Mark Evenson was an outsider to the watch industry, but he's managed to create a dominant auction site for watches that is giving auction powerhouses like eBay a run for their money.
We spent some time with Mark to learn more about his Luxury Watch Exchange business.
Mark, tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
We are auction site specializing in Luxury Watches. We do not own any watches but created a new marketplace for sellers and buyers of Luxury Watches to meet.
The business operates at www.LuxuryWatchExchange.com and in Naples, Florida (out of my home). I started the company in November of 2007.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was a valet parker and now am a bellman at the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Florida. This is my first major business, but I have always had a few things going on. Business, sales and communication is such a part of me.
Where did you get the startup money?
I had about $5,000 in the bank for the start-up, and now it is just what I can put into it each month.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
Our main competitor is eBay. They run the online auction world, yet many people are tired of their fees and unreasonable service and are opting for smaller niche sites like Luxury Watch Exchange.
We have no fees for listing a watch (eBay is $4) and have only a 1% final value fee (eBay is tiered, but averages out to about 3%) I currently know almost all of my sellers by their first names. I personally recruited them or they were referred to me and I still call them to get to know more about them. They all have my business card and get a monthly newsletter. I listen to them and want them to succeed through my site, because their success is my success.
That personal touch is certainly something you don't get from eBay. So, how has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
It has taken more time and money than I thought it would, but doesn't it always? I have been operating the site for one year now and predict it will take another year before I see my first monthly profit.
Yet the payoff is worth it. Becoming an independent business person that can operate my website from anywhere in the world.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Sure, but that is the challenge of running a start-up. With no staff I made every decision and my business model would turn on a dime. Trial and error was a part of every day.
I wish I could have found a good business partner, but I have still been unable to do so. No one has the same drive and vision for this website like I do.
Yeah, it's tough to find a good business partner, but it seems like you are doing fine. What are some of the things you have done that have helped you to grow the business?
Giving 100% customer support to my buyers and sellers. They are everything to me!!
I return every email and phone call asap. I listen to their challenges and suggestions. People have wanted a site like this for years, and it is funny that a person that is not from the watch industry is running it. Yet I am a business person and see an opportunity to bring all these people together and create a new community.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Listen to what others have to say but know what you have to do. A year ago people told me that it was going to be impossible to do this with the funds and resources that I had. Now they tell me I have the golden ticket.
That's great advice. There are so many naysayers out there. It's always great to persevere and prove them wrong. Listen, Mark, thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, and good luck in growing your business. We'll be watching you.