The Self-Made Man: Sean Belnick
A decent amount of the successful men profiled in this Self Made Men column were precocious go-getters as kids, but they were still kids, and they generally didn’t start getting serious and making money until they were at least old enough to vote.
This week’s column is a first, because our subject—BizChair.com founder Sean Belnick—started his company when he was 14, and is still running it to this day. Just a heads up, this column will either motivate you in ways you never thought possible, or make you feel like the most unambitious turd on the planet.
Belnick’s business idea, which came to him while the rest of us were playing video games and tracking the hair growth in our armpits, was inspired by his stepfather’s job at a furniture manufacturer. After seeing furniture stores place orders for customers through his stepfather, Belnick asked himself what would happen if there was an online marketplace for those customers to buy from directly.
He also presumably asked his stepfather, who gave him $500 to start BizChair, which Sean ran from his bedroom through a Yahoo store account. Fortunately, Sean had some experience with building websites (primitive as they were back in 2001) and selling Pokemon cards on eBay, and his only real overhead was advertising since he had no storefront and his stepdad was supplying the inventory, which was also limited.
Belnick’s business plan, which was relatively simple, worked. Because he wasn’t operating any physical stores, his product could sell below cost and he could absorb the shipping costs. Before long, he opened a warehouse and hired some employees, and attracted big name clients like Google, Abercrombie & Fitch (who probably don’t allow fat or ugly people to sit in those chairs), and American Idol. Somehow it never occurred to me that they actually had to buy chairs from someone, but they do, and it’s Sean Belnick.
Belnick’s role as CEO decreased when he went to college, but much of what he learned was applied to his business anyway, so it all worked out all right. He has a business degree from Emory, which seems counterproductive when you consider that he was already successful by the time he got to college, but he’d never learned how to format balance sheets or income statements, so it was a chance for him to go back and learn the basics as his company was growing.
These days, BizChair.com has 75 employees and sells over 25,000 products from hundreds of manufacturers, and Sean Belnick is a millionaire who grew up alongside his company. His is a unique perspective on self-starting and he talks about it in this Bold Ventures TV interview from 2010. Enjoy.
About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.