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Web sales wizardry
Internet business allows 24-year-old Justin D'Angelo to maximize personal time -- and profits.
October 20, 2005: 4:42 PM EDT
By Rob Kelley, CNN/Money staff writer
Justin D'Angelo of PoofChairs.com
Justin D'Angelo of PoofChairs.com

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Justin D'Angelo didn't want to go straight to a 9-to-5 lifestyle after college, so he needed to launch his own business. But he didn't have any idea what that business would look like.

Getting a modest start in his freshman year selling various products on eBay, he found that one offering in particular was really taking off: Soft polyurethane-based chairs that look like the bean bag chairs of yore.

"In the beginning, I would sell information CDs, diet pills -- a lot of different things. It progressed into selling the Poof Chairs," says D'Angelo. "The site really blew up once I started using pay-per-click advertising and learning more about getting high-ranked results in search engines."

Now that D'Angelo is firmly established as the proprietor of PoofChairs.com in Raleigh, North Carolina, he says he's bringing in $150,000 in annual profits with few costs and a minimum of office work. Meanwhile his business continues to see steady growth.

D'Angelo began at North Carolina State University with an engineering focus, but soon switched to business management with a concentration in marketing, graduating in December 2003.

"I found that I really liked the marketing end of business," he said. "I was teaching myself everything I needed to get the site more exposure."

D'Angelo got an early start with computers, thanks in part to his father.

"I'm a huge computer geek, but you wouldn't know it from meeting me," he said. "My dad taught me Excel, but I learned most things -- like Web design -- on my own."

He got involved in a range of online activities -- eBay, PayPal and online stock trading -- when they were in their infancy.

But his goal was to make $100,000 a year. "Without working 9 to 5, I knew I had to do something to get ahead as quickly as possible," he said.

Thanks to his diligent marketing and unique niche, D'Angelo is having his way.

"PoofChairs.com has doubled in sales and profit every year since 2002. It's grown to be a $150,000 business this year, and I expect it to be bigger next year," he said. "It's a product that spreads by word of mouth -- people see them in homes and want to know more."

And none of this is coming at the expense of his personal life.

"Thanks to drop shipping, I basically don't have to touch the product," he said. Customers place the order on his Web site, and he then orders the product from a manufacturer in Michigan and has it shipped directly to his customer. "People don't believe me when I tell them, but I spend about an hour a day working -- mostly responding to e-mail."

D'Angelo has always exercised an accountant's caution with his finances. For a long time, he tracked every purchase he made on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, reducing budget categories where necessary.

"I wouldn't go out to eat dinner with my friends," he said. "I used to be extremely frugal."

Now that his income from PoofChairs.com is a comfortable $150,000 annually, he is a little less rigorous in documenting individual purchases, but his budget is still tightly organized.

He has a car loan and a mortgage on a condominium which take up 40 percent of his $4000 monthly budget.

He spends $800 on groceries, $500 on entertainment, $180 on insurance and $120 for energy bills.

He keeps some money in an interest-bearing PayPal account, and invests $5000 a month in the stock market. He is not shy about investing on margin, amplifying his market returns.

"I like to put most of my money in a somewhat safe account, but I also invest in companies whose products I use, like eBay, Google, XM Satellite Radio and Yahoo," he said. "My goal is to get my monthly savings to $10,000."

With his current assets and a plan to put away $5000 each month, assuming his investments grow at an annual stock market average of 9 percent, he will be a millionaire by age 34.

Living in an apartment near the North Carolina State campus, D'Angelo lamented that he was throwing so much income at rent when he could be building home equity.

He purchased a 3-story, 3-bedroom condominium not far from his old apartment, knowing that if he eventually moves elsewhere, it will be a potential rental property for college students.

He pays $960 a month for his mortgage, and currently has equity of $11,500 in the condo.

D'Angelo has no shortage of plans for the future.

"I am starting a second Web site -- build-a-bedroom.com -- that I want to build into the same size as Poof Chairs," he said. "I am hoping to have two six-figure businesses going. And I'm always looking for new business ventures."

With self-taught entrepreneurial skills and a cohesive vision for his finances, D'Angelo is a model of meeting personal financial goals.

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For September's Millionaire in the Making profile, click here.

For a look at a reader who's made savings job #1, click here.  Top of page

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