Good as Gold

On a Shoestring

What: Consumer resource Web site
Who: Tim Storm of FatWallet.com
Where: Roscoe, Illinois
When: Started in 1999
How much: $100

As the director of Internet technology for a consumer electronics manufacturer, Tim Storm was no stranger to the Web, nor to how consumers used it to research potential online purchases. As a hobby, Storm started FatWallet.com in a spare room of his home. Although similar sites existed, Storm felt his could emerge as the leader, given his background and capabilities.

He already had a computer and a Net connection, so he only needed to spend $70 for the domain name and $30 for Web hosting. Continuing to work at his day job, Storm, 35, kept costs low by building the site-chock-full of retailer reviews (of electronics, beauty products, books, music, movies and more), special offers, cash-back rewards and comparison shopping for savvy shoppers-at night and during weekends.

For the first few months, Storm submitted FatWallet.com to search engines and got free traffic in return. Once he received a few checks from affiliate programs, Storm used the income toward pay-per-click search engines to drive more traffic. "A general rule of mine is to not spend a dollar unless you can get at least $1.25 in value returned," says Storm.

True to FatWallet.com's modest beginnings and mission, Storm doesn't spend wildly-despite growth that's allowed him to move operations to an office and project gross revenue of $2.5 million for 2003. "In our business, we don't even make our living a dollar at a time-a dime at a time is more like it," says Storm, who currently has 14 employees. "Starting with a shoestring budget gave us the ideals to not spend money before we had it."

-April Y. Pennington

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This article was originally published in the October 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Good as Gold.

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