What's Up, Doc?

The Lean Year

For years, Louis' wife had said that he would make a great entrepreneur, and selling health products seemed like a natural way to go about it. Louis says his parents were always preaching good health, and there were several doctors in the family. Plus, he loved the Internet. "I've always had a passion for it," he admits. "I'm on it all day, every day." Well, always might be too strong a word for a method of communication that's only been around as long as the Internet has, but you get the general idea.

Louis, who previously worked for an investment firm, decided to start his own business in early 1998. With $100,000 saved, Louis quit his job and opened up-drum roll, trumpets sounding-HealthFactor.com.

Ahem. You were supposed to nod excitedly and exclaim, "Of course, I've heard of that company." Well, if you've never heard of it, don't be alarmed. Although Louis spent a lot of money getting the name out there, few people, it seems, were out there.

"We started the company in February 1998, and we didn't make a sale until September," Louis recalls, sheepishly. "We tried to be all products to all people, selling all the products that you see in your grocery store or at PriceClub, and literally blew through over $70,000."

The company had been the brainchild of Louis and his wife, Shelley. While Louis took care of the marketing and day-to-day activities, his wife was a one-woman shipping department with very little to do. Louis had purchased what he thought would be one month's worth of products: boxes and boxes of trendy and traditional products like echinecea, ginseng and vitamin C. He had spent $15,000 on those boxes, which filled up the couple's bedroom.

And they remained there.

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the October 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: What's Up, Doc?.

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