Sramana Mitra: What did you do? You said you started a company on the BigCommerce platform?
Jay Perkins: I started a business called Kettlebellkings while I was still employed at BigCommerce. Kettlebells are basically fitness equipment. Along with my co-founders, we would hold meetings for a year and a half leading up to when we formally launched. We knew we wanted to start a business.
We were like-minded, but we didn’t know what we wanted to sell. We would kick around ideas. We eventually decided on kettlebells. There just weren’t a lot of companies focused on building a product and lifestyle brand. We just went for it.
Sramana Mitra: Were these products that you were going to source from China?
Jay Perkins: There’s a little bit of innovation that we worked on later down the road. We were 26 at that time and had never imported before. We bought our first load of products from just another kettlebell provider in the United States. We photographed them and put them up on our website. The original premise was we were going to be a kettlebell superstore where we’d just sell all these brands of kettlebell equipment. We quickly realized the margins weren’t going to be there. We started looking to source kettlebells in China.
Sramana Mitra: What was the overlap between your still working for BigCommerce and starting Kettlebellkings?
Jay Perkins: It was about seven months. We launched Kettlebellkings in August. We probably got our first sale in September. It was January of the next year when I left BigCommerce.
Sramana Mitra: Your co-founders, where were they?
Jay Perkins: A similar scenario. One of them was in Austin with me. He had a corporate job as well at an oil company. He left that and moved to Austin. We worked on a lot of day-to-day together.
Sramana Mitra: While doing this part-time?
Jay Perkins: Yes. He would handle more of the accounting. Another partner and I were doing it full-time.
Sramana Mitra: After you quit, did you bootstrap the company? Did you raise money?
Jay Perkins: We bootstrapped everything. I don’t think either of us was good at making connections. It’s not easy to get money for an unproven idea. We dealt with that for a long time. We were doubling, tripling, quadrupling a year in sales. We still found it very hard to find cheap money to finance the operation. We put in our own money to buy the initial load of kettlebells. It was probably $40,000 to $50,000 total. Even over the years, we continued to borrow money from short-term loans from PayPal or Kabbage.
Sramana Mitra: Kabbage and OnDeck have emerged as one of the best ways to finance small e-commerce businesses.
Jay Perkins: It was great at that time. They were launching right as we were getting started. We had conversations with them and it was easy. Before that, you had to go through this long manual application process. They wanted to charge 25% for your business loan. Kabbage was pretty instrumental in making it super easy.
Sramana Mitra: What were you paying as interest to Kabbage?
Jay Perkins: It was 7% to 10%. It was still, by far, way better than anything we had seen. It was still fairly high.