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The story of Main Merch begins in the New York University dorm room of Roy Laniado, Main Merch founder and president, in the Spring of 2005. One afternoon while browsing eBay, Roy noticed a handful of products that he had sold while working at his father’s store, Bargain Beachwear. Realizing that these items were selling for a fairly higher price online, Roy decided that it would be worth the investment to try and sell goods online himself. After an initial purchase from Bargain Beachwear, Roy began selling on eBay as a personal seller.
MainMerch specializes in licensed, pop culture related apparel and merchandise. They sell them across several niche web store fronts.
MO: Was your early interest in entrepreneurship influenced by your father having his own business?
Ray: Absolutely! Being self-employed is something that runs in the family. In addition to my dad, almost every other member of my immediate and extended family are business owners. It’s something that is discussed at the dinner table from a very young age. Having other family members that are business-owners also provides a valuable consultation tool. I spend hours on the phone with my dad in a given week discussing future business plans.
MO: You launched MainMerch while you were still attending college. Can you talk a bit about the balancing act of running a business while being a student? Did you ever feel overwhelmed?
Ray: I felt very overwhelmed at times, especially during finals. I was a double major at a very competitive university, NYU, and did not have a lot of time to sleep, let alone time for a social life. I remember one night, after staying up packing orders and answering customer service emails, I remembered at 1 am that I had a 9 am Statistics exam the following morning. I stayed up studying for the rest of the night and still managed to, somehow, get an A. Not ideally how I would’ve wanted to balance work and school – but increased my confidence to handle future conflicts that arose. It made me realize I could do anything if I was passionate enough.
MO: Can you elaborate how your early successes helped leverage your business to the next level?
Ray: The early successes inspired me to work even harder and seek outside experienced counsel from others so that I could continue to expand and grow. The first time I got 20 sales in a single day, I reached out to my cousin, himself an online business owner, for advice on how to scale the business up. He told me that since I had reached a certain size, I needed to become more organized. One of my first was of formally organized was to begin using Quickbooks, as opposed to keeping track of expenses in an excel sheet.
MO: What are some of the key lessons that you’ve learned about ecommerce so far? What tips would you pass onto an online merchant just starting out?
Ray: You can’t do everything yourself, as much as I would like to. By the same token, you can’t trust just anyone to do important tasks related to your business. Its important early on to find trustworthy employees / partners to take on some of the work load. You can grow much faster with help. It’s important to let go of parts of your business, and yet closely supervise to make sure the work is getting done correctly. It’s a fine line.
MO: What is one mistake you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
Ray: Don’t go cheap with anything important related to your business. You get what you pay for. I once paid for cheap hosting, and the site went down at least 10 times over two years, and every time the company gave me a different excuse.
MO: Can you talk about your plans for expansion and how you plan to build good relationships with your growing customer base?
Ray: We are working on a loyalty program for our customers, where they get free gifts, or discounts, on future orders. The new sites we just launched, SuperheroDen.com and TvMovieDepot.com are already showing some early promising signs. There is some other stuff happening but, for now, that is classified information. Stay tuned!