The Startup Success series features interviews with regional entrepreneurs who received funding from the Dingman Center Angels investor network. To date in 2012, members have invested in 5 companies. In 2011, member invested in eight regional companies, making it the network’s most active year since its founding in 2004.. Click HERE to see the rest of the Dingman Center Angels portfolio companies.
6th Street Commerce focuses on simplifying and streamlining the critical business processes associated with managing a successful E-commerce business. Using their E-commerce software platform – SalesWarp™, 6th Street Commerce has been able to save their clients from $600K to over $3.5M by automating all the critical business and marketing processes needed to run an E-commerce business, including order processing, shipping, customer management, product publishing and SEO.
6th Street Commerce received funding through the Dingman Center Angels in 2012. This interview in our “Startup Success” series features CEO & Founder, Dave Potts and VP of Marketing David Anderson.
How did you get the idea for your business?
David Potts: 6th Street Commerce came out of a retail experience that I had with my family. I was living through the pains that retailers had with taking their businesses online while helping family and friends with their own online businesses. That became the foundation of the company and the source of our technology platform which we have branded SalesWarp.
What phase is the company in?
David Potts: We developed the product for two years and then brought it to market last year, generating a small profit our first year. We’re now in rapid expansion. The first year was the initial product line and roll-out. Now in year two, we’re going into a broader market.
Phase 1 involved direct sales to retailers; Phase 2 is targeted at resellers (Web Design Firms, Creative Agencies, E-commerce service providers) where we let our clients sell and customize the product. These first two phases have been aimed at larger retailers and resellers, while Phase 3 will bring SalesWarp to smaller mom-and-pop style retailers through a cloud-based product.
As a startup, what are some of the greatest challenges you face?
David Anderson: We’ve run into problems with resources, which is why we turned to the Dingman Center Angels. We had an overflow of client engagements. Another challenge has been awareness marketing. We’ve been focusing on getting market awareness through trade shows and conferences, and teaming up with partners in order to get the word out to retailers.
What is your best networking tool?
David Anderson: We use Twitter and LinkedIn quite a bit, and have been getting into Facebook more as well. Overall, Twitter has been the most effective so far and LinkedIn has always given us a good advantage in helping us target specific clients. But beyond those social media tools, our partner network has been the most important.
What piece of advice/information have you received that has added the most value to your business?
David Anderson: The best piece of advice I can offer is this: connect yourself to people who are smarter than you. Don’t rely on yourself for everything. You need a good team and good advisors.
David Potts: Bringing in seasoned advisors has been immensely helpful in terms of overcoming fundraising and other startup challenges. If you can find those folks out there in your industry, then tap into that brain trust as much as you can.
What was the Dingman Center Angels review process like?
David Potts: It’s been one of the more aggressive and productive groups that we’ve met with locally. I’ve spent most of my career in Texas and California in the smartphone industry and I am used to working with a mature investor group. We didn’t run into a similar group locally until we met the Dingman Center Angels. It’s refreshing and the review process was very constructive. We had our funding two weeks after we presented, so it went well overall and they continue to provide assistance.
Have you had to pivot with your current business plan?
David Potts: One of the things with any new business is that you’re constantly testing what resonates with clients. We pivot frequently in the early stages to meet our clients’ needs. We’ll roll out a pitch in front of our target customers, listen to what they have to say, and then switch things up. As a startup, you can’t have qualms about changing product strategy.
David Anderson: The product itself is built off of a real world need. For the past couple of years, we’ve had the benefit of working on this before bringing it out to the rest of the market. It was proven when it started, and not all entrepreneurs have that luxury. Our pivots aren’t as much on the product functions, but more on marketing based on our customer needs and response to our messaging.
What do you think about the current state of the entrepreneurial community in Washington DC and Baltimore?
David Potts: Obviously, the DC market is the most mature in this area. But I’ve seen Baltimore start to evolve as well. We see an emerging entrepreneurial community, with folks that are more credible. That gives us hope that new companies will have an easier path forward.
6th Street Commerce is founded on the same software (SalesWarp™) that David Potts used to grow his own family’s online business. He originally developed the system in 2006 as they found no available solution that could handle the needs of their business growth at a reasonable cost. Being an entrepreneur at heart, David has always enjoyed working in new and emerging markets.
Avid triathlete and Vice President of Marketing, David Anderson brings a unique background in creative, branding and marketing that encompasses over 20 years. David founded and managed a small 5-person design boutique in Connecticut for almost 10 years before moving to Maryland in 2006 to offer Brand Consulting services to the agency and business community.