Chris DiMarco was working at a Wall Street trading firm when a friend offered him ownership of a very specific domain name--a domain name that, in less than five years, would become the storefront for a fully-fledged business that has brought in annual revenue of more than $3 million and received nationwide attention.
The domain name? Lamps.com.
Today, the Philadelphia-based e-commerce site advertises a range of lighting fixtures, from elaborate crystal chandeliers to rustic, outdoor lanterns. With $3.4 million in 2014 sales--an uptick of nearly 2,500 percent in the past three years--Lamps.com easily ranked No. 161 on this year's Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest-growing companies.
But if you ask DiMarco how he got into the lighting business, he'll reply simply that he didn't. Lamps.com, he says, is more about the business of personal style.
"We inspire home décor to reflect your personality," says DiMarco, who noted that Lamps.com also sells a variety of room furnishings, as well as interesting home accessories like mirrors, pedestals, and retro clocks.
Besides its diversity of offerings, however, CEO Anthony Balsamo credits Lamps.com's success to its customer service prowess.
"We have a very high-touch focus on [customer] needs," Balsamo says. "We're not pushing a product, we're finding out what you're trying to accomplish in your space."
Balsamo--an early investor in the company--took over Lamps.com in August 2014, after DiMarco decided to pursue other business ventures. Though perhaps conveniently, his two financial services companies are located in the same Philadelphia office space. The two have been friends since third grade, and Balsamo was best man at DiMarco's wedding.
"When I left my old career, people thought, 'You're going into a business to sell lighting,'" Balsamo says. "But lighting has a profound effect on design, and to be able to support people on getting the right things into their home is a great opportunity."
At the Philadelphia headquarters, Balsamo manages 12 full-time employees, each of whom possesses a keen eye for design as well as experience on the technical side of lighting. On the site, team members list their favorite Philly sandwich and the light fixture they most identify with, from cluster pendants to bath vanity lights.
Balsamo says Lamps.com wants to show customers that a business can maintain personal, local connections while also reaching a massive audience. By his count, Lamps.com now serves more than 40 percent of the ZIP codes in the U.S.
Since DiMarco founded the business in 2010, Lamps.com has worked with private residences and corporate interiors. The company even caught the eye of big-name clothing retailer Urban Outfitters--also headquartered in Philadelphia--and now provides in-store lighting for Anthropologie, Free People, and Urban Outfitters. Eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker also utilizes the site's showroom lighting services.
But perhaps the biggest feather in Lamps.com's cap is its ability to help people figure out their personal style. "Seventy-three percent of people think their home and office reflect their personality," Balsamo says, referencing a 2013 study from Mississippi State. "However one in three don't know their own style." This is according to the 2014 Houzz & Home Survey and a 2015 Philadelphia University Consumer Study.
If what people need is guidance, they're not going to get it at big-box stores like Wal-Mart or Target.
At Lamps.com, team members personally help clients identify their style, understand their vision, and suggest options from the online "catalogue" based on a client's design preferences and price range.
"We're almost bringing that designer consultation to the masses," Balsamo says. "A lot of customers feel like, 'Oh, that's out of my reach, and I can't afford it,' but for us, that added value is something we think everyone is entitled to."