Owner: Jana Francis
Name: Steals Network
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
How it got started
Jana just had a little girl, 6 years after having 2 boys, and now that she had a great job, she was excited to buy all the things! Since she had a full time job though, she found it difficult to spend any time shopping at brick and mortar stores. She also had a hard time online since there was just SO MUCH to choose from! She wanted someone to tell her “this is a product you should buy, and this is why”, but found there wasn’t anyone online doing that. She decided to create it herself and babysteals.com was born.
Making it happen
When she launched babysteals.com in April 2008, she decided she was not going to collect any income from the business for the first year. This way they could put all of the profits back into the company to help it grow faster. Since she wasn’t taking a paycheck from the company, she stayed at her full time job while she grew the steals.com business. This proved extremely difficult and 6 months into this plan, she decided to leave her full time job and concentrate on steals.com. She considers waiting those 5 months one of the biggest mistakes she made in growing her business. Her website launched before all of the other “deal of the day” sites launched, and if she had been able to spend even more time growing her business, she is positive her site would be even more successful than it currently is. Once she was able to dedicate herself fully to her business she was able to grow out of her garage (where she was shipping and storing inventory before) and move into a warehouse and office space!It's incredible how much the company grew as soon as I was focusing on it all day. Click To Tweet
She has been able to celebrate various moments in the business like their 1 millionth order and their 2 millionth order, and has been nominated for entrepreneur of the year, but doesn’t consider those her greatest moments or what makes her happiest about her business. She loves the community she has built through customers that have been shopping with her for years and has developed relationships and friendships with them. Her customers really end up supporting each other and celebrating with each other, and create connections with each other because of the steals.com sites. These relationships and communities that she helped create brings Jana so much joy, and gives her the push to keep doing what she is doing.
One huge challenge for Jana is obviously, online retailers like Amazon. With their deep pockets and seemingly unlimited supply of products. Jana’s business model only allows for 365 products a year (per site), and they purchase the products in advance and fulfill the orders. It’s almost impossible to guess how many units of a specific product will sell, and when one doesn’t sell well they have an overstock of inventory. She is actually currently working to overcome these issues right now! She has decided to adjust her business model to accommodate more products, and more vendors, with less overhead for her company. When she is able to pass fulfillment back to the vendors she is featuring, it will take a lot of pressure off of playing the guessing game for the daily deal. Definitely watch her sites as she rolls out these new changes and check out how successful it becomes!
Advice for other businesses
The best piece of advice she has for other folks just starting out, is not to give equity in your business to someone with a skill you can hire and fire. It’s definitely a tempting solution to a problem for start ups. Find someone who is willing to get the job done for free, and give them a stake in your business. She experienced this when she launched another site called kidcrawl, which would scan online retailers for the best deals on products, and had an amazing forum for users to communicate and connect with one another. She partnered with a developer to make the website a reality, but the partner had other side projects, one of which exploded successfully and they were no longer able to put much effort into this project. They made the decision to close the site down, which was extremely sad for Jana. If the developer was someone she could just hire and fire, she could have found another developer and kept it going. It was definitely a great lesson for her.Never give equity in your business to someone who has skills you can hire and fire. Click To Tweet
Her second piece of advice might be a little more controversial, but she says in the beginning she would have made it a requirement to work in the office instead of hiring a lot of remote employees. The main reason for this is that when you are starting out you need to establish processes and collaborate a lot more, and doing that over text can prove very difficult. She believes you can have remote employees, and she still does, but she said in the beginning they would have been much more efficient and able to grow more quickly if they were all working in the same space.
Watch the video of her interview!