If you think finding the perfect PC, printer or other office solution for your business is a pain, you'll understand the appeal of Mie-Yun Lee and Brenda Chin Hsu's BuyersZone.com Inc. (http://www.buyerszone.com). Office managers can order crates full of Post-its with ease, and start-up entrepreneurs can stock up more efficiently with help from the Watertown, Massachusetts, company.
"The entire concept grabbed me, and I was lured away to join [BuyersZone] in its crusade," says Hsu, 32, of her first encounter with Lee's then-4-year-old company in 1996. Hsu, who worked for an online publishing company, was looking for information relevant to small businesses, so she turned to BuyersZone, a business products research company that distributed advice via newsletters and articles Lee wrote.
"In 1995, [BuyersZone did] a piece on the Internet as an emerging tool for small businesses," says Lee, 30. Then she realized the Internet could solve two of BuyersZone's problems: the print medium's inescapable propensity to publish outdated material, and the inability to link readers with manufacturers.
Thanks to Hsu's background in finance and marketing, BuyersZone landed a small round of funding from private investors and launched its site in 1997. Since then, companies have been eating up the site's product and service menu, which allows them to learn about products, compare prices and features, and buy from 5,500 suppliers. Sales should hit $2.5 million this year.
Lee and Hsu are now growing their staff and fine-tuning their site. Luckily, neither have endured gender or racial blockades along the way. "But," says Lee, "it was a problem when Brenda and I had similar hairstyles."
Says Hsu, "[People] couldn't tell the difference between us."