When Duran Inci came to the U.S. from Turkey in 2000 to attend Florida International University on a soccer scholarship, he knew he’d have to find a way to make money. So he decided to sell some products from Turkey — rugs, silverware, and such — on eBay. It was a great introduction to e-commerce, and an important stepping stone into Duran’s future career.
After a few years at e-commerce companies such as Brandmalls and Makesgoodscents, and at Netspace, a digital marketing franchise, Duran had an opportunity to start his own company. In 2007, Netspace was in financial trouble so Duran and a franchisee formed their own company, Optimum7, to serve existing clients. “We started out as a digital marketing agency,” says Duran. “We did SEO and marketing and we did it for anyone, like doctors and lawyers.”
That changed seven years ago when Duran and his partner, whom he bought out in 2019, realized that more than half of their clients were e-commerce companies. They decided to focus solely on that sector and stopped taking other clients. Shortly thereafter, Duran began working with business coach Charlie Gaudet, who runs YEC’s coaching program, to further identify Optimum7’s niche. “We used to say we’re a digital technology company, but nobody understands that,” says Duran. With Charlie’s help, he nailed down a simpler, more digestible description that set the company on a more specific and profitable path: “we’re an e-commerce agency that helps small and medium-sized businesses compete with giants like Amazon.”
Duran says that while Optimum7’s sweet spot is both B2B and B2C clients with five to $100 million in revenue, he also handles web services for large clients such as Intel. The pandemic, Duran says, sparked fear and uncertainty at first; he lost a couple of clients almost immediately. So he cut back expenses, got rid of the company’s office and transitioned his team to remote work. But Charlie Gaudet gave him some solid advice that helped allay his fears. “When everyone was freaking out, Charles said ‘this is an opportunity,’” Duran recalls. “I followed his advice. I didn’t cut back on the ad spend, I didn’t cut back on my messaging or on blog posts, and I didn’t make core cuts.” When things began to calm down and PPE money started coming in for clients, business began to pick up and Optimum7 was ready to ramp up; from 2020 to 2021, the company grew by 41%.