Entrepreneurial Studies Newsletter - Alumni Update: Charlie Ziegler, ‘84, MBA’ 87
“You can’t always have everything you want.” That’s what my parents used to tell me whenever I asked for something we couldn’t afford. I didn’t like that answer as I never wanted someone else to determine what happened in my life or set limits on what I could achieve. I knew from a very young age that I had to take responsibility for my life and I had to be my own boss. Great idea, but to make that happen I would have to be the first one in my family to go to college and embark on an adventure no one in my family had ever attempted. My parents supported my decision but they couldn’t afford to pay for my college classes, so I would have to pay for it on my own.
I developed a plan. Get an Accounting degree while working full-time to pay for college, then gain work experience to get a better understanding of the business world. I graduated from Rider and after graduation I was able to get a job that allowed me to get the business experience I needed. Things changed dramatically in my life when my company was sold and my new employer assigned me to a lead project. When the project was completed on time I received a sizeable bonus and I bought something that would provide fun for me and my family and friends, an indoor shuffleboard table. Little did I know at that time this would lead me to fulfilling my lifelong dream of starting my own business.
I needed weights and powder wax for my table and internet shopping was relatively new. There were no local brick and mortar stores to shop for these supplies. I found a manufacturer but I had to order a minimum of 50 cans of shuffleboard powder when I only needed one can. EBay was relatively new but I took a chance and put my excess powder wax up for auction. When they sold I saw an opportunity to create my own business. I closely monitored my sales against my competitor’s and when they copied my strategy of selling individual quantities I started selling six packs to lower the average can costs and found a sustainable business model.
Customers asked for additional game room items and I was happy to fill their requests. I launched Zieglerworld.com and I expanded my offerings by added weights, instructional books, tournament charts and table maintenance kits to my product lines. I quickly learned to sell customers what they wanted, not what I wanted to sell. One example of this philosophy was my customers requested table shuffleboard weights in varies colors to match their favorite sports teams. Since table shuffleboard weights were only available in Red and Blue, I worked closely with a mold manufacturing company and developed weights in 15 colors.
Owning your own business can be liberating if you are prepared to work tirelessly to get your business up and running. You have to continue to review your business and be flexible when faced with adverse conditions. There are no shortcuts and you need to have passion and drive to be a successful entrepreneur. You need to understand your market and adjust your strategy to satisfy changing customer demands.
Today ZieglerWorld sells products to customers in 42 countries and operates over three dozen websites. It all started by selling one can of shuffleboard wax on eBay.