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Business Rx: 6th Street Commerce

The Entrepreneurs

David Potts is a technology guy with a passion for building new businesses. He spent more than 20 years in the technology industry, working on a variety of new businesses at Texas Instruments. When he moved back to the East Coast and started working with a family business, he got a taste of retail and the pains store owners deal with in selling online. He realized there was potential for a software product to make the process easier.

He enlisted creative marketing veteran David Anderson and launched 6th Street Commerce in Baltimore.

The Pitch

Potts

“We offer a storefront management system to help retailers sell more, make more and manage less. Our system, SalesWarp, connects a retailer’s online store to his back-end operations to manage the e-commerce business from one integrated system.

“For example, if a retailer sells through its own Web site and also has eBay and Amazon storefronts, our product can integrate and streamline order fulfillment and the management of all retail outlets simultaneously.

“We had a successful initial beta launch last year, and now we just introduced our reseller program at a major retail conference this spring. We are looking to bring our product to smaller mom-and-pop retailers later this year, and we’ll continue to market to larger retail clients.

“We have a lot of potential to grow quickly and build a strong reseller channel network. We sell our platform to resellers who can customize the software for their clients and then manage all the data. Each reseller goes through a extensive training program to ensure they have the knowledge and expertise in not only engineering, but in sales and project management as well.”

“Related to the growth of our reseller sales model, what do we need to think about to ensure we maintain intelligent growth of the product and the technology?”

The advice

Elana Fine, associate director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“As you grow your reseller network and increase customer traction, make sure to maintain focus on the product and the value it delivers to your customers. Customer wins and momentum validate several years of sweat and sacrifice. Too often organizations switch gears completely into execution mode and think their product will evolve on its own. Their success often invites many competitors to the market who come out with sexier products and stronger business models.

“Your customer pitch is that you stay on top of changing e-commerce technology, so they don’t have to. If Amazon, eBay or Magento changes, so do you. This is a real pain point for retailers who know they need a Web presence but do not have the know-how to build a Web platform. This also means they don’t have the tools to support the platform so knowledgeable and responsive customer support are just as important as product functionality. Keep discipline around product development and continue to hire strong sales engineers who will work with the sales and product teams to respond to existing and prospective customer’s requirements. Develop a strong customer service and issue resolution system that will be responsive and can scale quickly. By putting the right processes in place early you will be known for delivering more than technology and will build loyalty with your customers even as new companies enter the market.

Reaction

Anderson

“Our goal is 100 percent customer satisfaction and retention. We want every customer to feel as if we know exactly what their needs are, what their pain points are and that we have the experience and expertise to deliver above and beyond their expectations.”

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