Joel Lederhause, President
So, how does selling ramps online sound as a way to start a multi-million dollar e-tailing business?
Joel Lederhause didn’t necessarily imagine this scenario in 1997 when he tried selling some ramps online that he couldn’t find a buyer for locally. What followed is an entrepreneurial tale that has led to a $15 million business called Discount Ramps, LLC.
While working as a firefighter in West Bend, Joel bought a franchise for selling ramps. When the franchiser went under, he was stuck with three ramps. So, he listed them for sale on a web site.
Nothing happened for a year, but then orders started coming in, including from the US military. He started sourcing multiple types of ramps and then realized his business model could expand to fit other product needs for his customers.
Today, his company sells 8,000 other products from a 40,000 square foot headquarters in West Bend. His revenues for 2008, all through internet sales, exceeded $15 million, but only 18% of that revenue comes from ramps.
To reflect the extensive product line, Joel will soon rename his company Etailered LLC. His sourcing continues all over the world, including China and Taiwan, and the company employs 24 people. It’s the kind of start-up job growth the Milwaukee 7 region needs to nurture.
Lederhause started with his own funds and grew with the company’s cash flow, He became bankable and that helped him expand. Now he is looking for an injection of capital so he can grow even faster.
Members of BizStarts Milwaukee are helping him with introductions to potential investors. “This is what we are all about,” said John Torinus, president of BizStarts, “getting acceleration of new ventures.”
Lederhause pours high energy into the business, assembling 400 domains that feed into 25 web sites. His products range from ramps to lifts, hitches, biking gear and other paraphernalia. Unlike many other middlemen in internet business, his company buys and warehouses product. The others drop ship and never take possession of the goods. He rents 300,000 square feet of warehouse space in the area.
A core strength of the company is website design, and Lederhause does a lot of that himself. He and the company are also experts at product design and innovation. Despite the economic downturn, he plans to keep growing.
Lederhause and his wife Aimee were present at the first BizStarts Connect meeting at MSOE in January, helping other entrepreneurs learn what can be done with innovation, patience and hard work. In Joel’s case, it all started with selling a few ramps online – proving you never know where a good idea can take you.
Check out the Discount Ramps website.