How 18-Year Old Kid Makes Sell Bean Bags Worth $30 Million Each Year
At age 18, Shawn Nelson was watching TV on the couch when he decided "a huge beanbag thing" might be more comfortable. He bought 14 yards of vinyl, cut it into a baseball shape, and spent three weeks filling it with anything soft he could find. The finished LoveSac was 7 feet wide, and everyone who saw it tried it out—and loved it.
When neighbors started placing orders, Nelson decided to start his company almost as a joke. With free help from his friends, he made the LoveSacs in his parents' basement and sold them at trade shows, events and even the drive-in.
Business was moderate at best, until he got a call on his cell phone that changed his life: a quarter-million-dollar order from Too Inc., which was looking for a back-to-school offering for its Limited Too stores. "I answered the phone and said, 'Twelve thousand LoveSacs? Sure, no problem. That's what we do; we're the best in the world at it,'" remembers Nelson.
Undaunted, Nelson amassed $50,000 in credit card debt building a factory. He worked 19-hour days and slept at the factory. "It nearly broke me emotionally, physically, mentally," Nelson says. "My hands were cracked and bleeding. We finished the order [for Too Inc.] but ate up all our profits." Just when things seemed darkest, a deceptively simple idea presented itself: Open a mall store. Not just any store, but one designed from the beginning to look like an upscale chain—even before it was a chain. It paid off: With some 55 stores, about half of them franchised, LoveSac is looking at sales topping $30 million this year.
"We're headed toward owning [the market for] oversized living," says Nelson, who dispenses with all modesty where his business is concerned. "We're going to have a catalog that'll be three inches thick, selling everything that's over-the-top, bling-bling, LoveSac-get-out-of-our-freaking-way."
No one fully expected LoveSac's success—not even Nelson himself. He says being committed to solving any problem is vital to his—and any entrepreneur's—success. "Decide that there is always a way," he says, "and you'll find that there is.”
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