Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Snowshoes Over the Internet?

“Three years ago we started selling online. We focused on car racks.” Andrew Brewer of Onion River Sports was giving me a tour of his store in downtown Montpelier, VT. “We’ve since opened a second site that is devoted to snowshoes.”

Snowshoes? I couldn’t believe that you could develop a business around snowshoes, but Andrew explained how in a short period of time his two sites have become more profitable than his retail store with 23 employees.

“We’re doing about 150 orders per day with both of our websites. Snowshoes tend to be big in December and January but car racks are steadier and peak in the summer. Right now I’m doing 25% more business with these two websites and seven employees than I am in this store. And, I’m doing it with 10 points less overhead.”

“The key is not the name, but to make sure that when you Google either car racks or snowshoes that my sites are at the top of the page. I’ve partnered with a friend who makes sure that I’m getting plenty of hits at the site.”

Andrew used to run the business out of the basement of the store, but the volume got too large and he moved to a 6,000 sf warehouse in neighboring Berlin in the spring of 2003 with the car racks, adding snowshoes in 2004. His websites are www.orssnowshoes.com and www.orscarracksdirect.com.

It is people like Andrew Brewer who are transforming rural communities, developing new businesses and business models that are creating exciting economic opportunities. What are you doing in your community to make sure that these new businesses start-up in your town?

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