Today we’d like to introduce you to Ben Harvey.
Ben, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After graduating from college I was fortunate enough to take a job working for my now business partner Todd Harmon. At the time he was selling electric massage chairs online.
From him, I was able to learn how to build and market my own e-commerce websites. It took me a year of working in evenings and weekends to complete and begin making sales on my first website which was an indoor furniture site called Tansu.net. When my income from Tansu.net began exceeding my income working for Todd I put in 90 days notice.
Rather than allowing our work relationship to end that day, Todd asked if he could invest and partner with me on Tansu.net and together we developed a number of other websites including PatioProductions.com. Over a decade later we still operate a number of websites in various industries but our main focus is patio furniture.
When our business first began we were focused exclusively on the dropship. However, we noticed 2 main issues with that. 1 ) Our margins were too small to justify the high shipping costs. 2) The majority of the really nice furniture we wished we could sell was not available to online retailers. So we began exploring overseas factories to begin working with. For the first few containers that we imported, we rented storage units. I will never forget when the very first ocean container arrived feeling like I had bitten off way more than I could chew.
The floor of ocean containers when sitting on a trailer is 4 feet in the air so the top of the container is 12 feet high. So I backed up my SUV to the truck and to begin unloading with 1 friend while my wife went to Home Depot to bring back more workers. An hour later she returned with helpers and we all (including my wife) hand unloaded 20,000 lbs of furniture into 4 large storage units. We’ve grown since then and operate a 40,000 sqft distribution facility in North County where we distribute patio furniture, bathroom vanities, bedroom furniture and more.
2 years ago we were lucky enough to find an old dumpy building near downtown San Diego with good bones and great architecture. And by dumpy, I mean that literally. The previous tenant has been a recycling center and every square inch of the place was covered in dust to sticky stuff. My wife and I purchase the building and spent 6 months cleaning the place up to build what is now our flagship Patio Productions outdoor furniture retail store. Moving into retail has not only given us a new client base (not everyone wants to shop online) but also given us access to some of the best patio furniture brands in the business.
Operate a 40,000 sqft distribution facility in San Marcos. We have also expanded into traditional brick and mortar retail and have launched our flagship Patio Productions store in an 11,000 sqft industrial building near downtown San Diego. So while Tansu.net is a small part of our current revenue, it helped pave the way for all of our most successful businesses.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No. Never. Not a day goes by without a surprise. Issues like unforeseen delays from our suppliers to freight damage constantly make what should be a smooth day challenge. Add in even-changing import and labor laws and the paperwork is often cumbersome. Mix that with Google constantly changing their criteria for how they award traffic (customers) to our sites and the need to react through strategy and staffing changes and there have been many sleepless nights.
But perhaps the biggest struggles have been 100% self inflicted. Having never worked for furniture, e-commerce or import company I am constantly making things up as I go along. Parlay that with rapid growth over the past 10 years and at times I have created a mess for myself and staff. Hopefully, with some experience under my belt, the next 10 years will go a little smoother.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Patio Productions story. Tell us more about the business.
Our retail space is very different than traditional patio furniture stores. For one its in an amazing building with a great vibe. A lot of owner-operated furniture stores are located in stuffy strip malls. Ours is on the train tracks. We also try and offer a more eclectic mix of styles in our store. We try and have something for everyone. But the biggest difference is our staff. We have a great sales staff that focuses on being helpful rather than pushy. All commissions are shared as a team. I think the result is a much more comfortable shopping experience for our customers.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Luck has played a starring role in our business. First I was lucky to have met my business partner an learn about e-commerce when I did. Starting an e-commerce business is nearly impossible without a seven-digit budget. 10-15 years ago it was relatively easy.
I’ve been lucky with my staff, lucky to have the opportunity to purchase the building our retail store is (initially the building was for lease and that lease deal was not working out). I think good luck and bad luck is inevitable and we all get a mixed bag. It’s how you capitalize on your luck that makes the difference.
- Address: 2161 Hancock St. San Diego, CA 92121
- Website: www.patioproductions.com
- Phone: 888-994-9196
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org