Dot-com turned into overnight success

Highlands Ranch business owner has big dreams

Posted 10/5/10

Dave Ems sits in his office and casually rattles off numbers as he reflects on the last year and a half of his life. Leaping from $3,000 in sales in …

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Dot-com turned into overnight success

Highlands Ranch business owner has big dreams


Dave Ems sits in his office and casually rattles off numbers as he reflects on the last year and a half of his life.

Leaping from $3,000 in sales in January 2009 to roughly $1 million per month today. Expanding from 33,000 products to 500,000 products in the near future. Increasing his company’s advertising expenditures to $12,000-$15,000 next month.

Any man who has just turned 50 could very well be in the throes of a mid-life crisis. Not Ems. He is quietly building an empire that will likely become a household name within a few short years.

“I want to be a dominant name in the Internet space selling brand new products in home improvement,” Ems says with confidence.

Ems, the owner of, works out of a modest office in a Shea Properties-owned building at Highlands Ranch Parkway and Ridgeline Boulevard. A few customer support reps chatter just outside his door, and papers depicting upward-trending graphs lie scattered on his desk.

At first glance, it looks like a mom and pop operation, but has catapulted itself to third in sales among online overstock retailers. The most amazing part is that Ems has cracked into the lucrative and competitive overstock market without having so much as one product of overstock. It’s all in the name, and it’s all in the name of breaking into a niche market with tremendous growth potential. largely sells kitchen and bathroom sinks and faucets, and while many might not have heard of the company, they almost certainly have come across an advertisement or two. Ems buys coveted ad space at the top of websites like Google, and Amazon, offering low-priced alternatives for virtually every faucet and sink by the top name brands. Ems declined to publicly discuss his suppliers, but all of his products are brand new, guaranteed and sent to customers free of charge.

Ems figures he has a decent shot at success in the overstock market, particularly because some liquidation companies have earned a reputation for selling shoddy products and using questionable business practices. Bucking that tradition, Ems built his website as a user-friendly guide for the do-it-yourselfer. Each product lists the required accessories and installation tips, and Google Shopping shows price comparisons with larger retailers. Buying guides, how-to instructions and step-by-step repair narratives are also intended to keep customers coming back. is on pace to exceed $7.2 million in sales this year, far more than the $6.5 million Ems originally predicted and crushing last year’s paltry total of $1.6 million. He estimates that accumulating sales of $20 million to $30 million next year is not out of the question and is, in fact, a “reasonable” figure range.

The company’s exponential growth is due in large part to the sluggish housing market. Many of those who are unable to sell have decided to upgrade their homes to be ready when the market bounces back. The “DIY” market has exploded as homeowners try to trim costs, and the economy has consumers looking for the best prices available. It’s the perfect formula for Ems, who has countless positive online reviews and the reputation of top manufacturers on his side.

Creating and overseeing a company with so much early promise came as somewhat of a surprise to Ems, who spent 26 years in the corporate world. His most recent job was as vice president for Western Union, negotiating contracts with big players. But when the economy tumbled and companies sought to cut the payroll in 2007, Ems found himself without a job or a definitive direction.

“In this day and age, everyone has to evolve and continually change. If you asked me in 2007 when I got laid off what would I do, I don’t know,” he says.

When he happened upon a job that paid him to help blow out excess inventory for a large retailer, Ems took note of the demand for overstock home improvement merchandise. He believed that if he created a company that could muscle its way into the industry, even without overstock, that consumers would begin to catch on.

He invested $300,000-$500,000 of his own money and took out a $120,000 small-business loan. After spending months tediously developing a content-driven website, he officially launched in January 2009.

His contracts with suppliers enable him to work without operating warehouse space or employing shipping crews. That means low overhead, fewer insurance premiums, and with only five dedicated employees, the dot-com is turning quite the profit.

Ems envisions moving into a larger space in Highlands Ranch and hiring more employees sooner rather than later to keep up with the demand. His spreadsheets show him that he averages 150 orders per day and was up to 2,400 orders for the month of September. now boasts high-profile customers, including ESPN, Dreamworks Studios and Apple, and as much as 30 percent of his business is from commercial clients.

Ems, a Highlands Ranch resident for 10 years, wants to branch out to gas grills, power tools, lighting and door hardware, but wants to bring more kitchen and bath products on line before tackling bigger things. The sky is the limit for those who dream big, and Ems makes no apologies for wanting to be “known.”

“It’s weird to think about the growth,” he says. “I just want to take it on.”

He knows most people have never heard of his company, but for now, he has fun when hearing about a neighbor who bought from the online store without knowing Ems was at the helm.

He already has another project on the horizon. While securing the trademark for, he came across a website that was for sale: Ems has aspirations of cornering the market for water-saving technology products, which he sees as another area with potential astronomical growth. The water-saving devices will be used in mass scale for hotels, pools, recreation centers, homes and office buildings as conservation gets more popular.

Ems gets an almost mischievous gleam in his eye when talking about his future plans. But, who knows? Maybe it’s his brain sparking another million-dollar idea.


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