Patrick Coughlin knows that brick-and-mortar businesses need to think outside the box if they want to improve their bottom lines.
Coughlin has owned and operated American Diamond Importers, an independent jewelry store in St. Clair, Mich., for almost 15 years. St. Clair is a small, idyllic community of about 6,000 people north of Detroit. The brick-and-mortar store tends to draw customers from radius of about 40 miles in this rural part of Michigan.
<img src=”/wp-content/uploads/images/0000/0112/coughlinTH.jpg” alt=”PatCoughlinandwife”/>Coughlin has had a static, information-only website, but he didn’t do any online business. When he found out that eBay’s ProStores was teaming with _Entrepreneur magazine to give away a ProStore to a few businesses, Coughlin jumped at the chance to add a new sales channel to his existing business—and he set some ambitious goals.
He has run a successful brick-and-mortar business since 1992, but he believed that to move his business to the next level, he had to make the commitment to an online endeavor.
“Internet sales are a must to survive and grow,” he said.
Coughlin’s goal: to generate $1 million in sales from his online business within one year. It’s a significant goal and, to make that happen, he has made a sizeable investment in people, equipment and advertising.
Coughlin has added six new staff members to handle the day-to-day duties of the new endeavor including three for customer service, one for fulfillment and one product photographer. As things get rolling, he expects to need additional staff to handle the new workload.
Along with adding new staff, he has purchased new equipment for each of them and mapped out a $100,000 advertising campaign. Needless to say, Coughlin is committed to the new endeavor.
On Aug. 18, 2006 Americandiamondimporters.com went “live” and it wasn’t long before Coughlin and his crew had their first sale—a diamond pendant. With this new online project, Coughlin says he and his team are very excited about the future.
“Now that we’re open, there is an excitement in the air,” he said. “It’s just as exciting as when we opened the door to our brick-and-mortar store.”
Coughlin said they commemorated their first sale by honoring an age-old retailer tradition and added a modern-day twist. Since they couldn’t frame the first dollar of their first sale (after all, it was an online credit card transaction), they printed the PayPal transaction receipt and taped it to the wall.
“It was really exciting,” Coughlin said.
American Diamond Importers was the first of the six contest winners to launch a ProStores site. Even though everything wasn’t perfect, Coughlin 15 was eager to get online business started. Perhaps he was a bit too eager. He said after the site launched, he noticed his crew had posted a $10,000 diamond ring to the site, but had listed the price as zero. He breathed a sigh of relief that no one found that jewel of a bargain.
American Diamond Importers has seen significant growth since 1992. What began as a small operation with Coughlin and a salesperson has blossomed to a crew of 12 at the brick-andmortar business. With the addition of six more staffers and the launch of a new online business, American Diamond Importers is now mining for new business that’s far outside rural Michigan.