How Sustainable Supply Grew a Green Business on the Sly
Brian Fricano always had an entrepreneurial bent, whether he was mowing lawns as a kid, selling Phish T-shirts during college, or starting a music-management business after graduation. When he got married, he promised his wife he would settle down and get a "real job." But it wasn't long before he heard the siren song of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneur Brian Fricano told his story to Inc. contributor Reshma Memon Yaqub.
Five years into my job as a corporate sales manager with a manufacturer of commercial restroom products, I noticed a lack of online companies selling green products for commercial buildings. I realized I should create one, since I knew the market.
In December 2008, I pitched the plan for Sustainable Supply to my recently retired parents and my reluctant wife, Teather. We had a 3-year-old son, Austin, and were expecting our second child in seven months. Teather agreed we could invest $2,100, even though that would pay for a lot of diapers.
The baby's delivery was scheduled for June 17, 2009. Around midnight, six hours before we had to go to the hospital, I launched the company website, activated a company phone number, and launched a Google AdWords campaign, all without my wife knowing. If we didn't launch prior to the baby's birth, there was no guarantee it would happen.
The next day, in the delivery room, I got a message from a prospective customer who needed help with an order. After Teather got her epidural at 5 p.m., I finally confessed. Our son, Eli, was born at 8 p.m. and, two hours later, Teather sent me home to learn how to process a credit card order.
I envisioned getting just enough orders for a multi-tasking stay-at-home mom to handle. But call volume grew daily. During the next 18 months, Teather and my parents ran the business during the day, and I worked on it at night.
We kept the business a secret because I didn't want to get fired from my "real job." We also worried our friends would think we were nuts. We had to do some sneaking around. When a new sale came in, my mom, Peggy, would email me at work, using our secret code. I waited anxiously all day for emails titled "Bingo" from "AdMom." Once, we were all at a trade show--my family for our company and me for my employer. We texted all day to make sure we didn't bump into each other.
In 2010, we had $850,000 in sales. In 2011, I joined the business full time. (My former employer is one of our top suppliers.) We just moved the company from Milwaukee to Broomfield, Colorado. It's like our third kid--the one who sleeps in our bed. But it's all been worth it. It truly has been a family affair.