting up a printing machine in the dining room to $23 million in revenue,
RushOrderTees CEO Michael Nemeroff’s journey is one of steady, diligent execution. Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were your born, raised, and in what kind of background? Michael Nemeroff: I was born and raised right outside Philadelphia. That’s where I’ve lived my whole life. It all started in high school. My parents were entrepreneurs. They owned a clothing line. It’s a lot different from what we do today. Sramana Mitra: Having an entrepreneurial family is a very big driver in a lot of people becoming entrepreneurs because you grow up in an atmosphere where risk and working on your own enterprise is an accepted psychological premise. That’s a very big deal actually in any entrepreneur’s journey. Michael Nemeroff: So a good percentage of people who are entrepreneurs, their parents were as well? Sramana Mitra: I don’t know how many percentage-wise. We’ve never done any statistical analysis, but I hear this repeatedly. People who have come from entrepreneurial families often end up being entrepreneurs. I’m an entrepreneur’s daughter. Michael Nemeroff: I was very young. It was a struggling business at that time. They had me helping in the warehouses doing menial tasks like breaking down boxes, taping boxes, and packing orders. I did that for a few years along with my brother and sister. We helped as much as we could. Then we stopped helping because of school and stuff. One day, my brother came home with a homework project. I was about 12 years old.
The project was, “Type this page and make an HTML website.” I didn’t know what it was. It was his homework test. He was taking a course on it. I typed it up with him. By the end of it, I didn’t know what it was. I said, “What do we do?” He said, “It’s an HTML page.” I said, “How do I see it?” I didn’t know that from the moment I clicked on that page, that it was going to change my life.
When I clicked it, it was a website. I understood what we had done. I realized that I had created something. I became obsessed with learning websites. Then I realized that the world wide web was a huge place. I said, “I think I can make money doing this.” I started doing marketing. I started marketing for sites.
Sramana Mitra: What year was this? Michael Nemeroff: Around 1998. I guess I started doing it because I knew my family was struggling. After a few months of doing that, I went to my mom. I said, “Mom, I think I can help you out. I think I can pay the mortgage.” She told me what the mortgage was and she told me how much it was. It was an insane amount. She didn’t believe me.
I handed her a check. When I handed her the check, she started crying. That moment changed my life as well because I realized how important this was to her. Then I was more interested. I kept doing that. I think I had the record at school for the most absences ever. The teachers all thought that I was a bum because I didn’t tell anybody what I was doing.
Then I was 17. My dad had been depressed from decades of fighting the business. My dad’s friend said, “Why don’t you come out with me? I think you’re a sales person. Why don’t you try and sell t-shirts?” That same day, he came home with three orders. I was used to the Internet. I sat behind the computer. I didn’t even understand what was possible. Then I said, “Let me promote my own business. Let me sell this instead.” Also, he sold to those three places, but a month later, his customers were stolen. I didn’t understand that either. That was when I said, “Let’s take this online.”
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 More »» . 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 Algo.ai 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 . 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Discussing the Evolution of the Indian Startup Industry with Sasha Mirchandani, Kae Capital . Lean Company Bootstraps to $7M . Saatva Co-founder Bootstrapped a $25M E-Commerce Company . Looking at Terms with Heidi Roizen of Threshold Ventures . ADDA Co-founder CEO Bootstrapped with a Paycheck in India . Duda Co-founders Bootstrap with Paychecks . The Importance of Building Value with Shomit Ghose, Onset Ventures . Get Real Health Founder Bootstrapped Using Services . Bootstrapping Unique Vintage Using a Paycheck . Discussing E-commerce Startup Trends with Daniel Gulati, Forecast Fund . Bootstrapping a Digital Startup with a Paycheck . Discussing Seed Stages with Amir Banifatemi of K5 Ventures . Bootstrapping Avelead Using Services from Atlanta . Founder Bootstrapped a Big Data Company Using Services . Discussing Future Unicorns with Warren Weiss, Foundation Capital . Founder Bootstrapped Axosoft with a Paycheck . Raised a Series A with $10 Million in the Bank . 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Bay Dynamics Co-founders Bootstrapped Using Services . Building an AI Software Company from Dallas . RJMetrics Co-founders Bootstrapped First, Raised $22M Later . Bootstrapping Niche E-Commerce Business BuyAutoParts to Exit . TemplateMonster was Bootstrapped to $15 Million . Bootstrapping Edge Hosting to $18 Million . Bootstrapping, Fund Raising and Exiting with Sefaira . Bootstrapping IdeaScale to $5M from Scratch . Bootstrapping to $10M from Finland . Happy Grasshopper CEO Dan Stewart Bootstrapped to Inflection . Bootstrapping Gravity Pro Using Services . Founder Builds Multiple Bootstrapped Education Software Companies . Bootstrapping to $10M from Australia, Raising $25M from the US . Bootstrapped Y Soft to $30M from the Czech Republic . Bootstrapped from Belarus, Raised Money from Silicon Valley