The Shoestring Millionaires
Start-Up Cost: $583
After eight years of working for others-after he'd owned his own business-Michael Lewis got the inspiration to start PFYC.com. The car enthusiast had been chatting on a Pontiac Grand Prix community Web site when he met Brian Marks, 28, and the two commiserated about the difficulty of finding specialty car parts. Both had jobs in the tech industry at the time, yet they wanted to launch a Web site to meet car hobbyists' needs. Says Lewis, 42, "We had this idea we could do this with little risk because we could use the Internet as our catalog."
The partners started part time out of their homes-with Lewis in Sammamish, Washington, and Marks in Raleigh, North Carolina. "We didn't even meet until we'd been working together for three months," says Lewis. Their earliest expenses were $55 per month for Web hosting and application fees for the Internet transactions and merchant bank account. To save money, they didn't stock inventory at first, but relied on drop-shipping from vendors instead.
In 1999, Lewis quit his job to devote himself full time to the growing venture; Marks quit his job in 2000 and still resides in North Carolina. Lewis credits outsourcing with keeping overhead low-even today, with sales in the millions, they outsource warehousing, distribution and shipping. "As much as you want to start with $2 million in capital, keep the day job, and get your toes wet," says Lewis. "Learn when the consequences aren't so high."
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