Rise of a new Tide
On-line business grows a ‘thousand-fold’
BY STEPHANIE KINSELLA
You won’t find Tide’s Point on any map of Newfoundland, but it is a local destination more people are discovering.
Stephanie Kinsella/The Express
Homeward Bound? Dominic and Edith Lynch are venturing into cyberspace to showcase the best of the province.
It’s a one-stop shop for buying a conglomerate of local products, including art, books, CDs, clothing and more. More than 2, 500 products can be browsed or purchased without even visiting the province — everything is just a mouse-click away.
Both Dominic Lynch and his wife, Edith, began putting their e-business plans for a Newfoundland marketplace in motion eight years ago.
A retired schoolteacher, Edith had just completed her masters degree at MUN, where she became familiar with the Internet.
Dominic, with 20 years experience in advertising and marketing, quit his job, not wanting to miss the opportunity to ride the e-commerce wave.
“My first look at the Internet I was quite amazed. I was awed by it,” he says. “I saw it as being a kind of tool to sell things on. And where I had such a rapport with the business people in town, I was able to get involved with distributors, wholesalers and manufacturers.”
The Lynchs’ first venture was DelWeb Advertising Ltd. To be original, they devised the company name by using their initials.
DelWeb is still around and provides services such as web site design, maintenance and computer upgrades.
A couple of months later, the Lynchs launched Tide’s Point. Dominic says they decided to build a business on Newfoundland products for two main reasons.
First, the shipping process would be faster and easier since all the items would already be in the province.
Second, both believed there was a market for what they wanted to promote.
“I think on the Net you need to have a niche on what you’re selling,” says Dominic. “ We had the opportunity to sell products we have right here.”
Like most new businesses, Tide’s Point had to ride over a few bumps in the road.
Banks turned down the Lynchs’ applications for financial assistance. Dominic says it was frustrating, but they would not be deterred that easily.
“So we said, ‘We like this, we enjoy doing it, and I think we should pursue it. And if we can’t get funding, we’ll have to try it on our own’ — which we did,” he says. “So we used some savings we had over the years to get going.”
However, the main obstacle resulted from the newness of the Internet. Dominic says people were reluctant to get involved with on-line ventures.
“Back then, it was totally bad and wrong to sell anything on the Internet,” he adds.
Edith says she found there was a big learning curve that came along with starting an on-line company at the time.
“I must say, we learned a lot, that’s the way the Internet was. At the time, there was no books you could buy about the Internet,” she explains. “You had to learn it as you went along.”
The site started modestly, with only a few articles and pictures available on the site. But the business garnered a positive response and soon the Lynchs began adding more products.
Dominic says the company’s biggest customer base is in the U.S., but Canada is close behind. He says orders from Great Britain are growing “big time.” Australia is also a frequent destination for the company’s products.
The Lynchs say most of the orders are run-of-the-mill, but both remember a couple of requests that struck them as odd.
“For five years now, a man in B.C. buys 12 bottles of seal oil every year, and at the end of the year, you can depend on him around December to order another 12 bottles,” Dominic explains.
For Edith, it was an international order that sticks out the most.
“We don’t use much ourselves, but every now and then you get a really large order for hard bread. And somebody from New York wanted a case one time and they wanted it overnight and everything. I find those orders amazing,” she says with a smile.
Dominic says it’s all about customer satisfaction and he is always on the lookout for new products.
He says there are a number of ways new items get added to the site. Distributors may call him, but he also continues to approach manufacturers at trade or craft shows.
Garry Cranford is just one of the businesspeople whose products appear on Tide’s Point. He owns Flanker Press in St. John’s and estimates 30 of his books are for sale on the site.
Cranford says it was a combination of the Lynchs’ experience and professionalism that made him start selling books on Tide’s Point four years ago.
“I’m very happy with the service they provide,” says Cranford.
“They had been in business for awhile and proved they were capable of handling this type of service.”
It’s not only Cranford who is impressed with the Lynchs’ way of doing business. People like what they see on Tide’s Point and the orders keep rolling in.
Dominic and Edith say the last year-and-a-half has garnered as much business as the first six years combined.
“There is no comparison, it has multiplied a thousand-fold,” says Dominic.
“We have grown in that we have a lot of new customers and maintained a lot of the repeat customers… It has grown exponentially, there’s no question.”
While they continue to maintain their customers from their original business, the Lynchs are now living off the success of Tide’s Point.
One reason for the recent jump in sales can be attributed to the ability to place orders on-line, in addition to using money orders and cheques.
Tide’s Point uses InternetSecure, a system approved by several Canadian banks for ensuring secure credit card transactions.
The Lynchs will continue to seek new, high-quality products so they can offer customers an even wider selection of Newfoundland items.
But both say good business ultimately boils down to customer satisfaction — something they strive to achieve with every order.
“Our philosophy is to deal with each person as if it was our own product we were selling,” says Dominic.
Edith says it is rewarding to hear that people from all over the world enjoy the Newfoundland virtual market she helped establish.
“We get lots of positive feedback all the time. Even people will call you up and tell you have a nice site and it’s really good, and ‘I’m on your site now and it’s really nice,’ ” Edith says.
“That’s probably the main thing that keeps you going.”