Front windows and an office

When we broke through the wall in our warehouse location we ended up with windows and an actual front door.

We bought some desks and got ready to roll. And we had our first big idea. We would start an online store.

This was in 1998, well before other companies. But, what should we sell? School-Paks were still so new and a lot of people weren’t buying things online as such. After a trip to the store, we decided that Jansport backpacks would be a good fit.

So we called the Jansport rep in and got set up as an account. She helped us pick out a simple selection of backpacks. We got all of the jpgs, all the descriptions all the pricing, set everything up online and sat back, waiting for the sales to roll in.

The sales rep was pretty excited about our attempts as there were so few companies selling Jansport online.

Our first sale came in for a black Super Break backpack. Which we didn’t have. So we began running around to stores looking for one. We finally found it in South Milwaukee at a Kohls store, purchased at retail and sold it for a loss since we were selling at retail and never factored in our gas and time buying it. But we established the fact that customers would buy things online.

We then approached Mead to see if we could get their items online. They showed no interest in working with us. So we ended up with just Jansport at that time.

By 2000, we had a great presence online and were stunned when we received an email from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal.  He had found our site, and some others including Office Depot, and had placed an order for supplies and a backpack. We had sent them out the next day and so impressed him that we were named “Best Overall Value” in a news story. Next we found that MSNBC ran a story about it. We were getting recognized. Finally, we were mentioned on Rosie O’Donnell’s show.

Things were starting to ramp up and all we saw was the road ahead of us. We forgot to check for potholes. And they were there.