20 baseball bats spawned a fast-growing sporting goods store.
Vital Stats: Lanny Morton, 37, and Deena Morton, 38, of Sportscloseouts.com
Company: A sporting goods retailer in Phoenix
2006 Projected Sales: $4 million
eBay User ID: Arizonaswede
Bottom of the Ninth: Lanny Morton knows what it means to get down to the wire. He was broke in July 2002 when his then girlfriend, Deena, suggested he parlay his love for sporting goods into cash by selling sports equipment online. "I bought 20 bats for $40 each. I sold them on eBay and made $500 [profit] in a week," recalls Lanny. "My brain kicked in and said, 'If you can turn product that fast, you could really build wealth quickly.'"
Rookie Season: "I didn't think of it as a business at first," says Lanny. "The idea wasn't to turn it into a big company." But after six months of stellar sales, the pair developed www.sportscloseouts.com.
Nothing But Net: Features like Buy It Now helped the Mortons turn over product quickly. The challenge was keeping up with customer demand and becoming more efficient at one point, for example the pair had so many customers they had to stop writing shipping labels by hand and find faster ways to create their listings.
Salary Cap: Growing so quickly provided a few scares, however. "We were growing to a level of volume that we didn't have cash reserves for," says Lanny. But the pair got better at managing their inventory levels and structuring their listings to maximize profits. Today, they have seven employees.
The Crowd Goes Wild: The biggest reward for these sports-minded entrepreneurs is the jubilant response from customers. Says Lanny, "I love it when we sell somebody a bat and they e-mail us [saying], 'Oh my gosh! My kid hit a home run! We love that stuff."