I’m not normally one to stand around marveling at the achievements of others. I’d rather be coming up with new ideas of my own and implementing them. That said, there are some truly incredible people in our industry, and I wanted to bring to your attention four ecommerce entrepreneurs I admire, and think you should too. 🙂
Everyone knows who Jeff Bezos is, right? If you don’t, Jeff Bezos is the guy who started Amazon – the global ecommerce brand. There are lots of resources about Jeff Bezos available online, my favorite being a Kindle book called The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (click here to buy it).
I couldn’t put the book down when I bought it, and it really delves deep into the history of Amazon, and the mind of Jeff Bezos. It seems like not a week goes by when Amazon isn’t bemoaned in the press for something or other (in Europe, at least, it’s usually tax related!)
Rarely do people stand back and admire exactly what Bezos has built, however. It goes far beyond just packing things in envelopes and sending them out to people – Amazon owns the Kindle ebook brand, Audible audio books, LOVEFiLM / Amazon Studios, and Amazon Web Services (perhaps their most profitable subsidiary).
Amazon is a huge company – but it didn’t start that way. The aforementioned book goes some way to remind us all that from small acorns oak trees grow – because once upon a time, Bezos’ business was no bigger than yours or mine.
No matter what you opinion of Amazon happens to be – good, bad or indifferent – Jeff Bezos is an ecommerce entrepreneur we should all admire.
Never heard of Rohan Gilkes? Me neither, up until a couple of weeks ago. I was browsing through a Facebook group I’m a member of, and I saw Gilkes had made a few posts about his subscription shaving business. Now I’m a guy with a beard, so I clicked on the link, naturally, and was extremely impressed by what I read.
In a nutshell, Gilkes bought a website via Reddit then shipped in a buddy from the other side of the USA to help him get “The Wet Shave Club” rocking and rolling. You can read the full story on Reddit.
Hundreds of ecommerce websites are started every day – and a lot of ecommerce entrepreneurs like to document what they’ve done, but this particular case study really struck a chord with me. I love the way Gilkes spotted an underperforming website and pounced – and I love the way he was totally right, and is on the verge of hitting the $100,000 per month mark.
Another thing that’s really cool about Gilkes’ case study and his website is the fact it’s subscription based. Various people I know from business circles tell me that “the money is in a subscription revenue model” – but I’ve never really pursued this up until now.
Clearly The Wet Shave Club is going really well, so at some point this year I want to trial subscription services on FalseEyelashes.co.uk and NailPolish.co.uk. We’re not quite sure how to go about the execution of them just yet, but there’s definitely mileage in the business model. It offers extreme convenience for customers, and recurring revenue for the vendor. It’s a win/win situation!
It’s all well and good hearing about multi millionaire/billionaire CEOs who were once like you and I. But reading a case study by someone like Rohan Gilkes often reminds us that anything is possible – all it takes is a little idea and a lot of work to be successful. It’s often hard to be inspired by people you can’t relate to, but in the case of Gilkes he’s just a regular guy – and that’s why I think we should all admire what he’s done.
John Roberts’ story is a cracker – Roberts is the man responsible for launching Appliances Online, or AO.com as it’s now called. Appliances Online was one of the very first online electrical retailers catering for customers in the UK, the aim was to cut the cost of electrical products for the end consumer by bypassing unnecessary links in the supply chain.
Critics were sceptical as to whether the venture would be successful – especially given that buying things online wasn’t particularly popular nearly 20 years ago. Appliances Online has gone on to thrive, and the company went public in February 2014, with an initial value of almost $2 billion.
In many ways AO.com has changed the way in which we shop for electrical products here in the UK. Whereas before you’d have to call in at a big box store to buy a new oven or washing machine, you can now do so from the comfort of your very own home – and you can even have it delivered the next day.
AO.com have a big focus on customer service, low prices and quick delivery – three vitally important areas for ecommerce businesses to get right.
The fact Roberts understood exactly how crucial these areas were to his business meant he’s been able to build a rapport with customers from day one – along with an outstanding reputation. With a series of shrewd acquisitions behind him, Roberts is now very much focused on cracking the European electrical market.
AO.com isn’t as widely known as Amazon in terms of ecommerce success, but make no mistake about it – we can all learn a thing or two from John Roberts and his multi billion pound white goods venture.
The final entrepreneur I want to talk about is called Mark Pearson – Pearson’s achievements are a little different to those of the other entrepreneurs I’ve mentioned, because Pearson’s company doesn’t ship physical products to anyone.
The website that saw Mark Pearson shoot to notoriety as a leading ecommerce entrepreneur in the UK is called MyVoucherCodes.co.uk – you could say, the UK’s answer to RetailMeNot.com.
You can read Mark’s story here. My Voucher Codes makes money by offering voucher codes for people to redeem on ecommerce websites (like yours and mine). In most cases, when a user redeems a code from MyVoucherCodes.co.uk – or when they click a referral link from My Voucher Codes – they receive a small cut of the final transaction price (aka a commission). It’s only likely to be a few pennies or pounds per customer, but when you have tens of thousands of customers using your codes and clicking your links each day, that money soon starts to add up.
You’re probably wondering how this is relevant to an ecommerce business owner, like you or I, right? Well the thing that has always struck me the most about Mark is quite how much money he sold his business for (in excess of $80 million) versus the paltry sum he started up with (around $500). When you consider that Pearson had no formal funding or loans, that’s a ridiculously large sum of money to sell out for.
To me, MyVoucherCodes.co.uk is a prime example of an online business that has moved with the times and thrived thanks to technology and a lot of hard work.
This story just proves that you don’t need tens of thousands of dollars worth of investment behind you to make it big in the world of ecommerce. Mark Pearson and MyVoucherCodes.co.uk should inspire us all, because if you give people what they want, they’ll come back to your website time and time again.
If you have the ambition and drive to push your ecommerce business, there’s absolutely no reason why it can’t succeed.
If these four ecommerce entrepreneurs aren’t enough to make you feel inspired, I thought you might like to read these 10 inspiring quotes to help you find motivation and energy to really hit the jackpot in 2015!