Warren Duffie 0000-00-00 00:00:00
In Bed With Success Former Marine officer gives up a good corporate job to start his own online bed linen business. Paul Saunders’ business career resulted from a botched anniversary gift for his wife. He wanted to get her something special and decided on elegant, luxurious and expensive Egyptiancotton bed linens, which he purchased online. But when he received the shipment, he immediately saw a problem: “I knew right away I paid way too much for them. The sheets were like sandpaper and the duvet was paper-thin. I was not happy. “I figured I could do a better job of selling linens online,” said Saunders, a former Marine Corps captain. “I knew about supply chain management, had military and civilian procurement experience, and knew how to negotiate with vendors. The light bulb went on in my head, and I began researching the linen industry.” ON THE JOB The light is shining brightly for Saunders, 32. He is the founder and owner of ExceptionalSheets.com, an e-commerce business that sells luxury bath and bedroom linens online. Currently in its first full year of business, ExceptionalSheets. com so far has attracted 2,500 customers and exceeded $250,000 in sales. “Our future plans include selling linens made from bamboo and other organic materials,” Saunders said. “We’re also working with a company, founded by two former NCAA women’s basketball coaches, to carry a line of linens made from material similar to Under Armour sports apparel.” Based in Evansville, Ind., Saunders is responsible for the daily operations of his company, often working from 0630 to 2200. He spends the bulk of his day working with customers and linen vendors and suppliers, as well as making sure his shipping network runs smoothly. He doesn’t have any full-time employees but hires contractors to handle Web, IT, and customer support duties. “I work long days, but I still can take breaks to spend time with my family or attend to personal things,” Saunders said. “I love the flexibility of my business. I can set my schedule and my success is determined by my work. I also love that I can make money in my sleep, because everything is online. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up, check my e-mail, and see there was $3,000 in sales the previous night.” IN UNIFORM Saunders graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He attended the Marine Corps basic officer course at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, followed by Navy Supply Corps School in Athens, Ga. Saunders served as a supply and operations officer in North Carolina and Africa. THE TRANSITION Saunders was medically discharged from the Marine Corps in 2008. He prepared for his transition earnestly. He took several transition classes, pored through many books about interviewing and résumé writing and contacted several veterans advocacy groups. Saunders knew he wanted to return to his home state of Indiana, so he researched the state’s largest companies and cold-called recruiters and human resources representatives. One of the companies, Whirlpool, called him back and soon hired him as a procurement manager. After a couple of years at Whirlpool, Saunders worked for Mead Johnson Nutrition, whose premier product is Enfamil baby formula. Saunders started ExceptionalSheets. com in 2010 as a part-time business. However, it did so well, he decided to do it full time this year. “Some of my friends thought I was crazy,” he said. “I was doing well in corporate America and left to take this uncertain leap. But I didn’t want to look back years later and say, ‘What if ?’ You only live once and have to make the most of your opportunities.” TROOP FILE Paul Saunders Owner and Founder ExceptionalSheets.com Age: 32 Highest Rank: Captain (O-3) Experience: 7 years in the Marine Corps MOS: Aviation Supply (6602) Education: • Current MBA student at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. • Bachelor’s degree in economics, U.S. Naval Academy • Marine Corps basic officer course, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. • Navy Supply Corps School, Athens, Ga. How’d You Get That Job? Saunders was medically discharged from the Marine Corps in 2008. He prepared for his transition earnestly. He took several transition classes, pored through many books about interviewing and résumé writing and contacted several veterans advocacy groups. Saunders knew he wanted to return to his home state of Indiana, so he researched the state’s largest companies and cold-called recruiters and human resources representatives. One of the companies, Whirlpool, called him back and soon hired him as a procurement manager. After a couple of years at Whirlpool, Saunders worked for Mead Johnson Nutrition, whose premier product is Enfamil baby formula. Saunders started ExceptionalSheets. com in 2010 as a part-time business. However, it did so well, he decided to do it full time this year. What Saunders Loves About His Job • The flexibility to set my own schedule. • The pride of doing a job right and taking care of my customers. • Being able to launch my own business. SAUNDERS’ ADVICE: Be prepared to work. “You developed a powerful work ethic in the military. You’re going to use it as a business owner. I like to joke that you need to work so hard your friends make fun of you.” Don’t short-change your accomplishments. “Just because you enter an industry that’s different from your military job doesn’t mean you’ll fail. The military teaches you leadership, discipline and time management. I knew nothing about the linen industry when I started my company, but I learned about supply chains and procurement in the Marine Corps. Those are crucial to my success.” Find military networks. “When I left the Marine Corps, I was surprised how many military and veterans groups there were. They all really wanted to help people like me succeed. Seek those out. They can be great sources for advice, information and even job leads.” FUN FACTS Hobbies? Before children I had countless hobbies like golf, dart s, pool, softball, etc. Now I have one. Them. That said, I s till try and sneak away every once in a while to play horribly at golf. What do you do to relax? Reading. I enjoy reading biographies on successful people (athletes, generals, politicians, doctors, historical figures, etc). It is fascinating to consider why some people “make it” and some do not. And you c an not beat a burger and beer with good friends and family. Favorite TV show? I do not get to watch much TV, but I like several shows on CNBC and of course all the sports staples: Saturday college football, Sunday and Monday NFL, college basketball, etc. Preferably with a burger, beer, family, and friends! Favorite sports team? Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Cardinals, USNA anything, and Liverpool Football Club (my father is from Liverpool, England) Most valuable business or personal advice you’ve received? Personal and Business - You only get to live life once. Do it right with as few regrets, for things done or not done, as possible.
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