As we strive to make connections and help businesses find a solid footing in the e-commerce world, we meet some fantastic industry people with incredible stories along the way and discover how they got where they are.
In this first of many entries, we talk with Alex Kofman – the owner of Night Galaxy – about the early days of his business, its e-commerce evolution, and how the team at ESZ continues to help him grow into one of the large-scale retailers.
Night Galaxy populates a niche market where we’ve seen several dealers facing the same difficulties with their online stores. It’s one of the largest retailers of camping, hunting, tactical devices, and apparel to military, law enforcement, and the general public.
Keep reading and find out more about Alex and his story.
Alex started Night Vision Planet – what would later become Night Galaxy – over 20 years ago as his first business venture while attending college.
Prior and even during those early developmental years, he worked in Wall Street for a financial research department.
After completing his undergraduate degree, he dove into his business venture full-time while still enrolled as a full-time student in a challenging graduate program.
“When I first started Night Galaxy, I worked during the day while I completed my Graduate degree at night.”
Alex offered a slight smile before answering:
Alex: You know – funny enough – that was the easiest time for me, because when I started the business, back then I didn’t have a lot of financial responsibilities. I lived with my parents at the time and paid them some rent. I didn’t have any kids and wasn’t married, so I was able to take the risk.
Alex: The business model itself worked simply because I opened the website. It was on a Yahoo platform back in the day, and my plan at the time was to sell as much I could which worked! The profit margin was healthy and there wasn’t a lot of competition in that market back then. I had a laser focus and memorized the pricing, availability, features of the product so I could sit by myself at a desk and sell it over the phone.
I remember days when I would be eating and have retail customers call me. I would have to shuffle back and forth between those customers and the manufacturer, because back they purchased merchandise directly.
It was just me working from home, so I had little overhead and it worked perfectly for me. So, no challenges there, but when you grow, that’s when the challenges come in. You start venturing into uncharted territory and think you can do it.
I started expanding from night vision optics to daytime optics to lenses and laser sights. I was still pretty limited even though I was doing everything from point A to Z as best I could.”
Alex: One of the challenges I had to overcome was the feeling that since I’m not there, I’m not always in control. I learned you have to know how to treat people right and hope they will reciprocate back to you.
From one end, it’s the same thing as a franchise. You have to trust your partners. You have to trust the people you work with.
I took the risk out as much as I could by treating the employees right.
Alex: Yahoo had limitations, and, at the time, they took a percentage of sales which didn’t feel right to me. So, I tried Monster Commerce, which was more sophisticated. For one thing, they had integrations with certain software. They also had a marketplace where all the merchants were able to offer their products, but the system was getting slower and they were falling behind the times. They were limited in functionality, so we went to Volusion.
Volusion worked absolutely fine, but again, it had limitations. At the time, I was running two separate stores – NightVisionPlanet.com and NightGalaxy.com – with the same product which is okay by Google and there was no SEO penalization.
I was looking for a platform that would allow me to have all the stores and an open market. I thought Magento looked great, but I got into it without understanding it.
Alex: The people at Magento did a fantastic job with marketing the platform, but it was not easy to use. I ended up going through many different service providers and spending a lot of money just to get the functionality that I wanted on a new platform.
One of the first companies I worked with was okay. They had some good people working for them, but between me not fully understanding the platform and them not effectively communicating, we didn’t end up with a good website.
From there, I went to a company in Belarus. I paid an average rate for them to develop and manage my Magento site, but I wasn’t happy with the results. I don’t think they had very qualified people working on the website. On top of that, they were very busy with other clients. I was definitely not their priority.
Being just another client in certain instances is not a good thing when you want to stand out in today’s crowd of people.
That’s when I partnered with ESZ.
The team at ESZ took over and were focused. When you look at the website now, it’s much, much better than when I first started. I have a direct relationship with their developers and don’t have to go through a middleman.
Before ESZ, Alex was at a point where he wasn’t sure if he wanted to invest any more money into the e-commerce platforms.
“Enough is enough, I’m spending too much money for little results. I’ll just sell on a third-party market. But I knew that wasn’t the right path for future success.”
Echoing some of Alex’s early words: he had to find the right people to work – a partner he could trust and would reciprocate that respect and enthusiasm. He found that with ESZ eCommerce SolutionZ. One of the many aspects of Night Galaxy’s growth in the e-commerce world was finding the right partner and someone who would just tell him what they thought he wanted to hear.
During Night Galaxy’s e-commerce evolution and finding the right online platform, Alex also noticed a downward trend on night vision optics. Which led to his decision to branch out into more markets such as camping, hunting, etc.
To reflect how Night Galaxy had branched out, ESZ rebuilt his website with tactical themed design to entice more viewers onto the site.
That tactical look of the site’s graphics became an “aha” moment for the partnership. Night Galaxy would refocus on the tactical gear market.
Night Galaxy is now one of the largest retailers of camping, hunting, tactical devices, and apparel to military, law enforcement, and the general public.
Alex: Hard work.
Today the industry is so crowded. But you can do anything If you put your mind to it. It’s just a lot of hard work. You need to raise the bar whenever and as often as you can. How do you stand out? Find the right marketing.
People also come looking for your expertise in the industry. I see a lot of dealers who say, sure, you can go to one of the big-name retailers, but you’re not going to get the same service.
People will come to you for knowledge and service.
Again, echoing his sentiment of treating people right. At ESZ eCommerce SolutionZ, we couldn’t agree more.
Check out some of the incredible offers Alex and his team at Night Galaxy offer by visiting www.NightGalaxy.com