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Small Business Owner Finds E-commerce Niche

Small Business Owner Finds E-commerce Niche

Paul Saunders, owner of ExceptionalSheets.com, chose the e-commerce business model to sell luxury bed and bath linens. By using the internet, he takes the product to the buyer rather than trying to bring the buyer to the product.

This is Saunders second successful venture in e-commerce. He started his first e-commerce business in South Texas when he was an active-duty Marine. There he approached a local pro-golf shop about selling their stagnant merchandise for a percentage of the e-commerce sales. His success with this venture encouraged him to continue to pursue e-commerce opportunities. In 2009, Saunders launched ExceptionalSheets.com in a garage in Evansville, IN using the same e-commerce strategy.

In preparation for a planned expansion of ExceptionalSheets.com, Saunders sought counsel from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Saunders received comprehensive guidance to help him plan the growth of his business through SBA's resource partner, the Southwest Indiana Small Business Development Center (ISBDC). One of ISBDC's Business Counselors, Doug Claybourn, met with Saunders several times to help review and help amend multiple drafts of his business plan, marketing plan, financial projections, and supporting documentation.

To support his expansion, Saunders sought financing from a financial institution. After initially being denied financing through a traditional commercial loan, Saunders was able to obtain financial assistance from Legence Bank utilizing the SBA's Loan Guaranty Program.

Legence Bank made $250,000 of working capital available to ExceptionalSheets.com through SBA's guaranty loan program for veterans. The loan enabled the company to add 10,000 sq. ft. of office and warehouse space to its existing facility. Since the expansion, Saunders has doubled his workforce at this location by adding seven new employees across his sales, customer service, information technology, and supply chain management departments.

In the last year, Saunders was able to further expand and also vertically integrate his business by purchasing his largest supplier with the use of a $2.9 million SBA International Trade Loan from Legence Bank. This acquisition allowed him to add an additional 25 employees and manufacture his best-selling products at a lower price to his customers in the United States and abroad including Canada and the United Kingdom. "Exportation is a large part of the 2014 business growth plan," said Saunders.

Most recently, Saunders launched eLuxurySupply.com as part of the company's planned expansion. This new site offers many home, garden and lifestyle products in addition to the offerings available on ExceptionalSheets.com.

Since working with the SBA, ExceptionalSheets.com has experienced explosive growth of 1,821% in the e-commerce sales of Egyptian cotton sheets and bedding. "This is tremendous especially given that we are located in Southern Indiana which, by its very nature, is not exactly Silicon Valley," said Saunders. Despite this he remains committed to keeping his business in Evansville, IN.

Through September 2014, the SBA Express Veteran Advantage Initiative will have no upfront fee to Veterans. To find out more about the SBA's Loan Programs and how the SBA can help you start or grow your business contact the SBA Indiana District Office (317) 226-7272 or visit www.sba.gov/in.