Eric Wulterkens, owner of Kings Ridge Media at Appleton, had no plans to quit his day job in sales when he began buying and reselling books.
“It all started as a side business in 2006,” Wulterkens explained. “I was working full time and had a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) that allowed me to scan a book and would tell me the Amazon stats on the book. I found out that I could buy books that were selling for more on Amazon and resell them. I traveled the Midwest and visited every bookstore I could find to purchase books.
The original company was created with his brother as a partner. Wulterkens asked his brother to come up with a name and he recommended “Extreme Media”, but that name was quickly dropped.
Wulterkens laughed: “It’s a funny story. After we came up with this name we were playing volleyball and someone came over and asked if the business was a porn store. At that point, we decided that we had better change the name.
Kings Ridge Media was born and its book inventory grew. Sales were good until Amazon changed its pricing structure in 2012 and Wulterkens said it was impossible to make a profit. Now working alone, he has found a niche.
“I looked at the data and started building relationships with book distributors and created a two-pronged business,” he noted.
The first aspect is to sell directly to customers on the amazon.com platform. He obtains his inventory from suppliers whose prices allow him to make a profit.
The second aspect is wholesale, and it is able to help other businesses find materials that they can sell in their stores at a profit. It is now the core business.
“My niche is to be the best at finding books and other profitable media,” he said. “Amazon doesn’t allow you to be much different, so you have to find the books that others are missing. I have quick access to Amazon data as well as single vendors to get the books.
To be successful, Wulterkens created software that includes a book spreadsheet and can run data on 3 million books and store the information on a server. Since 2019 his business has grown and is now his full time job. He credits the business courses he took at Fox Valley Technical College’s Venture Center as a big part of that success.
At FVTC, he took a veterans course where he developed the concept of the business and then wrote a comprehensive business plan.
“The most important thing I wish is to have received the education that I received in 2019 when I started in 2006,” said Wulterkens. “These courses put me in touch with other people who design businesses with a system in mind. Before that, there were tons of things that only I could do and these things were piling up and overwhelming me. I am now creating systems that anyone can use.
He has two employees who fill orders and do various jobs. They have been particularly busy during the pandemic as his business is one that has profited from locking people into their homes.
“There was a huge spike in everything. Amazon was so far behind that people started looking for third-party sellers to take over, he said. “In April of last year, Amazon shut down the ability for people to send anything to their warehouses because they were very busy. Three to four weeks later, my business started to explode.
Kings Ridge Media has continued to grow and Wulterkens says their goal is simple. He wants to increase his sales every year and provide inventory to customers in a simple, streamlined process that will save them time and money. By building relationships with major used book suppliers and using his proprietary software, he can search his inventory for books that have a high probability of being profitable.
“Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different things and had failures, but when I succeed at something, I really go for it. Anyone who starts a business should be prepared to do so and give it at least a year. If they don’t, they will likely fail, ”Wulterkens advised.
With his wife Traci, his “reference person”, he continues to seek other opportunities. In addition to the current business, he is working on plans for an e-commerce store selling pet food. It is certainly a different market, but Wulterkens has learned that business skills can be applied at all levels. He says it’s about looking at the possibilities.
“When I was little, my mom used to say that I was always looking for something on the Internet,” he said. “Everything I did was IT related. I kind of found this thing and I knew I wanted to do something for myself.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is part owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and former District Manager for SCORE, Wisconsin.