An Australian running a soccer and rugby business out of Alabama? It's just crazy enough to work.
Description: Online sales of licensed soccer and rugby apparel
Founder: Bernard Frei, 39
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
2004 projected sales: $6 million
The Globe-Trotter: Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Bernard Frei wanted a new start in the States and surprised many in the sporting world by choosing Birmingham for his online rugby and soccer emporium. "[There's] this absolute astonishment that this range of product is available not only in the U.S., but [also] out of Alabama," Frei says.
By the Book: With no background in website design or e-commerce, Frei needed more than just his passion for rugby and soccer to build his internet presence. He spent 1998, his business's first year, with an internet guidebook on his lap, learning as he went. "My business basically kicked off in a spare bedroom with a ton of advice from friends and an HTML code book."
Just Do It: At age 18, Frei received an unforgettable piece of advice from a prominent Australian businessman. "It was basically to get on and do it now, and not to hang around," says Frei. "I think so many business plans end up sitting around and never get used, and that's a shame."
The Almighty Dollar: "The worst mistake [I made] was never having the time to get around to getting serious financing," says Frei. "Because of that, we've missed major opportunities."
Mr. Big Stuff: Over the years, Frei has built business relationships with sportswear giants such as Adidas and Reebok. And it was the partnership with Adidas that secured 365 Inc. its biggest coup to date: having soccer superstar David Beckham sport the company's gear in TV ads. Says Frei, "His name and brand recognition in the U.S. is just driving our sales beyond our wildest dreams."
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