Kevin Price, Host of the Price of Business on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK (on Bloomberg’s home in Houston) recently interviewed Tony Ellison. Here’s that interview
About the interviewee
Tony Ellison is the founder and CEO of Shoplet.com, the number one e-retailer of office supplies. Ellison left his esteemed position at Goldman Sachs in 1994 to plunge into the foreign abyss of e-commerce. Underfunded and very unknown, Ellison ran his business operation in his apartment. Slowly, but surely, as the general public began to instill more faith in the promise of e-commerce, Shoplet began to gain traction. By 1997, Shoplet.com became profitable, persevering with flying colors, even throughout the Dot.Com crash. Today, Shoplet.com is a multimillion dollar enterprise.
Tell me about your firm (number of employees, location, type of companies you work with, etc.).
Shoplet was founded in 1994. In our infancy, we offered everything, from CD ROMs to yachts. Today, Shoplet is the number one online business supply e-tailer. Our company has developed a single source environment that specializes in providing companies with the widest and largest selection of business products and green office solutions.
Some of Shoplet’s unique features are:
-Shoplet’s Green Your Cart™ tool provides side-by-side comparisons of the mainstream items in a customer’s shopping cart and those items’ eco-friendly alternatives.
-Shoplet’s Green Calculator™ widget presents customers with user-friendly data on their order’s carbon footprint.
-Shoplet’s Green Your Search toolbar refines the customer’s search to display nature-friendly products only.
Shoplet has about 60 employees and our headquarters are located in downtown NYC. We work with office supply, office furniture, jan/san and manufacturers. We carry over 1 million products, 25,000 of which are eco friendly or green. We have recently expanded into the international market with Shoplet UK and Shoplet Canada, and into the promotional products industry with the recent launch of Shoplet Promos.
What type and size of companies do you have as clients?
Our clients run the gamut, from home office customers to GSA/ government accounts. We have accounts in medical, education fields as well as clients with general office needs. Our sweet spot is the small to medium size business.
What comes to mind when you see this topic?
Currently, our biggest challenges stem from our current initiatives, which are international expansion, situating Shoplet Promos in the promotional products marketplace, and encouraging more eco-friendly orders overall at checkout.
Difficulties pertaining to international expansion revolve around harnessing and cultivating a greater sense of brand awareness among our international target consumers. Though Shoplet is already well known in the USA, most consumers beyond U.S. borders haven’t been exposed to our services and selling features.
For Shoplet Promos, the biggest challenge is educating our business customers on the importance of building their brand with the use of promotional and branded items.
Shoplet is a green company. Educating customers on the importance of environmental responsibility by encouraging them to choose recycled and sustainable options over conventional ones has been a challenge. Every day we are testing for new and better ways for our customers to utilize our green site features. Old habits can prove difficult to change.
What are the best practices when it comes to this issue?
We strive towards newer horizons and a greener future by educating our customers. Shoplet has launched its Care Share Grow project, which is a green initiative. In partnership with Trees for the Future, we strive to plant 1 million trees through social sharing.
All of our site tools have helped to educate our customers on the importance of going green while making the shopping experience simple and easy to understand. These tools have helped us to save 100,000 trees and 24 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
Shoplet Promos is currently in the process of building awareness among our already existing Shoplet customer base. We communicate to our customers through email, social media, our company blog and affiliate programs. The goal of Shoplet Promos is to encourage our business owners to build their own brand awareness through the use of promotional and branded products. We have also initiated a blogger review program for Shoplet and Shoplet Promos to increase our reach. Overall, education and communication is key.