Small World

Fast Track

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
Founded: 1986
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.

Contact Sources

Harbor Bank, 11001 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601, (757) 591-7000

MidSouth National Bank, P.O. Box 3745, Lafayette, LA 70502, (318) 237-8343

Real Goods Trading Corp., 555 Leslie St., Ukiah, CA 95482, (800) 762-7325

Treasury World Wide, 1155 15th St. N.W., #300, Washington, DC 20005

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This article was originally published in the March 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Small World.

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