MO.com is made possible by our friends at:
Guidant Financial: The leader in alternative startup, franchise and small business financing
Maisie Knowles co-founded Kinoli, Inc., with her husband Luke in 2005. Today, her company owns and manages more than a dozen money-saving websites in three countries and sponsors the highly successful shopping holiday Free Shipping Day.
Kinoli, Inc. has produced a family of cost-cutting superheroes known as The Frugals. Characters like Inkjet Willy and Gift Card Granny contribute to the greater good, fighting the injustice of high prices on any product under the sun. Of course, there’s also Free Shipping Day. This one-day December event provides procrastinating shoppers a last chance to order online with free shipping and delivery by Christmas Eve. During the rest of the year, free shipping deals can always be found at FreeShipping.org.
MO: What inspired you to launch a company with your husband when you were just 21 years old when you both had full time jobs? Can you talk about the turning point when you decided to take the jump and make Kinoli your central priority?
Maisie: We saw an opportunity to make some extra cash on the side by offering web design and development services to people we knew through personal relationships. Start-up costs were close to nil since we already had computers and could work from our spare bedroom. We worked nights and weekends on our freelance projects while still working days at our full-time jobs. Eventually, our businesses grew to the point where we had to make a decision: either turn away freelance clients and keep our full-time jobs, or leave our day jobs to fully commit to our “side” business. It was a scary decision to make, but ultimately we knew it was worth the risk to work for ourselves. We knew our full-time positions would only offer a certain amount of income within a set amount of hours, whereas at our own business we could control our billing rates and number of working hours.
MO: Did you initially set out to create money-saving site empire?
Maisie: No, initially we were just a web design and development boutique. We got stuck in a “maintenance” cycle where it was difficult to maintain existing clients while seeking new work. Eventually, we became tired of maintaining clients and started pursuing the idea of a self-sustaining website that could earn enough income to support us both. Late one night, we hatched a concept for a website that provides free shipping coupons to consumers — using affiliate relationships to create income — and FreeShipping.org was born.
MO: Can you talk about how you came to create Free Shipping Day, the nationally-recognized online shopping holiday that last year generated over $1 billion in online sales? What did your starting point look like?
Maisie: In early December of 2008, my husband and I were joking about how someone created shopping holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Green Monday. Then we thought: if they can do it, WE can do it! Since we had affiliate relationships with merchants, we gathered as many of them together as we could and quickly created a website (FreeShippingDay.com). We spread the news and pulled off the first Free Shipping Day within two weeks of conception.
MO: What are some money-saving trends that you’re excited to share with our readers?
Maisie: Saving money isn’t just about waiting for sales anymore — you have to think outside the box! Ever heard of discount gift cards? You can purchase a gift card at less than face value, saving you anywhere between 10 and 30 percent instantly. You can find discount gift cards for all your favorite retailers at GiftCardGranny.com, another popular site we created.
You can and should use your smartphone to save money. Download the CouponSherpa app and use mobile coupons at checkout, or save grocery coupons directly to your supermarket loyalty card for hassle-free savings.
Finally, we will soon launch InkJetWilly.com where consumers can find the lowest price on ink cartridges — a product marked up nearly 2,000 percent!
MO: How has the Kinoli business model evolved since first launching over 8 years ago?
Maisie: Our business model has changed dramatically over the last 8 years. We went from client services and fighting the cycle of sales and maintenance to affiliate Internet marketing, where we’re constantly building relationships with merchants and brainstorming new and exciting websites to create.
MO: What’s the best deal that you’ve ever made, personally or professionally?
Maisie: I recently scored a great deal on a fridge that I purchased by combining a discount gift card, a coupon and an in-store sale. I save about 20 percent without too much effort!
Find the right Domain Name for your business at Fabulous.com!