Be Thankful For Your Parents. They Just Might Be Your Customer One Day.

People always want to know what made me decide to leave a great job and go make no money to start Stitch Labs with my friends Brandon Levey and Michelle Laham. There are many reasons: 

1. Brandon was my roommate while he was working at a national lab on nuclear security issues and started two businesses on the side (an apparel company and mobile accessories company). I saw how challenging it was for him to operate those businesses without effective business tools while doing everything himself. There was a real pain point to be solved and he had lived it. 

2. The start-up scene was going crazy in the Bay Area and if there were ever a good time in my life to do it, it was this year.

3. My wife supported the idea.....and said I could. :) 

I could probably list 100 more reasons that all make sense, but the one that stands out, and is probably my favorite reason, is that my parents have a small business and I saw an opportunity to help them and thousands of other people like them. That's right. I could finally give something back to the people that have given me everything I could ever ask for and more, Mom and Dad.

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This time of year, my Dad gets mistaken regularly for the man from the North Pole. I have no idea why. Do you?

I grew up with a firefighter for a father and a schoolteacher for a mother, one sister and a dog. It couldn't be more Midwest than that. When I hear people talk about having a difficult childhood because of a lack of family support, or because their parents were too busy to spend time with them, I sit back and think about how fortunate I was to have parents that were there for me every step of the way. They weren't overbearing or constantly in my face, but they did push me to always do my best, and I couldn't be more thankful for that. It was their support and guidance that helped me do well in school, earn a football scholarship, get a great job out of college, and decide to go back to grad school for my MBA.

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When my Dad retired, he bought a patent for an ice fishing pole that he loved to use. He had never run his own business since he spent the majority of his earlier years saving people from burning buildings. He quickly found out that there was more to running a business than just a great product and the ability to sell. My Dad could sell things in his sleep, that wasn't the issue. If you've ever met him, you know what I mean. But in order for him to turn this hobby into a viable business, there were processes he needed to put in place to manage it effectively. He needed to be able to buy materials, assemble his products, find customers, get his products in their hands, and oh yeah, know if he'd been paid or not. The good news was that he was able to accomplish all those tasks with the help of my very organized Mom. Dad handled the operations and Mom handled the books. They continued to be the perfect team.

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After my Mom retired from teaching, she got even more efficient and the business continued to grow. Dad kept acquiring wholesale customers and they were selling thousands of fishing poles per year. They also sold at shows all over the Midwest, direct to consumers. Not bad for people that were just doing what they enjoyed, selling a very niche product. I would regularly talk to them about their business. My Mom would show me the tools she was using to manage the operation. She'd show me the invoices she created on Microsoft Word and her inventory spreadsheet she'd created in Excel. My Dad showed me how he kept all his customer information on hard copy files with hand written notes. None of these systems talked to each other and they spent an inordinate amount of time on administrative tasks. It looked oddly similar to how my roommate Brandon was doing things with his apparel business. There had to be a better way to integrate all these systems in a cost-effective way.

Enter Brandon with the idea for Stitch. Stitch ties all these separate processes together so small product-based business owners can have an easy-to-use system to manage, inventory, customers, and order fulfillment in one centralized location. This would be perfect for my parents!

It took a little convincing for me to get my Mom to embrace the idea of running her business with a web-based application, but again, they have always supported me in everything I've ever done and they didn't disappoint on this one. Also, when my Mom realized she could access her information from anywhere and didn't need to be sitting in front of her desktop at home, she was sold. She dove right in and became our biggest cheerleader and critic. She asked a million questions that really helped us think though what customers would need. That, in conjunction with Brandon's techncal experience and small business knowledge, my understanding of what would help people sell, and our other partner Michelle's unbelieveable design ability, Stitch was born. Now, my parents and so many other small businesses have a solution that helps them be more efficient and look even more professional to their customers.

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We spent the last year talking to thousands of people with similar needs as my parents and shaped Stitch in a way that can help many of them. It has been a blast and we recently started ramping up our customer acquisition efforts thorough our integration with Etsy. We are extremely focused on helping our customers succeed and will continue to do so. People have been tweeting, commenting in forums and posting on Facebook about how customer oriented we are. There's a reason for that. We truly believe in a great customer experience. Also, my parents are our customers and every customer we work with should be treated with the same level of respect as a mother would expect from her son. As we grow, we will stick to those values that have helped us early on. We realize, with so many choices out there, it's a customer-centric approach that can set us apart.

This Thanksgiving, I have so much to be thankful for. My family always comes to mind first. They have been such an influential part of my life and have provided so much for me. If I can give them something back through the use of Stitch, even though it pales in comparision to what they've given me, I'm thrilled to do it.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

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