Senior creates a startup business over the web

Photo Credit: Thomas Aubuchon

By Greg Lobel, Editor-In-Chief

For most teenagers, a random business thought becomes nothing more than an idea. For senior Jackson Geller, his idea quickly turned into a website-based company.

Geller, an avid golfer and member of the varsity team, had noticed that there was something missing from the golf retail market. On a golf bag, there are two legs properly equipped to keep the bag relatively vertical to prevent it from falling. On all bags, there is a rubber stopper at the end for traction. During the previous summer, Geller noticed that these rubber stoppers would often fall off the legs, making it difficult for the bag to stand on any surface other than grass. He searched the gamut of golf sites, finding no replacement stoppers.

At this point, Geller realized an easy, potential business idea. The process was not unfamiliar to him. His father is a former business owner/entrepreneur who now works at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. Also, his mother is the CEO of a government contracting firm (Government Contracting Solutions Inc.) based out of Tysons Corner. For the site that he would soon name Gatorfeet.com, Geller spent hours researching. After compiling all needed supplies, he sold his product directly on the site. I spoke to Jackson about the process and what his plans are for the site.

What were your start up costs and time used to make Gator Feet?

My initial expenses were actually fairly low for a small start-up, as I was really just trying to get a minimal viable product out there, which is basically like a prototype to see if there was a market. So without having any feet (rubber stoppers), I created a website during the summer, claiming I had these feet. The website fee is about $7.00 a month, and I tracked the website traffic using Google Analytics to see if people actually wanted the feet. Traffic was great, and I had a bunch of people who wanted the feet, so I decided to go through with the business. I originally wanted to get the feet manufactured in the US, but after contacting about 30 manufacturers and hearing back from one (that was way overpriced), I decided to look overseas. I again contacted about 20 Chinese manufacturers, and heard back from a couple, but this time the prices were considerably lower.  I ended up purchasing 500 feet for a $1.00 a piece.

What inspired/made you want to make Gator Feet?

I always had a passion for business growing up. I dreamed of owning my own business one day and I didn’t see myself doing anything else. I remember when I was 11, I started selling things on eBay and when I turned 15, I begged my mom for a job at her business, where I still work at during the summer. My dad teaches business at the University of Maryland and helps kids start their own [businesses] at school. Kids come to him with ideas, and he gets them on the right track.  I beg my dad at every opportunity to go out to Maryland and just sit in on his classes and sessions with kids. During the summer, I actually took an MBA program at UMD for a week when we each started and presented a business plan.

One day my dad complained about how his golf bag stands kept slipping and how the feet had worn out, so I went online to look for replacements, but found none. Since no one else was making these, I thought it would be a good thing to learn to start a business over the summer.

How much influence has your dad/family had on your entrepreneurial desires?

My dad has had a great impact on my business by really kick-starting and fueling my passion for entrepreneurship.  My sophomore year, he started taking me to pitch competitions and angel investors (wealthy individuals who fund start up businesses) at UMD, and I absolutely loved it. I loved seeing how the entrepreneurs formed business plans and presented their ideas, it was definitely something I could see myself doing.

How long do you intend to keep Gator Feet up?
Since my start-up and running costs are extremely low, I intend to keep Gator Feet up till the point where I cannot make a profit, which has not been a problem yet.

If you were to have made Gator Feet say, 10-15 years ago, how much different would the experience be?

I honestly do not think I would be able to start the business at all. I put in probably over 100 hours of just pure research into Gator Feet such as marketing, web design, rubber manufacturing, web ads, starting businesses, taxes, sales, incorporations and LLCs, analytics, etc, and all of this was done using the Internet.  There is so much information out there on the Internet, it actually hurts to think about it.  I was able to get in touch with Chinese manufacturers using simple email.  If this [were] 10-15 years ago, I probably would have had to go to China and travel around looking for manufacturers spending thousands of dollars. There really is no excuse to say you don’t know how to do something. You have this massive collection of tutorials and articles accessible almost anywhere in the world; Google is your best friend.

If you are interested in learning more about Gator Feet, you can visit the site here.