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Personal gift-shopping Web site
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NAMES AND AGES: Eric Stites, 33, president, and David Peternell, 39, vice president

COMPANY NAME AND DESCRIPTION: Inc. is a personal gift-shopping Web site designed to help men find unique and creative gift items for women.

STARTING POINT: September 1998 with $60,000

2000 SALES PROJECTIONS: $2.2 million

THE STORY: Brothers-in-law Stites and Peternell had struggled for years with a problem that has plagued men for ages: finding the right gifts for the women in their lives. While working in marketing and for a commercial photographer, Stites met artists who were much better at creating their work than selling it. The opportunity to build a business providing a link between artists and gift-buyers was obvious, but the mechanics were not. "We talked about doing a print catalog, but that didn't have the flexibility we needed on the supply end," Stites recalls. "As the Internet started to become more popular, we realized it was perfect for our business model."

MAKING IT SIMPLE: The site allows men to create a profile of the person for whom they're shopping, including the occasion, age group, desired price range and other details--then it searches its database and returns a selection of products that meet the profile parameters and are available for immediate delivery. inventories items on consignment from artists all over the country. "Men procrastinate," says Stites, "so everything we show them is in stock and ready for overnight delivery."

GETTING THE WORD OUT: Stites says the biggest challenge the company faces is marketing--making people aware of the service. He is currently negotiating for an infusion of investment cash that will fund a marketing push and drive the company's projected growth figures.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Though targets men, Stites reports at least half of its customers are women.

Edition: June 2017

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