It all started when I saw my first supercar when I was 7 or 8 years old. It was a silver Ferrari 550 Maranello, and I remember asking my father all about it. . Ever since that day, I became obsessed with Ferraris, going crazy every time I saw one.
In 2010, I worked at a gym earning a meagre salary and struggling to survive. I had dropped out of college and had no school qualifications, but I still had big dreams of one day owning a Ferrari.
Whilst working at the gym, a very wealthy friend of mine who knew of my obsession with Ferraris gave me the keys to his brand-new Ferrari F430 and told me to “take it for a drive.” I was only 18 years old at the time. As I think back to his offer, I wonder, was he crazy?
Driving my dream car that day changed my life, although at the time, I didn’t know it.
It made me become even more obsessed with Ferraris. I asked myself, what am I doing to achieve my dream? And to be honest, I wasn’t doing anything to make my dream a reality. I was wasting my life working for less than minimum wage.
Soon after, I saw a commercial for The Social Network, which was a movie on how Facebook was founded. I became engrossed in the film, and as soon as it finished, I was motivated to start my own company. I had always loved cars, but I also loved computers, websites and anything related to technology. The question was, what company should I start? I didn’t have a big budget nor the skills needed to start a proper company. I then remembered a friend of mine who owned a wide format printer for printing posters. I decided to start up my very own supercar posters company.
That very same night, I bought the domain name supercarposters.co.uk and setup a Magento website for online e-commerce. The very next day, I got my first order. To this day, I have no idea how someone found my website and made a purchase, especially since it had only been live for less than 24 hours.
I spoke to my friend, got the poster printed and sent it to my first customer. From there, I started working on my website in the evenings, whilst working at the gym during the day.
My business slowly started to grow, as I averaged around 2-3 orders per week. Unfortunately, my friend who owned the wide format printer was becoming very unreliable, so I decided to purchase my own printer and do the printing myself.
I looked on eBay and found a second-hand HP wide format printer for £450. That expense plus all the other requirements to start my business, such as photo paper, inks, postal tubes, and packaging material, totalled about £750.
I set up the printer in my bedroom and started learning how to print. I soon realised I was limiting myself to supercars, so I decided to launch a new website called Poster Store UK.
Week after week, both my websites started to grow, and I decided to expand onto eBay. Selling on eBay was certainly one of the best decisions I have ever made. I went from 2-3 orders per week to 5-10 orders per day.
Trying to print 5-10 orders per day whilst having a day job and working from a tiny bedroom wasn’t easy.
Orders started to increase day after day. I started receiving over 40 orders per day; managing the printing process from my bedroom wasn’t easy (see image below).
A few days after the above picture was taken, my sister-in-law kindly let me turn her garage into a workshop. I moved my printer there and set up shop; it was starting to look like a real business! I also hired my brother to help me with the workload.
Unfortunately, my HP printer was constantly breaking down, and I often had to work until 4 or 5am to do repairs and keep up with the orders.
This is when I decided to buy a brand new, state-of-the-art printer and expand my online business. My sister-in-law took a loan out so I could buy a brand-new Canon IPF8300, which cost £6,500.
The new printer was over 10 times faster than the old one, so I was now able to offer larger posters as well as canvases. The business slowly grew each week. It was definitely exciting to see!
Being 19 years old at the time, I wasn’t thinking of it as a business; it was more of a hobby. I enjoyed every minute of working/printing, but then reality hit. The new printer I purchased was designed for professional photographers who would sell an average A1 photo print for £40+. I was selling them for £11.99. This meant my profit margin wasn’t great. I didn’t want to increase my prices since I felt my success was largely due to the fact that I was selling the highest quality posters for the lowest price possible, and I wanted to remain competitive.
On top of that, the running costs for the new printer were extremely high: ink refills were £1,200 and printheads, which needed replacing every 3 months, cost £600!
Basically, even though I was printing a lot of posters per day, it was barely enough to pay for the loan, the printer maintenance and a salary to survive.
Eventually, I ran out of the original ink that came with the printer, and I had to pay an eye-watering amount to get new ink, pay the loan and salary. I was left with no money, and my photopaper supply started to run out. I didn’t have enough money left over to purchase more photopaper, even though orders were coming in daily!
I knew the only way to prevent bankruptcy was to get 2-3 times more orders than I currently was receiving, this meant I needed in excess of 100 orders per day, and there was only one way to do that. On my website, I had thousands of different posters for sale, whereas on eBay, I had under 200 listings as eBay charges you per listing. However, eBay was advertising its anchor store, which is their highest subscription at £300/month, allowing a seller to list an unlimited number of products at no additional cost.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have £300, so I couldn’t afford the store upgrade. However, eBay generally takes payment at the end of the month. This meant if I was to upgrade to the £300/month store, I wouldn’t have to pay the bill for at least one month.
That’s when I took one of the biggest risks of my life. I decided to go all in and subscribe to the £300/month store, even though I had no way of paying for it at the time. This meant that if my plan failed, I would be bankrupt.
Knowing full well the risks involved, I subscribed to the new store. It allowed me to publish every poster I had on my website onto eBay. This meant going from 200 to thousands of listings, instantly.
The next day, everything changed. We were overwhelmed with work, often working a full 24 hours straight. My personal best was working 36 hours straight trying to fulfil the volume of orders that were coming in. I quickly expanded to printing on mugs, canvases, puzzles, etc.
I ended up selling over 20,000 posters and thousands of canvases that first year, going from a £750 start-up fee to generating in excess of £120,000/year. I was growing each week by an average of 50% with no signs of slowing down. It was one of the best years of my life.
Everything was going so well that I planned to expand the business to clothing, printing on t-shirts, jumpers, hoodies, etc. and purchasing more printers.
Unfortunately, everything took a turn for the worse on November 12, 2011. My mother called me saying, “Come home now; something is wrong with your dad.” Fortunately, I was only a few minutes away. As soon as I got home, I saw him lying on the sofa. I noticed he wasn’t breathing and I started to panic. I tried CPR and everything I could, but I couldn’t help him. He died right there and then in my arms. He didn’t have any illnesses or any problems, so his passing was a sudden shock to the whole family.
My father’s sudden death made me fall into a heavy depression (which lasted for several years). I was unable to function or think straight. I quit printing and closed everything down.
Now, seven years later, I feel I am finally ready to start another business, continuing were I left off. I am back into printing, with the launch of this site, Domingo, specialising in t-shirt printing.
Founder & CEO – Domingo UK
SEO Director at Ayima