The fun of nosing around auctions isn't the treasures you leave with, but the high you get as you whittle away at vendors' original prices. Husband-and-wife team Michael and Kathy Morell are putting a spin on the rush. When they started Make Us An Offer Inc. (MakeUsAnOffer.com) as a retail catalog business through which consumers could request a catalog and set their own prices for goods, customers and the press raved. Late that year (1996), the Harvard grads shed the paper weight and broadened the concept on the Web, shifting the focus of their Lawrenceville, New Jersey, company to electronic negotiation. Rest has been scarce ever since.
While Michael, 26, didn't end his tenure as a bank vice president until 1998, he helped general management consultant turned entrepreneur Kathy, also 26, part time. They've now increased their staff to 15 to support MakeUsAnOffer.com's expanding retail site-where real-time bidding is hosted by animated salesman Chester (generated by the company's patent-pending technology Haggleware)-and the number of e-commerce sites licensing Haggleware to move their own merchandise is rising. Appointing CEO Robert Israel last spring has helped balance the workload. But, admits Kathy, "It's pretty complicated. You try to keep things not-so-personal and to work through issues as they come up."
Issues aren't taken home, however. "I'm here all the time, so when I go home, I'm sleeping," she quips.
You can buy everything from electronics to porcelain dolls from MakeUsAnOffer.com, but for e-tailers, Haggleware can help liquidate inventory while optimizing sales and profits. It's yet another winning model, but Kathy warns would-be dotcoms to master everyday tasks before exploring IPO fantasies. And, she says, "Realize it's probably going to change your life."
Make Us An Offer Inc., (609)656-1240, www.haggleware.com.