Building a business from the ground up can be a long and difficult journey, especially when you’re on foreign, unfamiliar terrain. FIU seniors Michael and Alan Tsoi know this very well.
In 2008, Michael left Venezuela in search of better opportunities in the United States. Shortly thereafter, he was followed by his brother Alan. Eager to make a name for themselves, the brothers started a small business selling adhesive products out of their home.
Packages awaiting delivery were a regular feature of the Tsois’ home in the early days of Tapes Supply
Their entrance into the adhesive industry was ultimately one of opportunity. Having struck a deal with a local adhesives distributor, Michael and Alan were able to offer their products at better prices than those of their competitors.Having found their unique angle of attack into an otherwise saturated marketplace, Michael and Alan got to work.Starting with online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, the brothers began marketing and selling their products all over the country. Just like that, Tapes Supply was born.
In 2016, Michael and Alan found the sweet spot in their online business. With sales of roughly $400,000 over the first three-quarters, the business was booming. The growth was great, but the workload steadily became more than they could bear. The brothers handled literally every aspect of the business. From writing product descriptions to making daily FedEx runs, all while attending classes at FIU and keeping up with their homework, Michael and Alan were poised to burn out quickly.
These brothers faced the same challenging questions virtually every small business owner has to answer. How do we grow a business when we’ve got other commitments like family, school, or a day job? How do we achieve sustainable growth? What kind of people do we need to hire? How can we get a firm handle on our inventory? Where can we be more efficient?
To overcome these challenges, the Tsoi brothers had to learn quickly to master their own schedules. If they were going to juggle life, school, and a growing business, they had to manage their time wisely. They also realized that they needed help from the outside if they were going to survive. Reaching out to and leaning on friends and connections can be difficult, especially when you’re an ambitious self-starter like Michael or Alan. Nevertheless, they managed to step outside of themselves to find help from two important sources.
In the first instance, the brothers found support back home in Venezuela. The Tsoi family had been keeping up with their progress and was impressed by their rapid success. With the help of these family connections,Tapes Supply was able to bring on Miguel Angel Gonzalez–an experienced salesman with strong ties to big retailers in Venezuela, as their Senior Vice President of Sales. Gonzalez’s connections have been critical to helping the business to expand its reach into the international market.
Michael and Alan also received extensive support from the faculty and staff at FIU’s College of Business. From the professors to the staff, everyone Michael and Alan encountered was incredibly generous with their time and eager to see the young men succeed. On the advice of Dr. Carlos Parra, they connected with the MIS department and gained vital insights into developing their organizational infrastructure. Working with the Analytics Technology Consulting and Management (ATOM) project, they were able to develop software to keep track of Tapes Supply’s burgeoning inventory.
These contributions have given Michael and Alan everything they need in order fix their eyes on the future of their business. Their brand new consumer-facing website (https://www.tapessupply.com) launched in June and they are continuing to grow their online presence through social networking. In addition to direct consumer sales, Tapes Supply is expanding its operation to sell directly to larger-scale retailers. In the near future, they hope to develop an internship program where interns will not only develop important skills in sales but can earn a commission while they learn.
Michael & Alan Tsoi with Dr. Carlos Parra
While Michael and Alan are looking forward to graduation this December, they’re even more thrilled about what the future has in store for Tapes Supply. Exciting things lie ahead for the Tsoi brothers. They couldn’t be more grateful for the support they’ve received along the way.
The entire Tapes Supply team. From left to right: Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Michael Tsoi, Alan Tsoi, Fernando Gonzalez, and Patricia Suels. For more about the team, visit Tapes Supply About us page.