Victoria and Vasili Karpos are the owners of statues.com, a world-renowned website that exhibits and sells custom-made sculptures from their studio in downtown Salt Lake City. But they got their start importing souvenirs and gifts from Greece to populate Greek festivals across the country. Their most popular article was the classic, white marble statuary.
"In 1995, we began researching the idea of how we could produce this same type of statues ourselves, rather than importing them, allowing us higher profit margins," says Victoria. "With some trial and error in our home garage, we developed our signature casting material, White Bonded Marble, or Marblecast Material."
By 1997, the couple had observed the cultural shift towards personal computer use, widespread internet access, and the budding desire to purchase items online. "Our single retail customer began [to make] custom-made orders," Victoria says. "[This] included wholesale buyers and other companies looking to buy several copies of one article for an event."
After carefully observing the ways their consumers were operating, the Karposes decided to expand their business by offering the first-ever direct-to-consumer sculpture business. Victoria remarks: "My husband turned to me while browsing the internet and said, 'Vicky, the name statues.com is available and it's only $10, should we buy it?' My response was, and I confess this every time I tell this story, 'Why, what will we do with that? What is it exactly? Sure, okay, for $10 a year, buy it.'"
"We never sat around a table and created a business plan or set a course to build this business. It just kept on evolving and we grew alongside it." During many late nights in front of a desktop computer powered by low-speed internet, the couple taught themselves how to build a website, create shopping carts, and construct an e-commerce platform.
Sales came pouring in, and the business quickly outgrew their garage. "It's important to mention here that Vasili and I are not sculptors," Victoria clarifies, "Nor did we start this business because we are sculptors. As the World Wide Web was gaining momentum ... [we changed] what we were doing and how we did it."
This method of paying meticulous attention to changes in the consumer experience and how individuals were interacting with the internet led to a huge payoff for statues.com: "Just before the millennium arrived, we had our first large, multi-piece, wholesale order from Caesar's Palace in Las...