Interview With Young Entrepreneur, Kevin Sproles – Founder Of Volusion
Kevin started his web design company when he was 16, now its one of the biggest Shopping Cart Software with over 15,000 websites using it to run their online store. Kevin shares some great advice about running your own eCommerce website and gives us an insight in the life of a young entrepreneur
1) Tell us about your main project, Volusion ? Why did you launch Volusion? Where are you at now with Volusion?
I originally started Volusion as a custom web-design business when I was 16 years old and still attending high school. I coded Web sites out of the bedroom at my parents’ home in Simi Valley, California, and as I started to work with more customers, I learned that shopping cart software was among the most requested features. Today, our award-winning ecommerce platform powers the success of over 15,000 online stores. The platform that helps small businesses grow online is the same one that is used by market leaders such as Motorola, Disney, Chicago Tribune, Michigan State University and the Obama and McCain presidential campaigns.
2) Why should young entrepreneurs be using Volusion over other Shopping Cart software like OsCommerce or ZenCart?
For young entrepreneurs, Volusion is the perfect solution because it offers an all-in-one, easy-to-use, reliable platform that is backed by 24x7x365 support. We offer a free, 14-day trial so that business owners can try out the software before purchasing. Also, we offer the same platform to both small businesses and larger companies, ensuring that all the tools are there for you to be successful online. Unlike other shopping carts on the market, Volusion offers a secure, PCI certified cart, marketing tools, merchant accounts and domain name registration all in one place. As an entrepreneur, it is important for your business to be able to scale and with Volusion, you know that you can grow without changing platforms.
3) What advice would you give a young entrepreneur trying to make money selling online? Is using the right software important?
Using the right software is critical for your business and choosing the company behind the software is just as important. The software you choose should be easy-to-implement, comprehensive and innovative so that you can increase profitability with limited effort and management. Volusion includes 24x7x365 support across all packages to help entrepreneurs learn how to sell online and be successful at running an online store. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t from our customers and we’ve incorporated these best practices into our software. In essence, you profit from the experience of 15,000 companies.
4) I understand that at just 16 years old you began coding e-commerce shopping cart software, would you say being young can be a benefit when it comes to online business? What is your top tip for achieving business goals young?
Personally, I always like to learn from the best in the industry. As I mentioned earlier, we already leverage the knowledge of our 15,000 successful customers. At Volusion, we always try to bring in the best talent to run our initiatives in each of our departments. For example, we just recently hired a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) who is an expert in the field of customer experience. In his past experiences, he implemented Net promoter programs and other customer feedback initiatives and this knowledge helps us build the ideal solution and service for our customers. We hire experts to help us learn, grow and evolve to meet the needs of our merchants.
5) What would you say is the most important factor of running an eCommerce website that most people over look? Customer Service/Design/Price?
I think people overlook the fact that they need a solution that will scale with their business. You may initially look for a low-priced solution, but the low-priced solution might not meet your needs as you grow. Also, a low-priced solution won’t necessarily provide key features such as search engine optimization (SEO) or a variety of merchandising features and social Web tools. We launched vZoom, a merchandising feature that helps consumers quickly see larger photos of our store owners’ products, to support purchase decisions. And as social shopping continues to grow, it’s important to take full advantage of the social Web. With Volusion’s Social Store Builder™, online store owners can use this tool to feature products from their store directly on their Facebook and MySpace profiles. Each of these factors needs to be considered when deciding whether or not your solution will help scale with your business.
6) Do you think that entrepreneurialism is something that is in your blood? Or is it something that can be learned?
For me, it’s a combination of both. My father ran his own construction business and while it’s quite different from technology, I was inspired at a young age. In order to be successful in running a business, you have to devote a great amount of time, education, studying and research. Entrepreneurialism starts from within but, requires constant learning, dedication and perseverance. That being said, you can definitely learn to do anything that inspires you.
7) Is there anyone that you look up to and model yourself on?
When I first started my business, I admired the business model that Microsoft had at that time for developing a platform one time and reselling it – Windows. I realized the Microsoft approach was a more scalable business model than doing custom Web design work. That helped me decide that I wanted to evolve my custom Web design business to an ecommerce platform. One platform allows us to deliver a unified solution that solves the needs of small and large companies alike.
8) Do you have any favorite business related or entrepreneur related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
One of the books that inspired me in business and finance is “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki.
9) What is the best advice you have ever been given?
The best advice I’ve been given is to encourage people to become leaders. Leadership is extremely important for an individual to learn because it’s an excellent attribute to have in an organization. Additionally, people should focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses in their careers. You would think that this goes without saying, but people would be more successful if they focused on their inherent abilities. This principle extends to the 80/20 rule: spend 80 percent of your time focusing on your strengths and the other 20 percent on working on your weaknesses.
10) What advice would you give to a Young Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
I would advise them to focus on the finances behind their business plan. Most people get excited about the business idea without examining and extrapolating cost versus profit. Choosing a business model that allows for enough profit to grow the business is vital to long-term success.
11) How many hours do you work daily and what are your daily tasks for your sites?
I feel like I’ve never stopped working as an entrepreneur and as a business owner; you’re constantly thinking about work because it is your passion. Initially, I was working 24x7x365 in order to get the business started. Recently, I finally started to take a little bit of time off, especially on weekends. As CEO, my daily tasks vary. I work with every department to ensure that we are meeting our customers’ needs every day. One of our primary goals this year is to maintain a customer-centric focus by making sure that everyone in the organization understands how to directly increase customer satisfaction.
12) If the Internet had not existed – what do you think you would be doing?
I would still be running a business, most likely within the computer industry as it has always been my passion.
13) What do you like best about the Internet?
I like the collaboration you see on the Internet and how the world’s information is readily available. As we work together and learn from each other, we are more effective in everything we do.
14) What do you like least about the Internet?
The one thing that comes to mind is spam.
15) Have you any plans (personal or business) that you can share with us about your future plans / goals / lifetime goals?
On a personal level, my goal is to continue to give back to the community. We’ve recently launched several commitments within our organization to give back to those in need. The Volusion Foundation believes in three strong areas of support in giving back to others and the environment- Time, Product and Revenue. Through a combined effort of these three elements, the Volusion Foundation devotes 1% Time in helping to better serve the community, 1% Product in helping non-profits offer their ideas and services to others and 1% Revenue in providing support for budding entrepreneurs as well as vulnerable children, farmers, families, workers and others in need of assistance throughout the world.