Young entrepreneur Michael Schott came to the Northeast Indiana SBDC in January 2009 for advice on starting an Internet-based business that would sell used and rare video and electronic games and accessories. He had been selling these items informally through eBay, but wanted to form a company with its own online storefront. Business advisor Jane Rich (who has since been promoted to regional director) conducted a feasibility analysis with the client, suggested he develop a business plan, and referred him to an SBDC-affiliated attorney to set up a legal structure for the new business.
By early February 2009, Mr. Schott had obtained an LLC status for his new business, which he named SureSchott LLC. That same month, he was able to establish a $12,000 line of credit from Chase Bank, activate his Web site and make the firm’s first sales through its online storefront. Ms. Rich met with the client and his wife Brittany to discuss business and marketing plan progress and review research that they had conducted on product selection and target customers.
The clients became engrossed in running their online storefront, which was being done on a part-time basis to supplement their income, and did not meet again with the NE ISBDC until May 2010. At that time, the couple reported that they had expanded their merchandise to include products from 15 separate vendors and that their revenue from Internet sales had grown from $17,000 total in 2009 to $12,000 in just the past month.
Using the SPIN process, Ms. Rich uncovered and walked the entrepreneurs through some issues they were having with QuickBooks, inventory tracking and managing growth. The couple also discussed their desire to open a retail store to complement their online sales, and Ms. Rich helped them position the firm for expansion that would turn their business into a full-time operation. Start-up costs and financial projections were developed and refined and taken to the bank. Although the Schotts were unsuccessful in obtaining additional outside funding, they decided to sell one of their automobiles to come up with the minimum start-up expenses needed to open and equip a retail store.
The Schotts located an affordable storefront for their new venture, which they decided to call Intergalactic Toys LLC, and opened for business on October 1. The NE ISBDC completed and distributed a press release to help draw customers to the new business, which received significant media coverage. “We wanted to bring something unique to Fort Wayne, and the store looks amazing,” said Mr. Schott. Intergalactic Toys specializes in premium entertainment and pop culture collectibles that are authentic and licensed, and although the company will continue to sell its products online, it is focusing future development efforts on becoming the Midwest hub for entertainment collectibles. Since the store opened, the Schotts have greatly expanded their inventory and are now offering pre-ordering services for future release, “hot” entertainment collectibles.
The Schotts credit the NE ISBDC for helping them start their business as well as expanding it into a full-time operation. “The SBDC definitely has helped us learn how to understand and manage the numbers and inventory for the business,” according to Mr. Schott. “They provided pep talks and refocused me on what matters in business, and their services helped give me a well-rounded base of knowledge for expanding the business.”
Quote: “The SBDC definitely has helped us learn how to understand and manage the numbers and inventory for our business. . . .They provided pep talks and refocused me on what matters in business, and their services helped give me a well-rounded base of knowledge for expanding the business,” according to Michael Schott, founder of Fort Wayne-based Intergalactic Toys LLC.