My family has been in the furniture business for generations and I could’ve followed in their footsteps, but with their blessing I decided to make a leap in a different direction – to the online startup world.
The decision to branch out into the unknown world of online sales was a huge step personally and professionally, at that time no one was selling furniture online and many people believed it simply wasn’t a sound business idea.
On the one hand, it was hard to step away from the family business because we share a passion for quality furniture. On the other, I’m pretty independent so I wasn’t a good employee.
From a young age I was reading business books and always wanted to be my own boss. Joining the family business would mean being a junior for a very long time—starting my own business meant I could call the shots from the beginning.
There were many different challenges in those early days and here are some of the lessons I learnt building a breakaway business.
Part-time jobs kill startups
When I started Milan Direct I was splitting my time between a part-time job and getting my startup off the ground.
I realised soon that while I thought this approach was a safety net just in case things didn’t work out, I wasn’t able to commit my time to either jobs – I was just doing two things half-arsed.
So, I needed to make a decision to commit 100% to one of them and I chose my startup. By backing the business and committing myself, Milan Direct thrived.
You can follow your passions
Keep following your passion and block out the noise. If you’re second-guessing your idea, don’t start a business.
The reason I chose to split from my family’s furniture business was my unwavering belief in the online model, which they were not interested in. Despite the number of detractors who scoffed at the idea, I went ahead.
If you don’t believe in your business, how do you expect anyone else to take it seriously?
You can fully validate your idea
The Milan Direct you see today is not how we started.
We actually started as an eBay store, testing the market with $0.01, no reserve products. It meant that if everything went badly, one lucky customer could essentially buy a piece of furniture for one cent.
Fortunately our six-month pilot run on eBay showed us that not only were people comfortable with buying furniture through an online channel, they were comfortable paying pretty good prices. After our eBay success we launched our own site, assured it would work.
Dean Ramler is the founder of Milan Direct.