Inspired by two successful local entrepreneurs
There’s a part of me that’s always wanted to own my own company. Chatting with a couple of successful businesspeople over the last few weeks reinforced that.
Most recently it was artist Mary Lake-Thompson, who is featured this week in our special Entrepreneurs Issue. She, along with her husband and daughter, run her namesake giftware company out of Oroville. The business has been around since the 1980s, and it’s an understatement to call it impressive.
In addition to the linens Lake-Thompson is known for—products that are designed, printed and packaged right in downtown Oroville—the business has other niche products, including dishware, as well as licensing contracts with companies that want to use her designs.
I learned about Lake-Thompson recently from a colleague who happened upon some pretty dish towels at a consignment shop, and lo and behold, noticed they were made locally. It was only when I visited the company’s downtown Oroville outlet and factory—and took a good look at the artwork—that I realized I actually had seen its products, in the homes of friends and relatives.
Perhaps the thing I was most impressed with during my visit is the company’s commitment to its roughly 50 employees, most of them women. Some are college students. Several are single moms. Lake-Thompson repeatedly credited the crew with helping the operation succeed. Her husband, Dick, noted that 22 of them were in attendance at a recent dinner to celebrate employees with at least 10 years of service.
That says a lot.
The other business owner who inspired me recently is a friend, whom, now that I think about it, I met about a dozen years ago. Time flies. David Boctor is one of the founders of Build.com, the Chico-based online home-improvement company that appears to be the benchmark in the local e-commerce industry. Indeed, Build, which launched about 16 years ago as FaucetDirect.com, competes with big-box retailers Home Depot and Lowe’s. (It’s now owned by a U.K.-based distribution company.)
Today, though, Boctor has a new baby in the online retail world: Monger.com. Because I’m a nosy reporter, I asked him a bunch of questions about the startup during a recent lunch downtown. Then I mined the site. The recently launched Monger offers more than 100,000 products—from reasonably priced grocery items and pet gear to bed linens and home and office furniture.
What sets Monger apart from other e-commerce sites is twofold. First, it’s membership-based, like Costco. And second, and this is the big twist, for each customer’s purchase, the company literally writes a check to help pay off that person’s loan. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a home or auto loan, or college debt—the company sends a payment directly to the lender. It’s a heck of a niche. I expect young buyers who are increasingly weighed down by student loan debt—$35,000 on average—to have an interest in Monger.
Boctor was ahead of the curve when he started selling plumbing supplies online back in 2000 during that early incarnation of Build.com, and it looks to me like he is again with this new venture. I’m looking forward to watching it grow.