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.”