JOSEPH JACONI, TECH ARMOR

An electronics-industry veteran builds a best-selling brand on awesome customer service.

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STEVE ACREE, SEISMIC AUDIO

My name’s Steve Acree. I’m the owner of Seismic Audio Speakers in Memphis, Tennessee.

I started Seismic Audio in 2003. I was 23 years old. I was going to school and waiting tables—literally trying to make beer money for the weekend. I started out selling parts for audio equipment on eBay, and I started making two to three times what I was making waiting tables.

So I started expanding my products and went from 12 items up to 50 items and, next thing you know, I’m through waiting tables—I’m working full-time with selling audio equipment. Within about six months, I’m basically quitting school to make this full-time.

When we got pregnant with our first child, we decided that’s when we really had to make this business work. We really had to see how far I could take it. So in 2007, I expanded to Amazon to see what would happen.

The success was kind of overwhelming. Instantly, within the first three or four days, we probably sold four or...

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MAGGIE UMLAUF, VERSALIVING

My name’s Maggie Umlauf. I’m the CEO of Versaliving.

What started this whole thing, basically, is I read a book by Tim Ferris called The 4-Hour Workweek, and that actually just changed my entire perspective. I was in the military right out of high school. You know, my family has worked blue-collar jobs basically our whole lives. So, this world of starting your own business was just this whole eye-opening experience for me. And I came home and I told my husband—I said, ‘I want to do this. I want to figure out how to do this.’ And he actually laughed at me and said, ‘Um, yeah, honey--everybody wants to do that.’ I was like, ‘Hmmm, challenge accepted.

We have big, active, rowdy dogs, and basically we designed our products for people who are like us—you know, who take their dog in the car, who take their dog to the beach, who go hiking, who go to the dog park, and that sort of thing. So we really focused on making products that could...

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JOHN DERRINGER, DRIVEN PRODUCTS

My name is John Derringer. I’m the president of Driven Products, and I was born and raised in Seattle.

When I was younger, I had an old Subaru station wagon that I was taking up snowboarding, and I needed a set of wheels for it, and found a guy on Craigslist that just so happened to have two sets of wheels, so I bought both sets. I put the other set online and sold it at a profit and said, ‘hey, I can make money doing this.’ And repeated that, eventually started buying wheels from the local car dealerships and selling those online, and then just kind of snowballed.

So, in 2008, I started in my dad’s woodshed with 600 bucks. My dad didn’t think it was that great, so [I] moved to Public Storage and then that snowballed. And Public Storage didn’t like me getting freight delivered to Public Storage anymore, so we had to get a real warehouse.

I was still working full-time and had a couple people working for me. My now-fiancée would—bless...

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TYLER CONLIN, GotYourGear

I’m Tyler Conlin. I’m the owner of gotyourgear.com.

I’m a serial entrepreneur. I own businesses in sporting goods, antiperspirant, ladies’ fashion, trailer parks, storage units, and hammocks. I started out of college. One of my friends said check out this website eBay, and I looked at it and I was like ‘oh my gosh!’ I sold a pair of skis on there, and I remember I sold it for a little bit more than I paid the year before. So I started cleaning out my parents’ garage and selling everything on there.

After I graduated college, I decided to take it to the next level, so I opened up a retail store as a young entrepreneur who thought he knew everything that was going on. Grew that for two years to almost $2 million in business, and then I went bankrupt a few months later after the economy crashed. Just kind of got into too big of a hole to get out of. So I bought a trailer park and sold it, made some money. And with that investment, I got back...

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DAVID REEDER, CAPTAIN DAVE'S

 

I’m David Reeder. I’m the president and Founder of Captain Dave, Incorporated. The Captain Dave’s name comes from my history as a sailor. I used to race sailboats. But I also had an ex-wife who liked to think that I would tell everybody what to do. So she kind of coined the phrase ‘Captain Dave.’ We’re an online Army/Navy store.

I came out of corporate America, so I had what I like to call a real job for a long [laugh] time. In the mid-‘90s, someone gave me a copy of Netscape 1.1, and that’s how I got on the Internet. And at some point, I put together a website, just designed to provide free information to people who are preppers and survivalists. And before long, people started asking me for a copy of my catalogue, but I didn’t sell anything.

So, it doesn’t take a dummy to realize by the third or fourth person that asks you for your catalogue, maybe there’s an opportunity to sell something here. So I went out...

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JEH LIN, JACKERY

My name is Jeh Lin and I’m the vice president of business development and corporate success for Jackery.

So, Jackery’s been around for about two years—it’s a pretty awesome ride so far. Our founder, York, came from China with this dream of starting a company. He was working on Apple in China for a few years.

We all have problems with the battery issues of our Smartphones. People go through that stress when they see that their phone has that one little red bar with 5%, 3%, or 1% left. We’re in the business of removing that stress.

It is not easy to start a business, especially in consumer electronics industry. You may have the most ideal “business plan,” but once you get into real life, you know, all those things go out a window. You’re going to run into different things. You can have great ideas, but if you don’t know how to execute, you can’t win.

The first six months is about establishing the business, finding the right...

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