I had the privilege of working with Barnett Brass and Copper as they were progressing beyond a dialup bulletin board system (BBS) for processing electronic orders for their network of 65 warehouse locations and tens of thousand plumbers and electricians. It was a great leap of faith on their part to partner with my nascent startup Innovative Hardware, Inc. which focused on helping companies upgrade mainframe or JD Edwards database systems into more modern SQL Server based systems that could scale to meet their volume requirements.
Brick and Mortar distribution companies need the benefits of solid e-Commerce
technologies and Barnett was a visionary at a very early time in the late nineties. They selected me to develop five online storefronts including their Plumbing, Gas Supply, Electrical, Maintenance Products and a Spanish language website to help them service their Puerto Rico operations.
I had the distinct privilege to work directly with Donna Barrow
in their data management team who similarly was an astonishingly great mentor and leader as I brought some advanced technologies and she blended that with key business goals and objectives. I learned so much from her as she taught me the inner workings of large scale distribution companies and the home construction product segment.
When we started, their initial location was a relatively old warehouse with burglar bars and chipped paint on Lenox Avenue on the north side of Jacksonville. With around $600mm in revenue, they were a solid player in the home construction and professional contractor supply area. They had recently gone public as BNTT:NASDAQ
and were prepared for growth.
As we began however, they didn't have the budget allocated to finance such a significant project at that particular time of the fiscal year. I was eager to demonstrate what we could accomplish in a short period of time so I took a leap and proposed that our company could help them self-fund the project. We began work immediately by working with their Manufacturing suppliers to present a very compelling partnership with 10 of their top suppliers. By launching brand new websites without having to wait for the fiscal year to come around, we were able to offer top placements to each sponsoring manufacturer with the top five listings in each product category.
This negotiation with the manufacturers paid off as 12 additional manufacturer sponsors came online, each for $50,000 apiece. This helped us raise $1.2mm in cash capital to finance the project on behalf of Barnett. They were ecstatic at the speed of ramping up the budget and we were able to deploy. We continued with them for two years until they decided to go private and were subsequently rolled up in a reverse merger with Wilmar
. Now they belong to an extremely large conglomerate called Interline Brands
and are worth over $2 billion dollars.
I was humbled and pleased to have been part of such a large and successful project.