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Smart50 rank: 6
Revenue: $4,508,000
Growth: 138.42%
Founders: Jonathon Green, 27, Elliot Ramler, 26
Head Office: Victoria
Employees: 7
Industry: Retail trade

One of the most frequently cited problems with online retail is the lack of personalised customer service. Businesses throw up a standard contact form on their site and expect customers to be satisfied – which more often than not leads to their downfall.

Eljo, a homewares and appliances business, has attempted to counter this. Founder Jonathon Green says the company has gone out of its way to make sure customers feel they have a personalised connection to the business.

“It’s very much a mantra of ours that we don’t just hide behind a phone number and this mysterious internet identity. If you ask a lot of people they’ll see service is lacking online, and that can be a problem.”

“So we make sure we have phone numbers that are backed up. Emails are responded to quickly, and we have a live chat facility that’s open to the public.”

Another point of difference – Eljo allows customers to pick up their purchase from the warehouse.

“They can meet with the person they spoke to on the phone, and they can ask whatever questions they want. It’s a good point of contact and it’s what consumers want.”

It’s certainly working. The company is turning over $4.5 million after starting up in 2008.

Green launched the company with Elliot Ramler, brother to Dean Ramler who started up online furniture store Milan Direct with his own business partner, Ruslan Kogan.

Online runs in the family.

While it started with the origin of selling products relating to digital content storage and distribution, the pair discovered this niche had some pretty large competitors. So it diversified into electrical appliances. And while there’s plenty of competition there too, Green says the dying bricks and mortar model opens new avenues of competition.

The pair were still at university when they started, so it was a difficult time balancing both their social lives and the business. And it ran into trouble when it suffered a credit card fraud, which Green says was “the biggest direct threat to our business so far”.

“It can often be up to three to four months until the banks tell us that a transaction was put through with a stolen credit card. It is up to us to provide the signature proof of the transaction. Without it, the money is just taken from our account.”

“Very early on, we were stung for about 30-40% of our start-up capital, which could have easily put us out of business.”

But the business was enjoying enough success to keep going, and the pair implemented some stringent checks and balances to detect fraudulent transactions. And although Green says it was a difficult time, the business has enjoyed enormous success since then – which feeds into his advice for new entrepreneurs.

“Admitting defeat, and picking you battles is one thing. But regarding the bigger picture, never give up. If you believe in yourself and your idea, identify your point of difference and chase your goals.”

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