Name and age: John Schaeffer, 48
Company name and description: Real Goods Trading Corp. sells a broad range of energy and conservation products through its catalogs and retail stores.
Based: Ukiah, California
Fiscal year 1997 sales: $18.4 million
Number of employees: 100+
The road less traveled: Schaeffer tends to walk paths where no others have tread. In 1991, Real Goods became the first U.S. retail company to successfully launch a multistate direct public offering. The result: $1 million in stocks sold primarily to small investors. In 1996, the company created the first online bulletin board where people could buy and sell its stock. And in 1997, Schaeffer got the Securities and Exchange Commission's nod to conduct the first direct public offering wherein investors could purchase stock online with credit cards.
On public offerings: Going through an investment banker could have cost the company up to 15 percent of its proceeds. Plus, the company's customers are fiercely independent and didn't want to deal with large institutions.
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