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Hometown Inspiration for Ecommerce Site – OnlineBusinessDegree.org

Laurel McAndrews and Kendall Saville both grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., a city about 70 miles south of San Francisco.

Boardshorts.com founders Kendall Saville (left) and Laurel McAndrews (right) pose with their office dog Money.

“We grew up on the beach, in the water, around great surfers,” McAndrews said. “We were in our bathing suits all summer long.”

As the years passed, the duo ventured onto new cities and different career paths, but still held on to their beach town roots.

Saville’s experience in the social gaming industry building websites and mobile apps combined with McAndrews’ background in strategic planning, marketing, and consulting helped them to pay homage to their coastal foundations in the form of an entrepreneurial effort, which included boardshorts.

In late August of 2012, the pair launched Boardshorts.com, an online store that allows consumers to shop and compare numerous options of stylish boardshorts.

“We knew we wanted to start something together, and we settled on boardshorts because it was something we knew a little about,” McAndrews said. “We knew about the user profiles, and we felt like we had a good general understanding of the product. We like the idea of promoting an active lifestyle and people getting outdoors.”

McAndrews added that Saville purchased the domain name Boardshorts.com a year prior, so it just made sense.

While Saville had already been an entrepreneur in the gaming industry, McAndrews said she didn’t finish college thinking she wanted to have her own business.

“Since (Saville) has been an entrepreneur, I was able to see the good and bad sides. It’s not for everyone,” McAndrews said. “But, after you get out in the business world, you kind of develop a confidence that you might be able to create your own business. You become so incentivized—almost to a fanatical point.”

McAndrews’ career experience in several facets of business proved beneficial in co-founding Boardshorts.com.

“My most recent experience in consulting helped me a lot. You’re able to walk into something you don’t know a lot about and get a broad-based business knowledge,” she said. “For example, if I’d only had marketing experience, it wouldn’t have been as beneficial. It’s better to have a broader understanding of other areas of business to help make me a more rounded entrepreneur.”

Every business owner understands the importance of having a persevering spirit and love for your product, and boardshorts.com founders are no different.

“I think it’s important to be passionate because there will be those late nights when you will really need that passion to get you through. Be passionate about what you’re doing and know what you want,” McAndrews said. “It’s also important to use the product you are selling. It makes it so much easier when you’re building a product to be an actual user of the product.”

Boardshorts.com is in its early stages, but the founding duo has already dealt with a few challenges.

“When we launched the site, we knew we wanted it to be a hub for people to find any boardshort on the internet,” she said. “The challenge was figuring out how to get in with these big legacy retail brands, how to form that relationship.”

The answer required the founders to hit the pavement, which included attending surf industry trade shows, walking up to booths and pitching Boardshorts.com to see if they could get taken on as retailers.

Reactions were mixed.

“It required relationship management. Some of the bigger brands didn’t want to work with such a new company, but maybe a big brand won’t take us, but a smaller one will. We had to have a lot of face time with people to proliferate our distributors.”

A great marketing tool, McAndrews explained, is the various mediums of social media.

“Social media is so helpful because it allows us to get user feedback as soon as possible.
Pinterest has been especially helpful because we look at what people are pinning and repinning,” she said. “For example, we saw that people were repinning bright shorts so that helped us gather insight into what was popular. We’re currently designing a contest using Facebook and Twitter. If we didn’t have those avenues available, I don’t even know how we’d be able to have a contest. Being able to do all of this through social media is amazing.”

The pair is focused on search engine optimization right now for their company and expanding their partnerships.

“Our ultimate goal is to have an extensive and exhaustive collection of boardshorts, as well as expand our offerings to other types of apparel,” McAndrews said. “We also want to increase our scope. We feel like there’s a ton of product information out there, but the information is not necessarily marketed. We are trying to find a way to produce that content.”

In her spare time, McAndrews has also decided to embark on a more personal goal: pursuing a graduate degree in business.

“I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to go to business school and I already had plans to attend, even before we launched Boardshorts.com,” she said. “It was necessary in my consulting work, but now I have a whole new set of reasons—expanding my network, increasing my profile list, and being more marketable as an individual.”

McAndrews admitted initially she had concerns about getting a return on her investment, but said she feels confident it will be worthwhile.

As for her foray into entrepreneurship, McAndrews compared it to getting ‘bitten by the bug.’

“I think entrepreneurship is great for people who want to see something for their actions right away,” she said. “The user validation is the best. Once you see that people love your product, there’s nothing like it.”

McAndrews’ best piece of advice for other entrepreneurs who are just starting out: keep going.

“You might have to give up on a strategy, totally scratch something and start over, but just keep going,” she said. “We’ve made some decisions upfront that two weeks later we were like that’s a stupid decision. But you just have to keep going. That’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.”

Follow Valerie Jones on Twitter @ValerieJonesCMN

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