Profile of Success: It’s in the Bag
WHAT GOT HIM HERE: A life-altering experience. Eleven years ago at the age of 37, Peter Cobb was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma and was given a 25 percent chance to live, maybe, three more years. Needless to say, the doctors were wrong. But while he was fighting to beat this form of cancer, he decided to make a new mark in life.
Cobb had been a brand manager for Samsonite. At the time, he felt that was a perfectly fine career path. But after his brush with death, he wanted more from life.
“I said, ‘If I make it beyond this, I’m going to take more chances and do something different,’” Cobb recalls. “I’d make a lasting mark because you only have one go at this. Slugging it out in a 10,000-person company where you’re one of many was a comfortable life, but I realized I wanted to do something different — something more challenging and rewarding.”
So, in 1998 he co-founded eBags, a multichannel retailer of handbags, luggage, backpacks and more.
WHAT HIS BIGGEST MISTAKE WAS AND HOW HE RECOVERED FROM IT: Trying to expand eBags’ niche into the shoe market. In 2004, eBags acquired the footwear Web site Shoedini.com. But after just three years in the shoe market, and only modest success, Cobb realized it wasn’t worth pursuing. So in October 2007, eBags sold the site (which it had renamed to 6pm.com) to the online shoe giant Zappos.
“We realized our core competency was bags,” Cobb says. “When you start diluting your efforts, sometimes you lose your leadership position. That was a mistake I think we made — getting into the footwear business. There are guys out there, from Zappos to Shoes.com to OnlineShoes.com, that do a nice job at that market, and had gotten an eight-year head start.”