Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Incubator Spotlight

Eco Home Store

Who would have thought that two long time corporate drones (a lawyer and IT manager) would find their life’s dream in green retail?  As 2009 ushered in a historic presidency, sisters and working moms (Shelley Nuttall Martinez and Donna Nuttall Joe), had no idea that they were soon headed towards entrepreneurship. Shelley’s college friend reached out on Facebook looking to rekindle an old friendship and planted a business idea about selling eco-friendly products.  Wanting to share a promising business opportunity, Shelley introduced the idea to Donna who was eager to join the endeavor.

Outwardly, it might seem unexpected that Shelley and Donna would want to do something so radically different than what they were trained and educated to do but entrepreneurship is a part of the family tradition on both sides.  Shelley & Donna’s maternal grandparents owned a restaurant/nightclub for many years that is still in operation in PG County.  Both parents started their own IT-related businesses over the years.  As the first wave of dot-com businesses flourished in the late 90’s, Shelley and Donna’s father, Shelton, encouraged Shelley and her husband (software developer) to jump into the fray.  Both daughters were interested in starting a business but lacked an original idea that was worthy.

Fast forward a decade and Shelley is an avid proponent of green, natural and organic products as a result of asthma acquired in adulthood.  The chance meeting of friends along with a shared interest in the burgeoning green market grew into a strategic business plan.  Initially, the focus was on green building materials and creating a wholesale business, Eco Trade Source, for the building industry.  Eventually, the downturn in the building industry sidelined that business for awhile.  The market for consumer home goods seemed less risky in a soft economy.  Thus, Eco Home Store was conceived.

Initially, it was assumed that Eco Home Store would be a brick-and-mortar store in Chicagoland.  Three failed attempts at negotiating a lease in good faith caused the partnership to pivot and redirect efforts to an online store.  The college friend wanted to focus on the building industry and parted ways with the Nuttall Sisters in the fall of 2010.

Now they were free to use their talents on building a web-based business from scratch.  Shelley used her software development background to work with a website designer to implement the Eco Home Store online version 1.0.  Donna utilized her extensive experience with corporate transactions and contract negotiations to forge relationships with vendors and online daily deal sites, and developed a new found talent (and interest) in marketing.  Once the site went live after Thanksgiving 2010, Shelley took over operations from New Mexico while Donna worked her marketing magic from the DC area.  The early winter months were slow but following a few promising deals with some major daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social, Eco Home Store started increasing both customers and sales.

Eco Home Store online fared well for a start-up in 2011.  With a revamped website and plans to relocate operations to MD in summer 2012, Eco Home Store is looking to become the premiere online source for eco-friendly products for the home, garden, pets and baby.  More and more vendors are looking to place products on the site and the website’s reach recently extended into Canada.  Eventually, the goal is to add a brick-and-mortar presence to the online store. Shelley and Donna hope that Eco Home Store has a long and prosperous history that will eventually include their three daughters (2 for Donna and 1 for Shelley) and eventual grandchildren and beyond.  It’s been a circuitous and unexpected journey to entrepreneurship, but it’s all part of family tradition.

Eco Home Store
Donna N. Joe
Shelley N. Martinez
Company Phone: 505-407-3062

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