OVER-THE-RHINE -- Snow Commerce, which creates website solutions for internet retailers, has moved to new offices in Over-the-Rhine.
Growth and expected growth prompted the e-commerce company to move into the fourth floor of 1150 Main St., the building at 12th and Main where The Drinkery bar occupies the first floor.
In the past year, the business has added a half-dozen employees, and it hopes to double that over the next two years, said Tony Sizemore, engagement and talent manager.
With clients from as far away as Germany and Switzerland, the company has found a niche in the ever-growing e-commerce market, which puts it in a good position for growth.
Worldwide, e-commerce sales are expected to pass $3.5 trillion by 2020, according to e-commerce news and analysis site Internet Retailer.
Toronto native Rick Simpson founded Snow Commerce shortly after moving to Cincinnati in 2006, when his wife, Roshni Dasgupta, a pediatric surgeon, took a job with Children’s Hospital.
Simpson, who earned an MBA at Oxford University, has worked in e-commerce since 1998, when he helped build an auction network/software provider called Fair Market in Boston.
In 2002, the IPO for Fair Market raised $85 million on only $2 million in revenue, Simpson said.
“We thought we would be the next eBay,” he said. “But we ended up getting bought by them.”
After the Fair Market sale, Simpson returned to Toronto and started an online auction company called Truition, which attracted several rounds of venture capital, he said.
After moving his family to the Tri-state area, he started Snow at his new home in Terrace Park, giving it that name initially for his love of Canada. But it fits, he said, because just as every snowflake is unique, every client’s website is unique.
He used contacts from his previous companies to build a client base for Snow, mainly by word of mouth. The company then moved out of Simpson’s house and into a converted home in Hyde Park.
In recent years, it has expanded into making websites that companies can use to offer personalized gifts.
There are a lot of website design companies, Simpson said, but he doesn’t know of any others that specialize in designing e-commerce sites.
Clients include CBS Sports, which has hired Snow to build websites on which about 70 colleges and universities will sell their sporting gear and memorabilia. Snow is building a similar site for memorabilia from this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The company primarily makes money through fees for designing sites and hosting them. Simpson declined to disclose revenue figures.
He is the only investor, he said, having used about $50,000 of his own funds to get the company started. Having seen firsthand how venture capitalists get first preference on profits, he said, he’s not eager to take that money.
“We could easily get funding,” he said. “But I would rather go slow … and [grow] organically.”
The company moved to Over-the-Rhine for several reasons, Sizemore said. First, Hyde Park didn’t have a place big enough or affordable enough to house the growing staff, which now numbers 14 in Cincinnati and eight in Sochi, Russia.
The new office gives the company space to add another dozen or so employees.
Second, Simpson wanted to work in an area where there were similar businesses.
“We like the Over-the-Rhine vibe,” Sizemore said. “There’s a lot of vibrancy and activity here.”
Management also hopes that the OTR vibe will help with its greatest challenge: attracting new talent. Cincinnati doesn’t have a large pool of former e-commerce employees, Simpson said.
“No one else in the city, that we know of, does this kind of work,” Sizemore said.