Plenty of people have dreamed of starting a company in their garage. But how many asked their dads if it would be OK while they were in high school?
Stephen Voudouris and his younger brother, Andrew, did just that when they and Christopher Francy started Xoxide Inc. in 2001.
They started by selling computer and auto parts out of the Voudouris' home in Marple Township. They got so good that the company took over the basement, closets, backyard, and most of the rest of the house.
It also changed the neighborhood's traffic patterns, thanks to trucks delivering parts and UPS vans picking up shipments. "We destroyed and replaced a lot of lawns and sidewalks," said Andrew Voudouris, now 22.
When shipments began arriving in 40-foot containers, they took to borrowing parking lots to unload and called every friend with a car to help transport the equipment. Each container had 900 cases, and 15 to 20 cases can fit in an SUV.
So Xoxide meant a lot of jobs for their at Marple-Newtown High School friends. The three founders plowed their profits back into more inventory and new business lines.
Today, Xoxide and its 80 employees operate out of a 45,000-square-foot building in Malvern. If you didn't know how it started, Xoxide would seem like any of the dozens of other businesses in the Great Valley region.
Except it is different.
Perhaps because of their youth, Xoxide's founders were using search-engine marketing before most businesses were aware of what that meant.
They've turned what some teens would treat as a hobby into a growing business that had $27.5 million in sales last year.
For that, the partners have been named Small Business Administration national young entrepreneurs of the year.
It's pretty rare for a Philadelphia-area company to win any national SBA award. It hasn't happened in David Dickson's 3-1/2 years as director of the SBA's Philadelphia District Office.
As you can imagine, not many bankers would be eager to lend money to businesspeople who look like their own kids. But First National Bank of Chester County did, and Xoxide got an SBA-backed loan to buy its current building.
Parts for Ford Mustangs for model years 1979 through 2009 now account for 80 percent of their sales through their American Muscle Web site. While auto parts can be bought through catalogs and speed shops, Xoxide has trimmed the usual four- to six-week wait into a one- or two-day turnaround thanks to its inventory.
Stephen Voudouris, 24, and his partners are examples of the Internet generation of entrepreneurs. When it came time to plan their current warehouse, they just Googled "warehouse layout" and read everything they could.
Francy, 25, explains their business model simply: "If it can fit in a box and UPS can pick it up, we can sell it."
But not everything has an enthusiastic fan base like the Ford Mustang. Pet supplies didn't work out so well for Xoxide.