inspiring ecommerce story

E-Commerce Enables Man To Turn Life Around

inspiring e-commerce storyLately, a lot of “rags-to-riches” stories feature an e-commerce element. In fact, Alibaba posted such a tale on its blog, and we thought we’d cover it, too. Why? Because it’s a testament to the viability of online retail and the new class of successful entrepreneurs.

Health Problems Caused Hardship

Michael Leip leveraged his illness and injuries and turned his life around.  After a series of accidents and a bout with Lyme’s disease, the typically busy internet marketing consultant and developer found himself in a position with which he was unfamiliar.  Leip was having a hard time getting out of bed most mornings.  “I couldn’t think clearly. The combination of Lyme Disease and the head injuries put me in a place of severe anxiety and depression. Some days I didn’t know if I was going to be able to work eight hours or 90 minutes. I was in debt; it was really scary for a good many years.”

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

But Leip turned lemons into lemonade. Propelling himself of out of depression, he created a personal daily planner with a motivational, self-care bend. When it became obvious his tool was a great aide, Leip thought, if this can help me out, maybe it can help others?  So, in 2015 he launched Panda Planner.  In 2016, a Kickstarter campaign netted him close to $27,000 to create Panda Planner Pro.

Leip started researching manufacturers in the US, but found labor costs to be too high to produce Panda Planners at a competitive price.  Enter Alibaba.com.  Alibaba.com is a Chinese e-commerce company that provides wholesale consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer, and business-to-business sales services.  Leip found dozens of suppliers willing to manufacture his product at prices that offered a workable profit margin.

“I think what’s so amazing about Alibaba is the way it has democratized the market,” Leip enthused. “It has lowered barriers to entry so anyone can get into business very quickly.” He also noted that “locating suppliers also gave me a chance to learn about binding styles, cover materials and other aspects of production.”

Quality Is A Concern

Sometimes, however, manufacturing quality can be an issue when sourcing products from overseas.  Leip has had to change suppliers a couple of times in search of a manufacturer that punctually delivers consistent quality.  “The product now is exponentially better than when I first started, but I’m still looking for a supplier who can produce even higher quality products for our customers.”

Creating Jobs Through E-Commerce

Leip is now hiring two full-time employees and has opened his first office in response to increased sales projections for this year.  He’s begun shipping to Canada and is in the process of developing a companion mobile app that works in conjunction with the physical planner.

“It would be impossible to have a profitable company without Alibaba,” Leip said.  “One of the goals of the company is to create research-based tools to increase wellbeing.  We want to create tools that leverage academic studies about productivity, creativity and happiness so people can apply those principles to their everyday lives,”   he added.

Leip continues to perfect Panda Planner using customer feedback and other sources.  “I’ve been taking an iterative approach to product development,” he said.  The product has been in a constant state of flux with a bunch of changes being made to the design in the search of perfection.  “I’m not quite there yet,” Leip says, “but feel like I am pretty close.”

Connect With An E-Commerce Attorney

Are you an e-commerce product entrepreneur? Need assistance with some business or legal matters? If yes, give us a call. We handle everything from account suspensions to vendor litigation. To learn more about our online retail legal practice, head to the e-commerce section of our website.