Maria Haggerty on seeing eCommerce as the future and launching Dotcom

Maria Haggerty_Blog Header

Describe your business in a few words?

Dotcom is a premier provider of fulfillment and distribution services, fueling fast growth for B2C and B2B eCommerce and multichannel brands.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

While serving as controller and CFO at a company that specialized in video distribution, my eventual business partner and I developed a strong background in the manufacturing and distribution part of the business. We saw eCommerce was the future. In those early days, people were just beginning to buy online but sellers were struggling to connect the fulfillment and distribution pieces of their business. We saw the opportunity in that and knew we had the unique skill set to run with it.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I began my career as a CPA at Arthur Andersen and was the CFO of GoodTimes Home Video prior to founding Dotcom.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

It was very early on in life that I laid the foundation that taught me that I could do anything—especially if I was told I couldn’t. Instead of finishing high school, I decided to leave New York and go to Florida. Everyone told me a 16-year-old couldn’t live on her own, which is good advice for a lot of young girls, but it wasn’t for me. I got a waitressing job, an apartment, a driver’s license and a car. Everyone told me I’d be a waitress for the rest of my life, so what did I do? I got my GED, went to college, graduated with honors, became a CPA, and started my own business in an unproven industry. So I think it’s fair to say I’ve always had an entrepreneurial (and rebellious) spirit!

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

In hindsight I’m not sure it was much of a marketing strategy. We did engage a marketing firm to help us develop our logo, letterhead, and our 1-pager, but that was the extent of our “marketing plan” per se. We instead used the relationships that we had built over the years to attract clients, and it was those relationships that landed us our first major account, Kenneth Cole. It was years before we grew up enough to have a real marketing strategy.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

We’d just purchased all the machinery for Dotcom and the paint on the walls of our 250,000 square foot building was barely dry when the dotcom bubble burst. The few clients we had went under. So did our stock portfolios, which were securing the business. It was the ultimate bootstrapping operation. I learned that every obstacle presents an opportunity. eCommerce wasn’t ready for us, so we had to figure out how to survive until the timing synced up. We pivoted to what we knew—a proven B2B model—and it saved us. It taught me to always have a backup plan and to diversify your offerings.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Personally, my two daughters are by far and without question my biggest source of pride. In business, I’ll always be proud of the maneuvering we pulled off to keep Dotcom in business when we launched. When we started Dotcom, we had an eCommerce B2C model. That turned out to be a mistake when the dotcom bubble burst right after we opened our doors. Luckily, we’d participated in building distribution plans for B2B in the past, had developed POS distribution systems, and had even won Walmart’s Vendor of the Year a few times, so we knew how to make the switch to a proven B2B model.  It was an important move and one I’m proud of because it almost certainly would have been easier to just let it go, especially since I had a young family, and a solid career with great connections and references to fall back on. But I knew with such clarity what I wanted for my company, and how it would contribute to the future of eCommerce, so I couldn’t. And I’m so glad I didn’t.  It taught me that my determination truly knew no bounds, and it still doesn’t. One of my all-time favorite sayings is, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and, indeed, today, having a multi-channel offering has made us much stronger.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

Tell me who you are off paper. I can usually tell from the resume whether a person has the technical skills to get the job done. What I am really looking for is the cultural fit. If a person is a rocket scientist but doesn’t know how to play well with others, that’s a huge red flag. I can usually glean how passionate a person is – about work, about their family/personal life , about their hobbies. I find that well balanced people make the best employees, especially when the pressure builds. I think it’s relatively easy to access skills and much harder to access demeanor. I often surprise the team with how much I learn about the person as opposed to the employee, which to me is key. We spend more hours a day with our colleagues than we do with our families. It’s important for me to build a collaborative team that gets joy from solving challenges together.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

As an essential business during Covid-19, I felt like I was reliving my history a little bit, having to redesign the business overnight to safeguard my people and my business. But those early experiences helped shape Dotcom’s nimble business approach, which helped put us on the track to come out stronger on the other side. It’s no secret that the eCommerce industry has seen unprecedented growth since the emergence of COVID-19. As a third-party fulfillment company specializing in eCommerce, we’re on the solutions end of this “death of retail” scenario, so our demand has skyrocketed. Businesses know we can get their orders out. We’ve had real challenges to contend with, but this situation has led to business opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise existed. 

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

As challenging as 2020 was, the fallout from the pandemic provided key learnings surrounding the growth of eCommerce—namely, the shift from retail/wholesale to eCommerce. We’re using that data to drive efficiency in our facility, not only by investing in technology solutions that accommodate our clients’ growing eCommerce needs, like AI-based inventory slotting, but also workforce planning technology. Fulfillment is a labor-intensive business, and because everyone is competing in the same labor pool, there is immense upward pricing pressure in the labor market in this and adjacent industries. We’re working to assist workers in becoming more efficient in their job functions by expanding Dotcom’s investment in labor and labor management solutions. This includes things like prompting more engagement with warehouse employees, providing warehouse staff with tools that enable scheduling flexibility, hiring top performers from agencies, and retraining or providing extra training for low performers.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

That there is no such thing as good or bad, it’s really what you make of it. When the pandemic was first declared my life and my business seemed like it would be in an upheaval. Would we need to close our doors? How would I see my girls? My trip to Italy was cancelled. However Each passing day came with challenges that we were overcoming. I learned that our business was essential, so we were able to work, albeit in new ways.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! If you can’t make enough money to survive doing what you’re doing, leverage your skill sets, relationships, space—any resources you have—to secure a solid foundation.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

Well, I love to travel, so not being able to do that has literally kept me grounded! But two of my passions are cooking and photography, so I’ve loved exploring both of those things when I do find some free time. Living on Long Island, I’m also fortunate to be able to spend time walking on the beach and staying connected to nature, which I’ve found to be stabilizing. Most recently, I’ve added a puppy to my family and she is encouraging me to get outside even more.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I absolutely believe in work life balance. But I see it a bit differently. From my perspective, in order for your life to be in balance, it must constantly be out of balance, somewhat like a seesaw. For me, when I was raising my daughters, my number one rule was when I was with them, I was with them. I was not on my phone, computer, etc. They had my undivided attention. When I was at the office, I often lost track of what was happening at home. I was 100% Mom at home, and 100% CEO at the office. Today, my girls are adults and I’m working from home, so the balance is different, but the same principle applies. When I am not working, I am not working, and when I am, I am 100% engaged. It’s hard to always be out of balance, but once you get the hang of it, you can let the nagging guilt go, and just be good at the job you are doing at the moment—mom, daughter, friend, CEO etc.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I think the most surprising fun fact about me is that I ran away from home when I was 16, as I mentioned earlier. Another one is that, for years, I commuted from Long Island, NY to Edison, NJ. Seventy fun-filled miles each way! I used that time to learn Italian, and that has become such an important part of my life. I traveled to Italy often pre-pandemic, and look forward to returning again post-pandemic. As a result, I’ve made a lot of friends who have become family, both in Italy and New York. My favorite thing that resulted from these friendships was that I introduced one of my Italian friends to my former assistant and mentee, who became a dear friend over the years; they married and just last week my Italian friend became a US citizen…all because of my long commute!

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

Approach everything with possibility. I find it very tiresome when people say, “I don’t like this. This doesn’t work.” That’s totally unproductive. Open up your mind to how you can as opposed to how you can’t. You have to create that mindset to be successful. If you believe you can, you’re probably right.

Maintain a positive attitude. Ninety-nine percent the time, what you can or cannot do is a choice.

Think holistically. Grand gestures very rarely succeed. The things that are usually successful are baby steps that add up over time to make a big impact.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Being an Entreprenista means leading by example, owning opportunities & recognizing that you rise by lifting others. Dotcom is here to provide support & guidance on eCommerce operations, especially now when so many are unexpectedly navigating this competitive, evolving sector.

Share it!

Posted in
Tags

Leave a Comment





8 Inspiring Latinx Entreprenistas that have launched groundbreaking companies

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve put together a list of 8 incredible Latinx women founders that have launched groundbreaking companies. Check it out: Jessica Alba: The Honest Company Founded in 2011, The Honest Company makes sustainable, well-designed products that work – built on transparency, trust, and a deep sense of purpose. In…

Susan Sarit of Operations-Made Easy on achieving your goals by getting organized

Describe your business in a few words: I am a mom, daughter, sister, business owner, and more! I started my business for both financial freedom and to be a work-at-home mom. I created Operations-Made Easy to help diverse women with the Operations of their business. Deliberative, disciplined, and detail-oriented are just a few words we…

Lisa Nutt of Make Every Minute Count on personal and professional growth

Describe your business in a few words? The Make Every Minute Count ecosystem encourages us to go (do that thing), grow (personally and professionally) and give (through a membership based family to family giving circle). What made you take the leap to start your own business? I’m a serial entrepreneur. This is the third time…

Connection Coach Kristjana Hillberg on trusting your intuition and having an open mind

Describe your business in a few words: I’m a Connection Coach who helps women unearth their deepest desires, move from auto pilot to intentional action and prioritize their wellbeing. What was your background prior to starting your own business? I’m a multipotentialite – meaning, I have tried multiple things and tested multiple careers ranging from…

Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon: Finally Back to Delicious Meals For Everyone

Cuisine varies by culture, but no matter how societies segment and define themselves, certain foods show up in households across the globe — only differing in their forms. Some of a culture’s time-honored meals are created by its culinary icons.  Among America’s culinary icons, Martha Stewart is, without question, its most trusted. In 2014, Martha…

7 Entreprenista League Members share the biggest business challenge they overcame and what it taught them

Brand Photographer Brittney Guy-Atakpo of Brittney Jean Photography The biggest business challenge I have faced is sticking to a schedule that made me feel productive and good about my work ethic. What I have learned is that there is no right or wrong schedule or routine that produces success. I have been more grateful for…

Courtney Spritzer of WorkRobe on her “secret sauce” for a successful product launch

Describe WorkRobe in a few words? WorkRobes are designed to have you looking your best during any video meeting, so you can go from bedroom to boardroom in seconds and in comfort. My mission is to reimagine what you wear to work (from home).  Can you pinpoint the moment you knew you wanted to create…

Brand Photographer Brittney Jean Guy-Atakpo on helping women show up confidently on camera

Describe your business in a few words? I’m Brittney with Brittney Jean Photography & Company. I help women show up confidently in photos and on social media to grow their brand and business. I’m a Brand Photographer and Strategist. I have over 5 years working for Fortune 100 companies in sales and marketing and over…

Lorena Tapiero of Conscious Consulting on the power of networking

Describe your business in a few words? Conscious Consulting is a Latina-owned, bilingual marketing and public relations agency with 20 years of experience in the hospitality, sports and wellness sectors. Our thoughtful, comprehensive approach helps brands establish clear communication priorities and a long-range vision for meaningful press coverage, value-added partnerships and sustainable influencer relationships. As…

Lindsay Applebaum Stuart of Mamalux on the beginning stage of business

Describe your business in a few words? Mamalux is a first-of-its-kind leakproof sleep solution for breastfeeding moms. Our Kickstarter launches on 10/19! What was your background prior to starting your own business? I spent the first 10 years of my career as a sports journalist for the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated! So this has…

Jessica Bargenquast of Lady ChangeMakers on organic marketing strategies that work

Describe your business in a few words? Lady ChangeMakers is an exclusive e-commerce platform for women-owned businesses to gain valuable exposure and sales. Most of my life I’ve been encouraged to be seen and not heard. Growing up extremely introverted and shy I felt invisible. I wanted to create a platform so women-owned businesses could…

Jennifer Gligoric of EntrePods on the importance of mindset

Describe EntrePods in a few words? Cutting-edge entrepreneur and investor network answering the question “So Now What?” for business owners powered by fractional consultants and coaches with decades worth of experience. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I had no choice.  My mother owned a staffing company for 54 years…

Certified Financial Planner Maggie Gomez on investing and building wealth

Describe your business in a few words? An accessible place where anyone can learn to invest and build wealth, regardless of their net worth. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I realized that it was only those who were already wealthy that had access to quality financial guidance. I got…

Claire Jones of Cushy Couture on shifting paradigms in the fashion industry

Describe your business in a few words? Cushy Couture is a customer-driven clothing brand that creates high quality sweatpants in a wide range of colors and patterns that come in three different inseam lengths because we believe that you don’t have to settle for less. We create functional sweatpants that will last you for multiple…

Writer, Speaker, Podcaster, and Life Coach Chelsea Austin on taking care of yourself first

Describe your business in a few words? I advocate for others to find their own self-worth and acceptance through self-care, love, respect, and storytelling. What made you take the leap to start your own business? When I started writing my book and my blog, I don’t think I ever realized it would become a business.…