Today marks the beginning of National Business Women’s Week. Since it was first nationally observed in 1928, NBWW highlights the contributions of women business owners and entrepreneurs, and aims to increase leadership and advancement opportunities for women.
Angie Stocklin and her husband, Randy, own One Click, a company that operates three eyewear brands in the e-commerce space—Readers.com, which sells reading glasses, Sunglass Warehouse, which sells discount sunglasses, and felix + iris, which sells prescription glasses. A purely online sales company, the Stocklins have grown One Click from a small operation out of their home into a business that employs more than 50 people.
Why did you start your business?
I am a school psychologist by education. I worked as a school psych for three years. Right as I was graduating, I got married. My husband is very entrepreneurial in nature. He made it very clear that he wished to do something on his own when we got married. I didn’t realize that we would do it together, but it became clear as we started dabbling in a few things that we made a great team.
Our very first business we launched and made money off of sold Santa letters. Parents would go online and fill out the information for their child. Then, the child would receive a letter in the mail from Santa Claus. We were the middleman, the affiliate. We got $5 for every letter we sourced for the guy who would send out the Santa letters. We loved coming home from work every day and seeing where our visitors were coming from and what our conversion rate was, and how much money we were making. Watching all the information flow into analytics was really empowering. We could watch something we built from scratch generate revenue.
That was such a seasonal business that we wanted something a little bit more long-term. So, we started looking at websites like BizBuySell to see what was out there. We did a lot of research into different industries and different options for us. We ran across a sunglasses site that was for sale. It met our criteria of needing to run it out of our home for a while so the costs were small, and it was something we could understand and research how to sell. So we purchased the site and purchased sunglasses, and ran it out of our home for about a year and a half, teaching ourselves everything from start to finish on how to run an online business.
How did you get the funds to get going?
We emptied our savings account to buy the business. We decided early on to keep our full-time jobs for a while so we could pay ourselves back before we quit our jobs and pump every cent back into the business to help grow.
Have you heard of business credit?
Yes. We absolutely have business credit and a line of credit that we manage and use as needed. We’re an LLC, but we’ve personally guaranteed loans that we’ve had in the past. And our business owns a piece of property, so we can use that to help guarantee or back up lines of credit and loans.
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Managing the Business
What’s most challenging about running your business?
We’re about 57-people big at this point and we’re growing year over year. The most challenging thing is hiring the right people at the right time. When you’re a small business, it’s always a difficult balance of hiring somebody too soon, where they may not have enough to do, or generate enough revenue to cover their cost, or waiting too long and overloading your team. We also have to make sure that we’re hiring people who can function in a small business and wear a lot of hats. They need to be self-motivated and able to teach themselves as they go along.
How do you finance your business to manage cash flow or growth?
We are really lucky to have a fantastic CFO, an accounting manager, and a financial advisor that help manage our cash flow. Our accounting manager is really fantastic at working with our vendors to establish terms and get those terms extended to increase our cash flow. Our CFO is somewhat magical in running the day-to-day operations and keeping an eagle eye on everything that’s coming in and out to make sure our cash is always enough.
Do you use trade credit from your vendors or suppliers?
What’s the biggest mistake you made in your first years?
Early on, we were very intent on learning the process ourselves. We wanted to teach ourselves, and I am forever grateful that we learned every step of the process. But, at the same time, I think we could have grown faster if we had created a network sooner. Indianapolis has a fantastic business community that’s very supportive. If we had gotten out into the community and built our network faster, we could have grown faster. That network could have helped us avoid some of the other mistakes we made early on.
What’s the smartest thing you did in your first years?
One of the things that I’m most proud of is that, outside of lines of credit, we’ve been self-funded since the very beginning. I love the fact that we poured every cent back into the business and were able to watch it grow without having to give away equity.
What’s the most rewarding thing about owning a business?
The most rewarding thing is working with the team we have now. Being able to choose the people who you work with every day is something I never dreamed would be a possibility when I was starting my career. But Randy and I are involved in every hiring decision the company makes. Being able to hire people who fit within our core values and watch our business grow is rewarding. Even watching those people leave One Click and move on to something bigger and better and start their own business or get a great opportunity with another company where they can grow and be a better leader, that is 100 percent the most rewarding thing.
What does the future look like for your business?
We have some exiting things planned for 2017. We’re going to test our hand at B2B sales, which we’ve never done before. I believe there’s a niche in the market that we’re hearing from our customers. We’re in the process of vetting that idea and building the infrastructure we’re going to need in 2017. We’ll also be looking at more traditional ways of advertising. Since we’re an online company, that will be new for 2017.
What advice do you have for someone starting a business?
One of the most important things is understanding your business from start to finish. Never be afraid to go out and ask for advice. But, at the end of the day, always trust your gut. You may ask the opinion of 10 different people and get 10 different answers. But, you’re going to know your business better than anyone else. A lot of people who are just starting out might not have the confidence to trust themselves. If you understand your business inside and out, you’re going to end up making the best decision for yourself.