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Building An Online Marketplace Puts A Founder In The Hot Seat (As In Leather)

Two days without sleep and seven screens running. Sound familiar? Welcome to the routine of entrepreneur Bilal Ahmed as he’s building an online marketplace. Sure he could accept outside funding and catch a few extra Zzzs, but give up autonomy – the excitement of new ideas arriving in the car and trying to get them down while navigating traffic? Where would the fun be in that?

 

 

The company that keeps Bilal attached to the wheel is leatherHERE (LH), an online marketplace for leather goods. This one-stop shop offers leather jackets, bags, apparel, accessories and boots. After tinkering with the notion of making leather products, that work was left in the hands of the craftsman and LH now focuses instead on great deals and selling custom-fitting leather goods. Bilal tells us more:

 

What’s your company about? What do you do? Who are your customers?

leatherHERE was originally designed to be an online leather store hosting products that we would make and ship. It has since evolved into more of a marketplace wherein we host leather products of different brands, and provide customers with a one-stop shop for their leather needs.

 

 

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What’s the greatest thing about your company/website? Why is it better than the competition?

We understand that the most common problem among online shoppers is the sizing issue. Therefore, we provide our customers the ability to submit their measurements and let us make a lot of products that fit them perfectly. We also like to offer great deals to customers. At the moment, the idea is not to make a lot of money but to really provide an excellent service to customers. As it grows, we know that this philosophy will pay off.

 

What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world-wide web?

XT as far as I can remember. I used to play Dangerous Dave on it all the time. I believe I was still in single digits.

 

What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?

I wake up at 6ish and just go through my emails. I don’t respond usually at that time unless its urgent. I take an hour or two to freshen up and browse the news. I start around 7am, and there is no end to it. Sometimes I don’t sleep for two days.

 

What’s the very first thing you do at work every day?

Have my iced coffee and go through emails and analytics.

 

 

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When do your best ideas come to you?

Usually while reading articles or when driving – and I get very excited when this happens. But it also can be dangerous.

 

How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?

I started the company myself. I was immediately joined by my best friend who has helped me greatly. Soon after, my wife joined us as well. So it is 3 of us. I have some great and successful friends as advisors.

 

A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?

If I don’t pursue it, I am already defeated.

 

Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.

The biggest struggle has always been lack of time. 24 hours in a day are not enough.

 

How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?

I handle frustration by abandoning whatever is frustrating me, usually tedious tasks, and do something completely unrelated for a little while.

 

What’s your office environment like?

Office environment is very fast paced. I am usually on the phone with someone or the other and there are 7 screens around me with lots of information and things to do.

 

How do you picture your company in 5 years?

I picture my company as the hub of leather products, hosting hundreds of brand names and millions in sales. And that is just the start.

 

 

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Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?

My inspiration comes from many people: my past employer, Steve Jobs when he said ‘stay hungry, stay foolish’, the random door to door salesman, people starting businesses in garages, Pagani Zonda, etc.

 

How’d you fund this venture?

It was entirely self-funded. Didn’t take much. I know I could have built a beast by now had I opened the doors for other sources, but I don’t want to do that.

 

Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?

Don’t be shy of letting your initial idea evolve into something different – just shows that you’re learning the market more by diving deep into it. It is a great thing.

 

What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?

Persistence always pays off. Unless your idea is crap.

 

Top 5 websites you couldn’t live without and why?

reddit.com, techcrunch.com, mashable.com, stumbleupon.com, and google analytics.

 

Top 5 mobile apps you’re in love with and why?

  1. BuzzFeed – excellent and entertaining content
  2. Snapchat – just hilarious
  3. Mint – keeps financing in line
  4. Slacker Radio – i love music
  5. Eat24 – sometimes you’re just that lazy

 

Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet? (And why that country?)

Canada – I want to see if they really are that friendly.

 

Please share some specific numbers (funding, revenue, visitors) that highlight your growth.

We have had over 15,000 visitors onleatherhere.com in less than 3 months. That is very good considering I have not spent a dime on SEO and only $150 on Google Adwords.

 

 

To find amazing deals on leather products, visit leatherhere.com. Check the company out on Facebook to learn even more.

 

Photo Credits

leatherHERE

Author : Keith Liles

Keith Liles is a freelance writer who loves travel, music, wine, hiking, poetry, and just about everything. He practices saying "yes" to life vigorously, rehearsing for the phone call when he's asked to tour with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Follow Keith on Twitter @KPLiles.

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