Over the past several years I’ve come to realize that being a young business owner is not a common thing. It elicits a slew of different responses from people. Any student or young professional interested in starting their own business always asks me “how did you get started?” And with good reason – it’s a daunting task. Starting a successful business takes a combination of work ethic, insane optimism, and luck, among other things.
Here’s a time line of the path I took. It wasn’t all planned, it wasn’t anywhere near the shortest path to success, but the result has been an absolutely amazing ride that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I am eternally grateful for being able to make a living doing something I enjoy so much. Hopefully you’ll be able to draw from it in your quest for entrepreneurial success.
- 1/2003 – As a 20 year old engineering intern, a fellow student and I developed a somewhat innovative new quality testing device.
- 7/2004– I spent my summer learning to program, culminating in the launch of a sports collectibles marketplace SportsLizard.com (check out the current about page for a screenshot of the original site).
- 12/2004 – Upon graduating Magna Cum Laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Industrial Engineering, I decided to move from NY to CT to take a job with that same company I interned with. I figured I’d run SportsLizard in my free time.
- 10/2005 – SportsLizard won Honorable Mention in the Microsoft Start Something Amazing Awards and I was subsequently interviewed for a feature in the February 2006 issue of Tuff Stuff Magazine.
- 11/2005 – I started the SportsLizard Entrepreneur Blog, which eventually became this blog.
- 1/2006 – Unsatisfied with my corporate job, anxious to keep up SportsLizard’s momentum, and scared of becoming miserable like many of my co-workers, I quit my job and moved back to NY.
- 6/2006 -half a year into running SportsLizard full time, it failed to grow (due to some really poor decisions). I decided to switch directions and launched a web to-do list software called iPrioritize.
- 10/2006 – iPrioritize got a ton of publicity and a lot of user registrations, but alas didn’t make much money due to a poorly set up premium service and the general perception that “web 2.0” services should be free. Capitalizing on that publicity and needing money to avoid going broke and returning to work, I began doing web consulting work.
- 11/2006 – My sites were growing, as was my consulting business. I was finally profiting enough to support myself.
- 12/2006 – My consulting work led me to my current partners, whom I knew from high school. George and Greg ran Detailed Image, while Mike ran Chinese Food America. In December, Mike, George and I purchased a now-defunct website together and decided to incorporate our business. Pure Adapt Inc was born. We had a crazy night out to celebrate.
- 2/2007 – Greg and DetailedImage officially became part of Pure Adapt. Splitting our focus between my consulting work and running our sites – primarily Detailed Image – we were profitable in our first month.
- 4/2007 – SportsLizard’s Price Guide Tool made it’s debut. While it didn’t set the collecting world on fire as we had hoped, it provided (and still does) a steady revenue stream of premium subscribers.
- 8/2007 – We began looking for a warehouse for Detailed Image. We thought we had a deal, but it thankfully fell through at the last minute.
- 9/2007 -Recognizing that DetailedImage needed a total overhaul to grow, we completed months of development on a custom shopping cart platform. Immediately we saw the results we had hoped for. Mistakes were down, efficiency was up, and revenue was way up.
- 9/2007 – Music-Alerts is born and subsequently makes it’s way through the blogsphere, featured on popular tech sites like Lifehacker and FoxNews.com. My little “side project” became much more popular than I had hoped.
- 10/2007 – We mistakenly started a new web design service called Faceup-Sites. These clients turned out to be far less profitable than our web marketing and search engine optimization clients that we had previously.
- 2/2008 – We moved into a 5,300 sq-ft warehouse in Guilderland, NY
- 3/2008 – Realizing we spread ourselves too thin, we decided to fire all of our clients and focus solely on growing our e-commerce sites, which at this time consisted of just Detailed Image.
- 4/2008 – We launched Tastefully Driven using the same e-commerce platform that was successful for Detailed Image. The site was to be a “premium shopping community” with a social conscience. The community aspect failed, but the site met sales goals and turned over inventory, in large part due to listing our products for sale on Amazon.
- 5/2008 – Capping an immensely stressful few months where we stopped paying ourselves, our heat stopped working, and we fired our accountant during tax season, we had major server issues a week after I moved to a new apartment. We potentially lost tens of thousands of dollars and I almost had a nervous breakdown.
- 5/2008 – I began forcing some balance into my life, writing one of my favorite and most popular posts Productive Output: What the 9 – 5 Misses and Why I’m Done with a 40 Hour Workweek
- 6/2008 – We launched one of our coolest features – a system that automatically puts a different Detailed Image item on sale each day for 24 hours only.
- 10/2008 – I gave a presentation on entrepreneurship as a career choice to students at Skidmore College.
- 11/2008 – We made our first Commerce with Conscience donation for Tastefully Driven, donating 5% of first year profit to the Regional Foodbank of Northeastern New York. A very proud moment for me.
- 12/2008 – We had a record-setting holiday season, so much so that our competitors complained about our pricing. For the year, revenue more than doubled in 2008.
- 1/2009 – We start re-developing our e-commerce platform in an attempt to dominate the auto detailing niche and create a system that can be easily portable to other markets.
- 2/2009 – The EZ Detail Brush that we sell at Detailed Image was featured in Autoweek magazine, bringing an unanticipated wave of sales.
- 3/2009 – Despite facing increasing time constraints, we decide to fast-track our new e-commerce platform and increase our paid sponsorships in an attempt to accelerate our growth.
- 4/2009 – March was our fastest growing month ever, with revenue 33% higher than our previous highest month. As we always try to do, we went out and celebrated.
- 5/2009 – We launched our new e-commerce platform on Detailed Image. The response was overwhelmingly positive, both in terms of feedback and sales.
- 6/2009 – We completely re-organized our warehouse, putting the most popular brands on the most prominent shelving units, with the most popular products at eye-level. We then modified our invoices to print out in the order that the products were located. Result – a huge time savings and less errors.
- 7/2009 – We hired our first employee and he exceeded our expectations. After settling in, we started having him take daily inventory of a small sample random products to essentially eliminate the need for bi-monthly physical inventories.
- 8/2009 – We started promoting our Going Green Program on Detailed Image.
- 8/2009 – I launched Z.ips.ME, an open source URL shortener for PHP and MySQL. It was subsequently featured on the popular technology blog Read Write Web.
- 9/2009 – We hired our second part time employee. Again, he’s doing a great job.
- 10/2009 – I traveled to Virginia to give two guest lectures on entrepreneurship as a career choice at James Madison University.
- 11/2009 – Black Friday and Cyber Monday were even bigger than last year. We had our largest single day of sales on Cyber Monday. November was our largest month in revenue by a good 25%.
- 1/2010 – In an effort to become more efficient, more scalable, and more profitable, we decided to eliminate several functions of our business. First we closed Tastefully Driven and stopped selling on Amazon, and then we stopped shipping packages to international and APO addresses.
- 2/2010 – We added two major features to Detailed Image – a weekly free product coupon code and an Ask-a-Pro Detailer Blog. Both made a big impact immediately.
- 2/2010 – We announced our next venture, a sports news application called LockerPulse
- 5/2010 – LockerPulse was finally launched to the public! The overall response was great, but I was totally wiped out.
- 8/2010 – We hired our first full-time employee!
- 10/2010 – I completed a busy 6 week stretch where we improved our inventory zone system, re-designed LockerPulse and added close to 600 new news sources, improved the Detailed Image checkout process, and built and released a mobile site for Detailed Image.
- 11/2010 – We had another record breaking Cyber Monday with Detailed Image. We set records for most revenue in a day, in a month, and set our yearly record with a month to spare.
- 12/2010 – LockerPulse was featured in the new Google Chrome OS Web App Store at launch, which helped the site get some notoriety and bring in a wave of new users.
- 12/2010 – My partner George decided to leave the company. Mike, Greg, and I did our best to pick up the slack and continue to move forward with our plans.
- 1/2011 – We renewed our warehouse lease for another three years.
- 3/2011 – After Google contacted us about using LockerPulse in their March Madness promotion, I worked my tail off to add NCAA coverage to our site in five days. The promotion was a huge success, completely worth the effort.
- 3/2011 – Detailed Image completed it’s most successful sale ever, breaking our revenue record for a four-day stretch, surpassing Black Friday to Cyber Monday from 2010, and helping March become our largest month of revenue to date.
- 5/2011 – We continued a great Spring when May crushed all of our previous revenue and profitability records from March and April.
- 7/2011 – We scored a large line of credit with our bank. Not something we necessarily needed, but it gives us even more financial flexibility moving forward.
- 8/2011 – A chaotic year continued when we were audited by New York State. The good news: we learned a lot and NYS actually ended up owing us money!
- 9/2011 – Hurricane Irene struck in Upstate, NY. Many of the apartments where I live were destroyed. Thankfully, our place was OK. My girlfriend’s car was totaled. We had to live at my parents for 5 days. But all in all we were very fortunate.
- 9/2011 – We launched Fantasy Player Tracking for LockerPulse, a feature that was highly requested and well-received as soon as we released it.
- 9/2011 – We launched a much-needed update to the PureAdapt.com website. Along with the new site, we announced that we were hiring.
- 10/2011 – I visited James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA again. This time I not only gave my “Entrepreneurship as a Career Choice” talk, but I also worked hands-on with a group of students that were taking a class called “Web Venturing” that I was co-teaching.
- 11/2011 – We completed some major upgrades to our warehouse, including a new heating unit and a new office area.
- 11/2011 – Cyber Monday was once again a huge success, breaking our single-day revenue record set the previous year.
- 12/2011 – We announced two new full-time hires, Reece & Bobby. We’re excited to have them join the team! I did an in-depth series of posts chronicling why most hiring processes suck and how we approach things differently.
- 3/2012 – We shut down the warehouse for a day to help a local soup kitchen move
- 5/2012 – After plenty of setbacks, we launched the new LockerPulse. I learned a lot about working from home for long stretches. We also learned a lot about HTML5, responsive design, and the latest web trends that we were able to incorporate into the product.
- 6/2012 – As Bobby came on full-time, my partners and I were spending most of our time training the team. We stumbled into a genius way of creating documentation. We also tried to set an example by taking on the worst warehouse cleaning task: bathrooms.
- 8/2012 – In one of our most thoroughly analyzed and debated decisions, we decided to offer free shipping on all orders over $149 and $4.99 flat shipping on all orders over $49 every day at Detailed Image. I explained why.
- 8/2012 – I got married!
- 9/2012 – After almost a month of our warehouse DSL failing, we figured out the culprit: Google Drive!
- 10/2012 – We made the decision to shut down Music-Alerts. I have some great memories of the service, but it was time to move on.
- 10/2012 – I traveled to NYC for the NY Sports Technology Meetup. I met a ton of great people in the industry, and everyone was thoroughly impressed with LockerPulse.
- 11/2012 – We destroyed all of our sales records after an extraordinarily successful “Cyber Monday Week.”
- 12/2012 – For the first time we stayed really busy right through Christmas.
- 1/2013 – I released a variety of code improvements, including a some really cool improvements to our search engine, in preparation for our large redesign
- 3/2013 – In the midst of working on the Detailed Image redesign, we unexpectedly shipped a record number of packages.
- 4/2013 – We launched the new Detailed Image! I broke down all of the improvements, headlined by a responsive design. This restored our feeling that our site was one of the best shopping experiences on the web.
- 5/2013 – A few weeks after launching, my wife and I closed on our first house. What a crazy time!
- 7/2013 – We renewed our lease to stay in our warehouse for another 3 years.
- 7/2013 – To celebrate our success these past few years, we rented a box at a local minor-league baseball game. We invited all of our employees and their significant others.
- 7/2013 – I wrote about how and why we adjusted our vacation policies. Having employees is quite the learning experience.
- 9/2013 – After our data source decided to shut down, we released a new version of SportsLizard. We considered licensing more data and expanding into other industries, but ultimately settled for a scaled back redesign that works OK but requires little to no maintenance.
- 11/2013 – We finally got better lighting in our warehouse!
- 12/2013 – We had another record-breaking Cyber Monday Week, however our smooth operations had an unexpected downside: it wasn’t as much fun.
- 1/2014 – I posted about my two goals for 2014: focusing on revenue/profitability and slowing the f$#@ down
- 1/2014 – Our warehouse had a major flood, which set us back countless hours working on cleanup and the insurance claim. However, as I wrote a few years later, some good things came from it.
- 1/2014 – We adopted a new schedule where the owners only go in once per week. We needed more uninterrupted time to get work done, and our employees had earned the right to run the warehouse.
- 3/2014 – I (finally) moved this blog from Adam-McFarland.net to AdamMcFarland.com!
- 5/2014 – In part because of our shipping innovations, we blew away our sales expectations in April & May. That rarely happens but we’re happy when it does!
- 6/2014 – I wrote about my home office. The flexibility of being able to work from home most days is one of my favorite aspects of running our business.
- 7/2014 – July 15th was the 10 year anniversary of the launch of SportsLizard!
- 9/2014 – I wrote a LockerPulse Fantasy Football Android App…and then we promptly sold LockerPulse to SportSpyder!
- 9/2014 – Detailed Image celebrated it’s 10th anniversary, although I didn’t become involved until 2006/7
- 9/2014 – Detailed Image became the US master distributor of 22ple products. Distributing is a logical progression for us as a business and this was a baby step in that direction.
- 11/2014 – Just in time for the holiday shopping rush we launched Guest Checkouts, a feature we should have had years ago. The holidays were a success, but the FedEx API crashed on Cyber Monday sending me into a week long spiral of shipping programming to ensure future downtime wouldn’t affect us.
- 12/2014 – Capping off a year of 10-year anniversaries, I celebrated my 10 year anniversary of graduating college. In retrospect 2004 was a pretty important year!
- 1/2015 – I wrote a series of posts on how we were finally able to ship with the USPS after 7 years, and why that was so important to our business
- 3/2015 – In part due to the USPS launch, the final day of our 25% Off Spring Sale was one of our largest sales days ever – bigger than Cyber Monday 2014!
- 5/2015 – A busy Spring of sales continued when we set a record for number of packages shipped in one day during our Memorial Day Sale!
- 6/2015 – My post Why Most Hiring Processes Suck was picked up on the Hacker News Homepage!
- 8/2015 – The 2015 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in America was released, and we were on it!
- 9/2015 – I returned to the classroom by helping out with a social entrepreneurship class at SUNY Albany
- 11/2015 – I officially made it 10 years of blogging! My first post was in November of 2005.
- 1/2016 – I continued volunteering at SUNY Albany, this semester working on several occasions with the senior level entrepreneurship class to help develop and grow their ventures.
- 2/2016 – I celebrated my 10th anniversary of leaving my job by trying out a new posting schedule.
- 2/2016 – We completely revamped how we sell products bundled together as kits. Within a few months it became evident that this was a great move as kit sales drastically increased.
- 6/2016 – I completed a large project overhauling our payment experience with a much-improved credit card form, the ability to save a card for future purchases, and more.
- 6/2016 – The Albany Business Review named us to their 2016 list of Fastest Growing Companies and ran a corresponding story on us. I hustled to launch a new Pure Adapt, Inc website in time for the release of the article.
- 7/2016 – Our Under Armour DETAILER Shirt went viral in the auto detailing community. This was a fun project that we’d been wanting to tackle for a while. We were overwhelmed by the positive response it received.
- 8/2016– We landed back on the Inc. 5000 with a 3-year growth of 68%!
- 10/2016 – We began construction to expand our warehouse. We’ll be doubling in space, adding a new office and conference room, as well as adding other amenities that we’ve been getting by without for the past 8 years.
- 11/2016 – We surprised even ourselves by shattering sales records over the Black Friday – Cyber Monday weekend. The rush associated with hustling to get all of the packages out was a thrill!
- 12/2016 – I surpassed 1,000 posts!
- 1/2017 – We completed our warehouse renovation. It was a hectic few months but everything turned out great!
- 3/2017 – We extended our employee benefits to our warehouse associates, something I’m happy that we’re able to do, and that as a business we’ve decided is worth doing.
What does the future hold? I’m not sure, but I couldn’t be more excited!