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Dayton, Ohio

Russ Gottesman of MyEndoShop

Meet Russ Gottesman, founder of MyEndoShop, a social shopping platform.
What is MyEndoShop?
MyEndoShop is a social shopping platform on which users create and stock their own virtual stores, customizing their storefront with inventory, including products they know, love and endorse.
Shop owners make sales commissions for items purchased based on their endorsement. The business model allows users and retailers to capitalize on influence marketing. While users make a sales commission on products they endorse and sell, retailers leverage brand loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing and are spared the cost of a salesperson.

How did you come up with the idea?
The idea came to me two years ago when my sister-in-law was visiting. She was in the market for a new TV and was asking me all sorts of questions about my TV. After a brief conversation, she came to the conclusion that it would be perfect for her and proceeded to purchase it at the nearest big box retailer. I got to thinking; people recommend products all the time to each other. Why shouldn’t we receive commission for that valuable information? And it was from this thought that MyEndoShop.com was born.

What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
I was surprised to find out just how invigorating it was to be back to this early stage of a startup. After growing Commuter Advertising into a multi-million dollar business, it was strange to be doing many of the same important tasks that early startups are required to do. The pace is frenetic--exactly how it should be.

Where did you find your first employee?
Finding our first employee is a great story. One of the most important things an entrepreneur can do is to grow and cultivate a strong network. As a startup grows, so do the needs of that startup and you never know how the interesting people you meet can affect your business in a positive way. I leveraged my network on LinkedIn to type in the exact requirements of the software engineer I was looking to hire. I then coupled that with Dayton, OH to keep the jobs local. A list of potential candidates populated, and I began calling these candidates using their LinkedIn contact information by relevance to my network. It turns out that our first employee, Tim Hall, who is just a fantastic person, was connected to two of our early investors at my first startup Commuter Advertising. An easy conversation ensued and a fantastic business partnership followed – all due to hard work and leveraging my network on LinkedIn.

What does a typical day in your business look like?
There is hardly a typical day at MyEndoShop, but on any given day our team is hard at work continually developing and updating the website, engaging our users on social media, and brainstorming new methods and ideas to increase our user base.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Ohio?
For us, it’s all about community. The Dayton community has such an entrepreneurial spirit that has embraced our two companies and family with open arms. The region provides all the safeguards needed to successfully launch a small business. Affordable housing, low cost of living, access to capital, reasonable rent rates, and fantastic access to qualified candidates.
These efforts are led by the Dayton Development Coalition, which has been a wonderful partner and driver of economic growth for so many years in the region. They in fact have continued to innovate their offering and are open for business to companies throughout the region.

What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of and how did they help?
We have taken full advantage of the many offerings available to all entrepreneurs in the region. Our first company was housed for five years at the Entrepreneurs Center, part of Tec Town. The Dayton Development Coalition's Regional Signature Fund has provided us access to capital for both bridge and start up financing. Both of our two companies have taken advantage of the state's reimbursement for hiring qualified interns and administered by the local Dayton Chamber of Commerce. The Downtown Dayton Partnership has been instrumental in keeping us here in Dayton and helping connect our companies to affordable office space.

Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
The very first check that I ever received for our first company was an incredible, almost indescribable moment. We actually had revenue coming in to a name we picked out for a concept we were not sure would even work. The amount was supposed to be for $90. Our first sales rep came into our office and said, "I have good news and bad. I have our first check. It's for $45. I lost the other $45 check."
Regardless, it was a great moment, one I'll never forget. I also remember the moment we cracked $100,000 and then $1,000,000 in sales, and look back at the hard work so many great people have put into our businesses to make them a reality, and then to see them succeed was the cherry on top.

What inspires you?
I firmly believe that you can inspire someone, but motivation is what comes from within. I wake up motivated for fear of not putting my family, myself, our businesses, or our teams in the best possible position to succeed. I am inspired by my family every single day. My beautiful wife and two daughters inspire me.

Can you share some of your favorite off-time activities or hobbies?
As the father of two beautiful girls, I love spending time with my family and watching them learn and grow right before my eyes. It seems to be a bit of a three-ring circus at times, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

What founders do you admire and why?
I admire what Elon Musk is doing for a couple of reasons. Most companies that sell for $1 billion are not worth nearly that amount. In life, often times it’s about timing, and Elon got out at the right time by selling his company PayPal for billions.

What’s next for you?
First and foremost, I want to continue to expand and grow MyEndoShop so that it becomes the online ecosystem where friends are recommending their favorite products to one another, and also earning cash back for their influential recommendations. I teach entrepreneurship at both the University of Dayton and DePaul University, and absolutely enjoy sharing knowledge and challenging the next generation to think entrepreneurially.
My next step is to continue to grow as a person and leader, continue to challenge myself to find new ways of doing old things better, and being an unbelievable dad to my daughters and husband to my wife, Katie.

Interview by Joe Baur

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