This week, forget the movies and watch product reviews on Vat19.com! No seriously, you can spend 1-2 hours watching their videos... and I did.
Vat19 is an ecommerce site that specializes in all of those items that you never knew you needed. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or another, you’re bound to find something awesome.
Their professional, wit-filled product demonstration videos have garnered them millions of YouTube views, tens of thousands of subscribers, and a reputation of excellence amongst their customers.
Jamie Salvatori, owner and founder of Vat19.com, has taken a niche, specialty retail site and turned it into a thriving, multimedia product discovery experience.
In a space where short, amateur product reviews dominate, Vat19 brings quirky, quality demos to the masses. With a video for nearly every product on the site, you can spend hours watching adults play with toys, eat thousands of calories of candy, and give genuinely useful demonstrations of each inventive product.
Vat19 may have a light-hearted take on their product review process, but Jamie is serious about running an excellent business. Read on to learn more about his story and how he operates Vat19.
What did you do before Vat19?
Prior to Vat19.com, I worked briefly at a software startup in Evanston, Illinois that was affiliated with the University I attended. While there, I did some software programming. I hated it and quickly realized that I did not want to be a full-time software engineer. After college, I worked with my Dad in his video production company. He taught me photography and videography and I loved it.
However, making commercials for local furniture stores and editing corporate training films slowly murders your soul. So, after 4 years of doing that (and poorly), I stumbled upon the idea of combining my software engineering skills with my newfound video production skills and launched Vat19.com.
(this is the studio we bought - it's more awesome looking on the inside)
What is Vat19.com?
Vat19 is where the world goes to buy curiously awesome gifts. We specialize in promoting fun, functional, and unique items such as 5-pound gummy bears, magnetic putty, 6-foot inflatable soccer balls, and rubber band shotguns -- you know, the essentials.
What were the first things you sold?
The very first products we sold on Vat19.com were DVDs that our production company had produced. They were a random collection of subject matter ranging from fake video fireplaces to driver's educational programs. Perhaps this was the foundation for the random collection of products available on Vat19.com.
What’s the pain point that you address?
Not laughing enough while shopping. Seriously, shopping should be fun! A salesman that can get you to laugh has an amazingly higher chance of making a sale than one who doesn't (all other things being equal). We want to be that salesman.
How is Ecommerce unique?
Ecommerce allows us to sell to anyone across the world instantly but it comes with a price: It doesn't allow the customer to touch, feel, or smell the item.
Compensating for this requires a lot of time, energy, effort, and skill. We love to properly showcase and explain a product and I think this is why we're successful.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This one revolutionized my soap usage.)
What software / tools do you use?
The website is powered by custom software I wrote. I don't recommend doing this, however. I simply happen to have a CS degree, so it's fairly easy for me. I would recommend others buy great off-the-shelf ecommerce software.
We use QuickBooks since the price is right and it works well
We use Google Docs for word processing and spreadsheet work (it's cheap and good enough for 99% of what you need to do).
We use a virtual PBX (Private Branch Exchange) for our phone system and all employees have cell phones.
We use ZenDesk for customer service ticketing and Asana for task management.
What does a successful day of work at Vat19 look like?
I've either crossed a lot of things off my to-do list or I've laughed genuinely many times.
Sales fluctuate constantly and it has taken me a long time to not allow these daily fluctuations to adversely affect my mood. As long as we've done good work that day then we're investing in future sales.
Please note that this doesn't mean that I'm blind to problems. A dip in sales is never something to celebrate, but you need enough perspective to understand why this has happened and not prevent it from you focusing on your overall business strategy.
How do you stay organized?
I'm not very organized. My office is a mess. I try to keep my to-do list organized by using Asana. However, I still use lots of paper lists.
My best organizational advice is that multi-tasking doesn't exist. Spend 5 minutes at the beginning of the day and write down what you need to accomplish that day. Then prioritize it by importance. Start with the first task and don't stop working on it until you complete that task. Trying to jump back and forth between different tasks is a recipe for disaster. You'll make mistakes and it will take longer.
Editor's Note: Check out their video newsletter for hilarious recaps of the week's additions, fan art, and some quick demos. It is professionally done, entertaining, and you are sure to laugh at least 5 times per episode.
Having ____ would make running your business easier?
An awesome-idea-generating machine.
There are only two things that matter in business: an idea and its execution. Typically, you can throw more money at execution and improve its efficacy. But nothing can substitute for the right idea. Ideas are the lifeblood of your business and they can come from anywhere, from anyone, and at anytime. You simply need to be able to discern good ideas from bad ones.
Do you have any quirks that make you perfect for this type of business?
I'm not sure that I am perfect for this type of work. That said, I certainly love it and it keeps me coming back for more each and every day. If you're convinced you have a good idea, and you're willing to stick with it long enough to prove yourself right, you'll be fine in whatever you do.
If you could go back in time to before Vat19, what advice would you give yourself?
I am extremely lucky in that I've had my Dad deeply involved throughout my entire business life. Everything I know about business I've learned from him. I didn't always listen at first, so my advice to my younger self would be, "Listen to Dad!"
What 3 pieces of advice do you have for ecommerce entrepreneurs?
Assume that your sales will be half; and your expenses, double. If the deal still looks good, go for it!
Learn to Negotiate
Everything in business is a negotiation. You can only negotiate successfully when you're in a position of strength. Most people don't recognize when they're in that position. Ask yourself, "If I walk away right now, will I be substantially and negatively affected?" If the answer is "no", then you're in a position of power and you will usually get what you want.
Love Your Business
You should love your business, but the sole purpose of a business is to make money. In the business world, it ends up being a bonus if you love what you’re doing. Often times, loving your business and making money are symbiotic, which makes running a business appear to be a bit of a paradox. However, the bottom line is that if you love your business, you'll give it the respect it deserves. If you give it the respect it deserves, you will make rational decisions based upon sound business principles and will make money.
Find more Vat19
Vat19 software recap
|Software / App||What It's For|
|Asana||Team management and communication|
|ZenDesk||Customer service / ticket management|
|Google Docs||Document creation / asset management|
|A Virtual PBX||Internal phone system (PBX = Private Branch Exchange)|
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