To entrepreneur Tony Hsieh, Shoesite.com sounded like the poster child for every bad Internet idea.
Why would people want buy shoes online before they could try them on?
Shoesite founder Nick Swinmurn was convincing. His idea was to build the Amazon of shoes and create the world’s largest shore store online. His pitch was simple. Footwear was a $40 billion industry at the time in the US, of which catalog sales made up $2 billion and e-commerce would continue to grow.
Hsieh warmed to the idea but not the name. Shoesite seemed too generic, he thought. And it limited the business from eventually expanding into other product categories.
Hsieh told Swinmurn to come back with a better name. He came back with Zapos, derived from zapatos, the Spanish word for shoe. Hsieh suggested adding another p so people wouldn mispronounce it as ZAY-pos.
Thus was Zappos, the much-feted online shoe retailer, born. Tony Hsieh created a business that combined profits, passion and purpose. He described it as building a lifestyle that was about delivering happiness to everyone, not least himself.
He sold it to Amazon for more than $1.2 billion in 2009.
From Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, by Tony Hsieh.