How three Philadelphia teens went from their parents’ basement to a multimillion dollar company.
When you think of high schoolers and their parents’ basements, you think of band practice or something out of “Wayne’s World.” But not Chris Francy, Steve Voudouris and his brother, Andrew. Back in 2001, the three of them were busy avoiding homework and founding Xoxide.com (pronounced ex-oxide), a new computer accessories company. In the basement.
One day at school, while they were supposed to be working on an English project, the boys logged onto the back end of their site and found a huge number of orders had been pouring in all morning. All of the orders were for a novelty product they recently developed, the PC Tachometer. Think of it as an RPM gauge for your computer: priced at just under $70 a pop, the PC Tachometer measures how hard your computer is working.
"And that was more or less when the company really started taking off," explains Andrew, now 22 years old. Today, he is giving an impromptu tour of the $5 million, 45,000-square-foot warehouse in Malvern, Pa., of which he, Steve and Chris are all co-owners. "That was when we really realized we had something,” he recalls.
Xoxide continued to grow, and soon the company's inventory had also taken over much of the Voudouris's house itself, including the backyard, where stacks of cardboard boxes sat sky-high atop wooden pallets. "I don't know why it never occurred to us to get tents," Andrew says. "But for about a year, we stored stuff in the backyard, and everyone would just watch the weather like a hawk. And if it started to rain, we had these tarps, and we would just run out and cover all the stuff up."
Incredibly, Chris and the Voudouris boys cleared $1.1 million in revenue in 2002, only their second year in business. At the time, Xoxide's entire operations were still taking place inside the Voudouris's suburban home.
By the time Xoxide finally moved into its first building in late 2007, the company had already brought in upwards of $2 million in sales, strictly working out of the Voudouris home. Declaring independence seems to have been a wise move however, as the company's 2006 revenue was an astonishing $14.9 million. In 2007 Xoxide cleared $19.1 million. And in 2008, Malvern's most unusual Internet start-up boasted a jaw-dropping $27.5 million in sales.
Today Xoxide operates eight different online stores, and offers everything from beauty products to bird supplies to auto parts. As Andrew likes to say, "If we can fit it in a box, and UPS will ship it, it doesn't matter what the product is. We take a business, we try it out, and if it works, then we keep pushing. If it doesn't work, we close it down. But ultimately--obviously--we've made some of the right decisions."
It’s that kind of thinking that had the guys recently touted as one of the 500 fastest growing businesses by Entrepreneur Magazine.
Not bad for a basement band.