URBANA, Iowa --- Only 4 years old, Urbana-based Clickstop Inc. --- which was born in Cedar Falls --- is building its presence on the Internet.
And now, it's building a physical presence in the Cedar Valley, with a new $2.5 million office and warehouse complex at the intersection of Interstate 380 and Iowa Highway 150, about 30 miles southeast of Waterloo in northeastern Benton County.
Clickstop, a multibrand, multichannel merchant, operates in several specialty categories. The company, started in Cedar Falls by Tim Guenther, who had worked with numerous distributors as a sales agent, claims to reach thousands of customers every day through several website properties and its customer service center.
Two years ago, Guenther brought in Waterloo resident Shaun Linderbaum, who had worked in IT at John Deere, as a technical expert and partner in the company.
The company reports annual growth of up to 80 percent each year.
The tools for that growth were always in place, once Guenther decided to move on getting the company going, Linderbaum said.
"Tim was a sales guy, and he'd travel to all these lumber yards and construction companies and would sell them building materials," Linderbaum said. "He was representing manufacturers and was getting commission, and he got burned a time or two by manufacturers who would hire a company and squeeze him out."
Guenther decided he could open a distributorship and control access to his customers, Linderbaum said.
"We started buying and reselling products to these customers and, then, about that time, he ran into me and said he'd like to create a website so people could see what we offer."
Linderbaum said he suggested making all the company's products available for purchase online.
"We launched in August 2005 as uscargocontrol.com, and two months later we got our first order," Linderbaum said.
It wouldn't be the last. In 2006, the website's first full year of operations, the website pulled in about $200,000 in sales, Linderbaum said.
"The next year, it did about $1 million," he said. "The next year, $2 million, and this year, it will do just short of $5 million, just at that website."
As a company, Clickstop recorded $8 million in sales in 2010, Linderbaum said.
Clickstop has gone beyond its construction-business roots and has scooped up several other brands, including, most recently, SpaceSavers.com, in September. Formerly, SpaceSavers operated five brick-and-mortar stores in North Carolina, in addition to its website. However, operations of the physical storefronts ceased earlier this summer and the previous owner, Abner Wright, sought new ownership for the online segment of the company he'd started in 1990.
Clickstop also has EcoFoil, which specializes in reflective insulation; BellyBling, which offers body jewelry and belly button rings; and Ace Cat Furniture.
"The option of being an Internet retailer allows us to sell any product and be any brand we wanted," Linderbaum said.
The company has gained national notice among e-commerce analysts.
"Rather than trying to be all things to all people, like Amazon and mega-department stores such as Wal-Mart that have a strong online presence, Clickstop focuses on a few specialty retail areas," said Charles King, principal analyst with Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Inc., which tracks on e-commerce trends. "That's allowed them to form tight alliances with suppliers, such as the makers of equipment/products for their flagship USCC brand and SpaceSavers, as well as makers of highly specialized merchandise from EcoFoil, BellyBling and Ace Cat Furniture."
The owners made the right choice in choosing a Web-based business platform, King said.
"Demand for some of this merchandise is probably too low to gain the attention of major players, but the Internet provides a perfect platform for providing access and generating sales," he said. "As a result, Clickstop more or less has those markets to itself, resulting in numerous, significant commercial opportunities."
Clickstop, which started with two employees, now has 40. The company's sales trends indicate a need to expand their employee base --- which draws from both the Waterloo-Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids metro areas --- again in the next year or so, perhaps by another 40 workers, Linderbaum said.
The new building in Benton County, scheduled to open in March, is an example of the growth the company anticipates, he said, adding that the company had quickly outgrown its original quarters on the other side of Urbana.
"We quickly realized business was growing fast enough that we needed to start with a brand-new building and build with future expansion in mind," Linderbaum said.
"The way the new facility is laid out, it's set up to grow in warehouse and office space."
Further growth could come this year, both in sales and employment opportunities, Linderbaum said.
"At this point, our goal is to grow the company as quickly as we can while still being responsible," he said.
"We want it to be something that has a big economic impact on the state. Where we are, we feel we can pull in a lot of high-quality people."