Entrepreneurs, Millennials and Chasing The American Dream
Posted By Marisa Sanfilippo on April 28, 2017 at 7:50 am
To our readers: This is another in an occasional series by GoodCall® writer Marisa Sanfilippo on entrepreneurs. Today’s topic concerns how one entrepreneur made his dream come true.
“A new generation of entrepreneurs has arrived, and they’re already outperforming their parents” – Fortune
As noted in a recent GoodCall® examination, a growing number of people consider entrepreneurship as an attractive career option. Millennials in particular are becoming notorious for starting more companies and succeeding. They are managing bigger staffs and targeting higher profits than their baby boomer predecessors – Fortune calls them Millenniprenuers.
GoodCall® believes learning about the successes of those Millennipreneurs can inspire others.
Meet Tyler Dishman
Title: President and co-founder
What the American Dream means to him: Being able to earn a living while doing something you love.
The year was 2004. An acquaintance of Dishman’s had an idea for a company and approached him to help bring it to life. “He wanted to sell air filters on the internet but had little technical knowledge of how to pull it off. I had the technical knowhow, and we were both entrepreneurial and quite willing to take risks,” Dishman says.
For Dishman, part of the millennial generation, the internet and the relatively new ability at the time to create an all-digital business was transformative. Ever since the age of 12, when his family got the household’s first computer, he knew that he wanted to do something with computers as a career.
As a self-described “naturally introverted person with limited social skills,” being able to create a business that didn’t care about how awkward you were, what you looked like, or how old you were was incredible.
That same year, Dishman and his partner launched their first website, IAQSource.com. It was at a time when pay-per-click advertising was relatively new, and they found great success marketing the business through that platform.
Related articles: Wantrepreneurs vs. Entrepreneurs;
Millennial Entrepreneurs Fuel Change
They spent about two weeks developing that first website from scratch. When the site went live, they started getting orders almost immediately, which created a problem: They did not have warehouse space or a way to ship products. “We quickly had to scramble to find local sources for the products that were being ordered, and we used a friendly relationship with another local company to ship from their facility until we could find our own.”
They didn’t buy any more inventory than they needed because they had no idea if what they created would last or be profitable. But by the end of the first month, they had figured out how to turn a profit – and they’ve never had an unprofitable month since.
“Our growth strategy was pretty straightforward: Apply a customer focus to everything we do and out-innovate our competitors,” Dishman says.
In 2007, he and his partner added water filters to the stable of products, which helped launch the next growth phase. In 2011, they launched their now flagship website, DiscountFilters.com. “DiscountFilters.com reset the expectations for what it meant to be in eCommerce in the air and water filter space,” Dishman says.
In 2014, they started manufacturing most of the products they sell rather than importing and reselling to their customers. “This move toward vertical integration makes great sense for our customers as we now completely control the supply chain and have eliminated any doubts that surround products manufactured overseas,” he says.
While Dishman is successful now, the process – and this is typical to any startup – wasn’t always easy.
‘We had several challenges.’
The first challenge, Dishman says, was that traditional businesses supplying filters within the U.S. weren’t on board with the internet. “Many thought it was a fad, some were just pretending it didn’t exist, but most of the naive in our market couldn’t reconcile the ‘sell anywhere’ world of the internet with their tried-and-true sales channels.”
As a result, despite quickly outselling most — if not all — of their legacy accounts, they had difficulty restocking from manufacturers. “Since they couldn’t figure out how we fit into their geographic sales channel model, we were forced to buy from local distributors, two or three levels down from the manufacturer.”
Dishman and his partner solved the problem by selling their expertise to matching the right products to customers’ needs rather than being a simple reseller of products.
Another challenge they faced was being unprepared for how quickly the business grew. “We knew that there were a lot of air filters sold each year, but we had no idea how many people would be willing to buy them online. We had no infrastructure or systems to process anything, so everything we did at the beginning was manual.”
He went on to explain that when an order was placed on the website, it had to be retyped into the company’s shipping system and then again into its accounting system. The office space the company initially was only adequate for a few months.
“Everyone says ‘growing pains are a great problem to have,’ and it is, relative to the pains of non-growth or even contraction, but growing too fast can kill a company just as easily as not growing at all. Trying to figure out how to get all the requisite systems and process in place while outgrowing them in near real-time was quite a challenge, but not one that I would trade for anything.”
These problems were solved by automating as much as they could.
Before the business
Dishman says he had an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, but he didn’t think about the term entrepreneur until he was in his 20s.
He recalls a book in his grade school library titled Good Cents: Every Kids Guide to Making Money. “I’m pretty sure that I kept this book checked out continuously from 5th through 7th grade reading it over and over and devising several ways to make money as a kid,” he says.
At age 11, he and his brother made hand-drawn flyers for lawn mowing services. With no copier available, they drew each flyer individually and put them in as many mailboxes as they could.
“As a 12-year-old, I absorbed as much as possible about computers and wound up peddling my knowledge to help others get on the internet. This pattern of trying things has continued my entire life, and I can’t really imagine living any other way. I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to turn my passion for creating new things into a great life for my family.”
Advice to others looking to be entrepreneurs
Dishman understands that a wantrepreneur’s life circumstances don’t always allow the risk of taking on a startup. But when they do, his advice is to “burn the boats and get to it.”
“Not all ideas are great, but many ideas that looked terrible on paper turned out to be great in the hands of a passionate entrepreneur – and by the way, I think passion is the No. 1 trait to look for in people,” he says.
Dishman also advises against overthinking – “just get started.”
“Desperation is an amazing gift and has saved many an entrepreneurial venture from total failure. As Wayne Gretzky said, ‘You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’”