*NEWS*UK INK CO,COMES UP SMELLING ROSES
*NEWS*UK INK CO,COMES UP SMELLING ROSES
2005-12-14 at 11:29:00 am #13559
Stinky Ink Comes Up Smelling of Roses
Defrauded, burgled but not beaten (UK)
people who are swindled out of £32,000 and have had their stock worth
£50,000 stolen in a raid might decide to give up and go back to PAYE
employment. But John Sollars is one of life’s optimists and made of
sterner stuff. His may be one of the unluckiest online startups ever,
but he decided to persevere, putting his experience to good use, and
quickly learned how to protect his web business from scamsters. Now
with a turnover of £800,000 and projected target of £1.2 million for
next year, it would seem he made a good choice.
Back in early 2002,
John decided on a life changing move when he was in his late forties.
He gave up a well paid salary as a sales director of an independent
electronic components company, sold the family caravan, and put all his
savings and energy into his own online business – http://www.stinkyink.co.uk.
This sells every known make and model of printer cartridge – both
recycled and originals.
Emerging after weeks of brainstorming, the
domain name was designed to make people smile and be memorable, given
that customers may only need to return once a year. He chose printer
consumables after having huge difficulty tracking down the right
cartridge for his son’s old printer. To power the web shop John picked
Actinic software and has upgraded with each new release – “Actinic is
the bedrock of my business and will be for the foreseeable future,” he
But the road to riches has been stony. Only weeks after
launching in June 2002, the fraudsters homed in. Initially the site
started getting small orders to different addresses all around the
country with larger repeat orders each week. Before he realised his
error he was servicing 7-8 orders a day and over six weeks had shipped
£32,000-worth of goods that he never saw a penny for. Worse, the local
police were uninterested in the crime because under our present system
a crime is only judged to have happened at the source of the point of
sale, i.e. at the fraudster’s location. As the sales had come from a
ring of criminals all over the UK, it was too big a task to file
reports at every local police authority and nothing would have happened
anyway as the transactions were of low value.
stolen products had all been paid for on John’s own credit cards as he
had no track record with his suppliers and therefore couldn’t open an
account with them. In fact he couldn’t even get a business bank account
till he’d been trading a while. And because the sales were Cardholder
Not Present (CNP), he as the merchant was 100% liable so could get no
redress that way (unlike the customer who can get a full refund if he
claims the goods did not arrive – another popular fraud tactic).
on the verge of bankruptcy, John remembers that, “Early in September
2002 I was sitting with my dog in the office at home when the full
enormity of what had happened sunk in. I had to make a decision whether
to bother going on, or to get out and go back to a ‘proper’ job. But I
picked myself up, dusted myself down, resolved not to trust anything or
anyone in future and got on with it.”
He fought back by focussing on
the business, using email marketing and search engine optimisation to
generate extra traffic and within two years (2004) the debts were
cleared and Stinky Ink was in profit. He even avoided another fraud
scam that fooled his bank manager. A week before Christmas 2002 he had
an enquiry from a London company to ship a £12,000 order to Nigeria.
The company checked out and a courier turned up with the cheque. But
John heard alarm bells and asked his bank to verify the cheque. They
thought it looked kosher as the company existed, so it went in for
clearing. Meantime John was receiving emails from an increasingly
demanding customer but wisely he replied that the cartridges would be
sent once the cheque had been processed. On New Year’s Eve he heard
that it had bounced……..
Actinic’s software incorporates several
features to help protect against fraud. For example, payment methods
can be restricted by geographic region, enabling merchants to refuse
credit card payments from high-risk areas. And shoppers can be required
to accept the site’s terms and conditions before ordering.
When processing web sales, John looks out for:
* Orders for three HP original inkjet cartridges as these are easily sold in the pub or a car boot.
* The customer is using a free email address, often from Yahoo.
* The delivery and card addresses are not even close geographically.
he always checks dubious card details with his payment provider (Protx)
to see if the address, security code (on the back of the card) and
postcode match. If not, he emails to cancel the order and refunds the
The run of misfortune didn’t stop however. In
March 2005 the alarmed and barred warehouse he’d just moved to was
burgled and his whole stock removed overnight. As a ‘commercial’
incident the police were again not interested despite the value of the
products totalling £50,000, and it was fortunate that everything was
In comparison, the website built on Actinic Developer
(which allows you to create multiple stores from one licence) has
always worked smoothly and delivers the orders from all parts of
Europe, every day of the year – up to 100 per day in fact with an
average value of £60 and a visitor : customer conversion rate at an
The StinkyInk catalogue holds nearly 800 different
lines with about 5,000 options yet cost only £1,250 to set up in 2002.
The site, designed by John’s teenage son, has been geared to make it
incredibly easy for visitors to find what they need, as quickly as
possible. “Customer service is the crux of our business and having
ISO9001:2001 we make sure that whenever we can we will implement any
customer feedback to improve the site or our processes,” says John.
implemented various Actinic add-ons from Mole End Software to improve
our efficiency we are now able to pick, pack and despatch an order in a
minute. I want to provide, or exceed the sort of service that I expect
when I shop online and believe that we provide an exceptional service,
so if an order is hanging around after 24 hours I get really cross.”
for the next step, John has launched http://www.mega-office.co.uk to appeal to
a more corporate audience, and plans several other new sites over the
Finally, John has this to say to anyone thinking of setting up online:
You have to go for it, but you need patience, commitment and hard work.
Running an ecommerce business is the same as any other business, to be
successful you have to give it 100% commitment and dedication.
it seems to good to be true, then it is and don’t believe all the
rubbish about being able to make millions without doing any work – it
doesn’t happen in any other business and it certainly doesn’t happen
* Always value your stock every month and ensure your insurance policy has sufficient cover