It was 1994: the Internet was still in its infancy and e-commerce was still a relatively new phenomenon. During this exciting time, I crystallized a vision of a better way for businesses to shop online, which inspired me to take a huge risk by leaving my highly paid position with Goldman Sachs. Through the chaos of the early web, many players emerged and crumbled; more people told me that my vision could not succeed than could. Not deterred, and believing in myself and the vision, I moved forward.
Our first office was my apartment and we were a staff of only one. Small and underfunded, it was additionally difficult recruiting the right people to join our team; I wanted my employees to be just as passionate about my vision as I was. That vision would evolve into Shoplet.com
At the time of our original incarnation, we offered everything from CD-ROMs, electronics, and business supplies to boats and cars. While our selection was vast and spanning multiple categories, some items got better traction online than others. The challenges of selling a diversity of items taught us the value of cultivating a unique online platform and offering a competitive, sustainable value proposition to our customers. When we saw that the strongest area of our business pertained to office and business supplies, we seized the opportunity to concentrate on that and create a single source environment that specializes in providing companies with the widest and largest selection of business & office products.
“...we seized the opportunity to
concentrate on that and create a single source environment that specializes in providing companies with the widest and largest selection of business & office products.”
While finding our footing in the office and business supplies industry, we quickly realized that ordering office and business supplies was overly complicated, costly, and time consuming. Most small and medium sized businesses remained underserved and neglected, since they lacked a central ordering platform or means by which they could set budgets per cost center, set purchasing policies or track, manage and approve of orders. Only large organizations and Fortune 100 companies could readily afford and justify such platforms, which, on average, cost over $750K. So, in 1997, less than three years after Shoplet.com's debut, we introduced the beginnings of our own, free hosted, proprietary eProcurement platform, which revolutionized how our customers thought about and ordered business products. We had finally accomplished one of our biggest goals: level the playing fields and equip small and medium size businesses, which otherwise would have never been able to afford a custom procurement solution, with the power to control and streamline their purchasing processes. However, we knew that we could do more.
While in the process of establishing our company identity, we also hoped to transform the $250 billion Office Product Industry (OPI) into a more socially-minded industry by making green products the standard. However, it was difficult for Shoplet.com to become environmentally friendly, because, regrettably, green practices were not a priority in the corporate world. Shoplet.com needed to show how businesses could be environmentally conscious in their purchasing decisions, while staying on budget. Fortunately, the cost of eco-friendly items were rapidly declining and the quality was meeting or exceeding the standards of its non-green counterpart items. Additionally, we were the first socially responsible company to introduce a Green Calculator™, which displays, in the most direct and measurable way, the huge impact Shoplet.com's customers have made through their environmentally friendly purchasing decisions. We also introduced the Green Your Cart™ and Green Your Search™ tools to make finding our 20,000+ environmentally friendly products even easier. We recognized that small operational changes will drive a huge environmental impact. At the same time, we embarked on a campaign to educate, encourage, and influence businesses to make more sustainable choices. We are proud to say that after 19 years and counting we, along with our 3 million plus subscribed customers, have helped save over 90,000 trees, which is equivalent to 21,000,000 lbs of CO2.
“We recognized that small operational changes would drive a huge environmental impact.”
On the rise, Shoplet.com continued to suffer from moments of serious doubt. The ".com" crash in the early 2000's cast Shoplet.com in a dim light, simply because Shoplet had ".com" associated with its name. During that time, Shoplet.com suffered significant hardships and was summarily lumped in with other e-commerce companies that were forced to shut down due to their faulty business models. Imagine asking for a letter of credit, when everyone believed that your company was doomed to fail within a year's time. After the ".com" crash, Internet companies were not looked at favorably. Yet again, we had to pull together our resources to prove our toughest critics wrong by demonstrating our staying power as a company. With determination, we not only persevered through the ".com" crash, but also prospered. From 2001 until 2007, our annual income increased by triple digits year over year, and since 2007 has continued to flourish by strong double digits year over year, outpacing the rest of the industry over 30 times over.
But the ".com" crash would not be the end of our struggles. As a New York City company located a few blocks away from Ground Zero, we, like the majority of lower Manhattan businesses, closed our doors, since our offices were part of the crime scene for six weeks following September 11th, 2001. Without running Shoplet.com's business for six weeks, I feared that, in the meantime, Shoplet's clientele would not return. Yet, despite this difficult test, our customers stuck with us, as they did twelve years later, when Shoplet's Internet and phone lines were disconnected for six weeks due to Superstorm Sandy in October of 2012.
If it weren't for the value proposition and exceptional quality of our services - Shoplet's online perks and supportive customer support team - perhaps we would have lost a great deal of our client base and dissolved like many other companies have during these tough times. The symbiotic relationship between Shoplet.com and its customers is one of the greatest successes of Shoplet's approach to business.
One of our earliest challenges was being an unknown player in the office supply industry, but as our reputation grew we were proud to see Shoplet.com emerge as a key player in the office and business supply category, being recognized by New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Office Products International and more recently by Internet Retailer Magazine as the HOT 100 e-commerce company in the world.
Today, Shoplet.com has become a leader in the online only business category. Our enormous growth and success is beyond our wildest dreams and in 2011 we re-located and expanded our corporate headquarters for the third time in less than five years to accommodate our aggressive growth. Shoplet.com continues to offer a variety of specialty items, such as Office Supplies, Printer paper, Technology, Office Furniture, Ink and Toner Supplies, and Cleaning and Maintenance supplies. Our customers are most impressed by free next day shipping on most orders over £30, a selection of over 1,000,000 products, and an unbeatable 110% price match guarantee, all backed up by our best in class US based customer service team.
Shoplet.com's mission to help businesses solve problems in socially responsible ways is never-ending. In June of 2013, we expanded our operations internationally and opened our first office in the UK. We now intend to extend our services to Canada and, possibly, to the Far East and South America. Through international expansion, we hope all purchasing managers, entrepreneurs, and visionaries will take advantage of our commitment to creating a more socially responsible, effective, and sophisticated means for our customers to order online.
What was once just my dream and passion is now the passion and dream of the entire Shoplet.com community. We have chosen to remain a private company, because we believe it is the best decision for our customers. As Shoplet.com looks to the future, we continue to embrace new ecological and social solutions, while offering the best selection, service, and simplified online shopping experience.
Signed TONY ELLISON
Founder & CEO