Profile of Success: Booting It Up
This month, Terry Powers, founder/president of the ComputerGear catalog, recalls how a simple dare led to her career in the catalog business.
Catalog Success: How did you get started in the business?
Terry Powers: At the time ComputerGear was founded, in 1993, computers were starting to come into the workforce, and they weren’t very friendly. They were ugly, too. Our company was basically started on a dare. Someone said, “Why don’t you make computers more friendly?” I saw there weren’t really any products out there to decorate your desk or make it more fun, so I pretty much took someone up on a dare and did it.
We started designing, manufacturing and selling a preprint line of T-shirts and gift items to other catalogers; we were on the wholesale side of it as a vendor and a supplier. Eventually people started writing notes and sending letters asking us to put out more and more products. So in 1995, we mailed our first 16-page, digest-size catalog featuring not only T-shirts, but more of the gift items as well. We started as a wholesaler and migrated to a cataloger.
CS: Was this your first foray in the catalog business?
TP: No. Out here in Seattle, I started a Seattle alumni association for the University of Florida. The Gators are about as far from home as we could get, so we needed stuff to wear to our football games and when we would watch them on TV.
So I started a mail order catalog, Club Gator, to sell University of Florida sweatshirts, T-shirts and gift items to other alums who were out of state. I was putting together a compiled list to go forward with that when, through our research, I discovered it wasn’t going to work because 75 percent of alums still live in Florida and can get their Gator goods pretty quickly and locally.