Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is John Pietrasz, and I am co-founder of Delray Watch Supply, DelrayWatch.com - informally known as Delray Watch. We are a tech-driven luxury watch dealer with a focus on the true watch collectors, casually known as “watch geeks”. By aid of a proprietary algorithm, we, my business partner Federico Iossa and I, are able to offer collectors the most for their pieces on trade, while still remaining competitive in our listing prices.
The core of our business is the buying, trading, and selling of luxury watches priced between $3,000-$6,000. Though, we do work with some higher-level pieces up to the $60,000 mark, as well as some more approachable models in the $1,000 range. We also have a grand complications master watchmaker on staff, Hans, that helps us to offer Swiss-level watch service on each and every piece that floats through our doors.
I started this business with my partner, Federico Iossa (popular from the YouTube series ‘Federico Talks Watches’) 20 months ago with $4,000 in a kitchen, and now see sales of over $3.3 MM annually, at the age of 28.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
While currently, I am deeply ingrained in the luxury watch space, this was not always the case in my career journey.
The real foundation for my career progression I would likely attribute to my earliest of memories- playing with Legos as a child. I had developed a fascination and building and fixing things at a young age, and it has followed me up to this day.
If you have an idea try it. Yes, you may fail, but you will learn things in the process. You may fail the next 10 tries thereafter, but you will learn even more. That 11th try may be your Delray Watch. It was mine.
When I was a teenager, my fascination with building and fixing and developed into a strong passion for technology. During these times, technology was very new. Cellphones were not commonplace, apps did not exist, and certainly Shopify was not even a twinkle in a startup entrepreneur’s eye. During this time, the IT department for a large school district had recruited me to be a network administrator. Instantly, as an eager-to-learn young man, I was catapulted into the tech world.
Moving along in my career in tech business, I had worked for companies large, such as Disney, managing their financial systems for all of the theme parks, as well as companies considerably smaller. I eventually landed myself a project manager position for a 12 employee medical software company located in Cleveland, Ohio.
In just 2 years after accepting that position, I had ranked myself up to General Manager and VP. Soon thereafter, the primary shareholder and acting president stepped down for retirement and handed me the keys to the kingdom. I had just been given a sandbox to play in, a sandbox of business. The coming years from this is where I had learned the true building blocks of business, management skills, and how sales drive a business- at age 24.
At this software company, after taking control, I learned business very quickly thanks to a mentor who had built this company himself. In 16 months, I had managed to effectively double the sales and acquire our leading competitor. I also had built a sister company that managed the life cycle of revenue for physician offices, though I won’t bore you with those details.
During this time, I also began to take interest in watches more heavily, which interestingly enough, is the business I am currently in. During this time, I had also thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be great to transfer these tech business principles into the luxury watch industry?”.
Soon thereafter, I packed my bags, moved to Miami, and became CTO of a popular real estate tech company. During my position here, the supposed pinnacle of the working-man world, C level, I decided entrepreneurship was really my only choice. I missed the excitement of taking calculated risks for myself as well as building something I could be proud of. I resigned and started a tech consulting firm focused on the watch industry.
Here is where I met my business partner, Federico Iossa. He was in the watch industry prior as Director of Richement, Wempe, and also director of media for a large watch company. I had been developing tech strategy and other products in the watch industry. We quickly made friends. At dinner one night we just said, “Hey let’s trade watches!”. So, we did.
Take us through the process of getting started.
With DelrayWatch.com., we were very fortunate to have all of the necessary skills needed to go live, and perform well for our customers since day 1.
My business partner Federico had been in the watch industry for over 10 years including being a popular YouTuber. I had been in the tech business industry for 10 years. We were both avid watch collectors and savants. This was the perfect equation for success, even though we were quite unsure of it when we started. Ah, that is the psyche of an entrepreneur, right?
The idea was that each of us, as partners would oversee the type of roles that we had experience in. Federico would cover sales, media, marketing, and watchmaking. I would cover technology, business, accounting, and scaling. While our team has grown a bit since launch 20 months ago, we are both still aimed in our corner of the ring. This has proven to be extremely effective for us.
Describe the process of launching the business.
DelrayWatch.com, our website, launched near the end of August 2017. The business was founded with $4,000 in the kitchen of my beachfront apartment. The first watch we purchased was a Rolex Submariner from another dealer.
At the time, both my partner and I were unsure of how long it would take for us to ramp up and begin stocking many pieces. After the first watch sold, we quickly jumped head first and began self-funding and stocking more watches in our inventory.
We were fortunate to have a head start without customer base, as my business partner Federico had a popular Youtube channel for watches at that time. We saw web traffic day one, albeit very modest. The bulk of the emails and leads at first were mostly for consulting, which we do not offer. Though in time, and with enough patience, the customers began coming in.
I wake up every day and live my dream playing with watches and talking with fellow watch geeks.
At launch, the traffic was slow. We were unsure of what to expect, as we were not buying traffic through pay per click. All of our traffic was coming from a few youtube videos. In the beginning, we were only seeing 100-200 hits per day. Now, we see thousands per day and 140,000 per month. At the end of 2017, we saw perhaps $200k in revenue, which is low for this industry. In 2018 we did nearly $2M, and we should come close to $4M this year.
Purchasing watches for inventory at the time surrounding our launch was rather difficult. The large players in the industry were able to purchase the majority of the watches from customers at any given time, as they had nearly unlimited working capital. We were primarily trading lower-end more budget pieces until I developed a proprietary system that allows us to pay more for a watch than any other company. The algorithm essentially cross-references leads in a way that allows us to make deals before they happen. The rest is a secret :)
The number one takeaway I have from the launch period of DelrayWatch.com is that delaying the launch to attempt to reach perfection is a bit of a fool’s errand. The things that we thought would be important to customers were rather unimportant and also the things we felt were not as important ended up being critical to the customer experience. At a certain point, you just need to jump in head-first and alter things in response to reactions.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
One of the main ways we attract and retain our customers is through engagement. The primary method in which we engage with our customers is Youtube.
Not only was our business founded on the popular video streaming platform, it is an integral part in everything our business does today. Video allows us to connect with people on a more personal and intimate level. I am a big proponent in the idea that people buy the brand or the person. When people see our casual, personal, and light-hearted videos, they develop a connection with us, if they like the video.
These videos also allow us to engage with our customers through the comment system. Most comments are replied to, even if it a simple hello. People remember this, and I enjoy every minute of it!
Fortunately for me, my business partner Federico, is somewhat of a wizard when it comes to Youtube. While people do like his on-screen personality, he really does know the ins and outs of the platform. When starting DelrayWatch.com, I also began developing a channel on this platform to provide viewers with a second perspective into this watch world.
There are dozens of watch Youtubers creating content semi-regularly. Though, we provide a unique perspective from that of a watch dealer. The watch world can be very secretive most of the time. The industry is shrouded in secrecy almost as much as the diamond industry. The large players generally do not want consumers to know too much about how it works as the marketing revolves around history, romance, and interesting stories. There is almost zero transparency, except for us, we provide this transparency.
Delaying the launch to attempt to reach perfection is a bit of a fool’s errand. The things that we thought would be important to customers were rather unimportant and also the things we felt were not as important ended up being critical to the customer experience.
In modern times, I wholeheartedly believe that transparency is crucial to any business that wishes to survive and thrive in the age of information. Information, and truth are available at nearly anyone’s fingertips. This notion continues through with our content. When we speak and engage with viewers both in the video and comments, we are as transparent as possible. They are provided with the exact ins and outs of the business, the components of the watch they are hearing about or possibly purchasing, and even the markups. The snobby attitude that is stereotypical of the watch industry is entirely abandoned. I find that not only do people appreciate this, it welcomes additional people into the watch collector circle that would have otherwise felt judged or cast aside.
DelrayWatch.com is now 21 months old. In that timeframe, not one single dollar has been spent on marketing nor advertising. I’ve focused on building a brand and overdelivering. When a customer calls us, we give them more information than they needed. When a customer emails us, they typically receive a personal response within 30 minutes. When a customer purchases a watch, they receive the item in better condition than described. Everything Delray Watch does is based on the concept of over deliver and the customers will come. It has worked so far!
Aside from Youtube, we reach our current and potential customers through Instagram, Facebook, several watch collector forms, and several marketplaces including eBay.
While Instagram is a hot topic and a catalyst for many brands today, we just do not see the same types of returns compared to Youtube. While we do have an Instagram and posting does take place, with proper tagging, timing, etc, it is mostly used to nurture current clients as opposed to obtaining new ones.
With Instagram, anyone can start an account and take pictures from Google, posting them and claiming that it is their own content. Though, with Youtube, someone, such as myself or Federico, need to be physically present and available. Youtube takes serious dedication and commitment- the ROI cosmos rewards that.
We’ve had mixed response on third-party platforms. When you sell products on these external platforms, additional decision makers, processes, and rules come into play. There can also be legally binding contracts such as Paypal agreements, Ebay agreements, and the like. These additional players in the business-to-customer relationship and muddy the waters quite a bit.
Upon starting DelrayWatch.com I aimed for us to be on every 3rd party platform that was available and would allow us to sell our watches. At first, this worked. We sold on eBay as well as several other platforms. Our sales went up on these platforms and our exposure increased. Things were excellent! Though fraud on these platforms was rampant and the companies that ran the platforms rarely made serious effort to help.
One single case at attempted fraud on these platforms could tie us up for several days, each case requiring mountains of paperwork and sometimes legal fees. Because of this, focusing on our own platform, with proper PCI compliance and other fraud prevention procedures is the direction we went and has flourished.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Right now, we are growing very rapidly.
Over the last 4 months, we have been approached twice to sell our business by leading competitors. Honestly, my business partner and I love watches too much and have no idea what we would be doing instead.
I wake up every day and live my dream playing with watches and talking with fellow watch geeks. The watches are incidental, they shift hands here or there.
Our team is comprised of myself, my business partner Federico, a graphic designer, an operations associate, and a master watchmaker Hans.
The future of Delray Watch is very strong. We completed our first year of sales with $1.8MM and will do $3.6+ MM this year. With these numbers, we have decided to take the direction of a capital raise and scale the company to a much larger size. We are always welcoming new ideas and partnerships.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Through founding Delray Watch, the main thing I have learned is to give the people what they want. Let me explain.
In the earliest times of developing the idea of our company, I initially thought “We should just do things like the big players in this industry and customers will come”. As the idea simmered and my partner and I began planning more, we both had determined that our ideas were sometimes opposite or conflicting. To settle them, we would let the customers decided.
From that point forward in the planning and building phases of Delray Watch, we ran most things by groups of fellow watch collector friends and let them decide. Instead of looking at a competitor and copying their product sort feature, we just asked watch collector friends, our actual market, “How do you want to shop for watches?”. The answers from each question we asked were extremely formative in our company and ultimately our success. If you want the customers, give them what they want !
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My background revolves around technology. I was a CTO of a tech company and ran and managed a medical software company. Technology and solutions make up the entire backbone of our company and seriously allow us to compete in the watch market.
Our entire business revolves around the Salesforce ecosystem. From the very first point of contact from our website, the lead, the entire experience is handled in house through a custom buildout on the Salesforce platform. The entire process or journey of both the customer as well as the watch are mapped out. When Joe Smith calls our sales team, we know exactly who he is and as well as what he purchased or sold to us. We also know his interests, watches in his collection, as well as future purchases.
Connect to this system we have a custom-coded module placed on top of an inhouse algorithm I’ve created. In this module, we compare watches customers would like to purchase against watches customers would like to sell. This system allows us to give a customer a higher offer than anyone else for their watch, because we know someone wants it that day.
Aside from the mentioned custom tech solutions, as well as a few others we have built, we also use more than a few off the shelf solutions. We live on Gmail, Google Analytics, GoDaddy, BigCommerce, Nextiva, and several others. Though, they all integrate with our custom built Salesforce rollout. Did I say Salesforce? 😊
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
While I’ve read countless books on business, economics, and growth, none of the resources substitute experience.
Since the earliest times of search engines, I’ve been a Googler. Want to know where to get started? Google it. Where do I get a website? Google it. The list goes on- Google it!
If search engines showed no answers for me, I would go straight to the source. Perhaps a book had the answer, or perhaps I was led to a person that did the thing before.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The number one reason I see other people not succeeding is having an excuse. I know people that say “I can’t be independent, I have no resources”, or “I don’t know anything about cars but I would love to own a dealership”. There is a solution, figure it out!
Everyone has dreams. Everyone has goals, as large or small as they may be, but not everyone has action. If you have an idea try it. Yes, you may fail, but you will learn things in the process. You may fail the next 10 tries thereafter, but you will learn even more. That 11th try may be your Delray Watch. It was mine.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes, we are currently looking for sales professionals, interns, and general watch geeks. If you are a watch geek looking to break into the industry email us at [email protected]
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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