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I Sell Onions on the Internet (deepsouthventures.com)
3015 points by eightturn 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 435 comments



> I backordered the domain as a spectator, but for kicks & giggles, I dropped in a bid around $2,200 ’cause I was confident I’d be outbid.

It's funny and beautiful how a moment of whimsy ends up being a fulcrum point in his life.

It seems there's a lot of interest in gardening / food production among tech people. For me, one of the reasons I love gardening is because in many ways it's totally different from working inside with machines, but there are important and unexpected overlaps. For example if you have a solid understanding of the OSI model which informs your method of system design, you can easily move into gardening where knowledge of the layers of a forest plays a similar role. Having this experience in tech makes it easy to zero in on similar structural principles in gardening, learn about them, and apply that knowledge whereas many others clearly don't.

Just like a person who doesn't understand the value of a proper foundation in tech (hardware, lower protocols like DNS, etc.), a similar gardener won't first seek to build strong healthy soil, and they will constantly fight against nature rather than work with it, doing more work while getting fewer results.

As an aside, regarding onions: last year I cut off some green onion bottoms from the store and put them in the ground (including the little roots). They grew back and gave several more green onion harvests before winter set in, and now they're back on their own! Permanent green onion. You can do this with a number of plants, btw. Try it!


> It's funny and beautiful how a moment of whimsy ends up being a fulcrum point in his life.

My life pivoted on a similar moment of whimsy. When I saw the post about the first startup school way back in the day, I just randomly decided "you know what, it's on the other side of the country but I'll just sign up and figure it out". Ended up flying to Boston on a super cheap flight, crashing on my friends couch who was in grad school at MIT, and meeting Steve and Alexis (of reddit), and that's how I ended up working for reddit 18 months later.


Wow was that when Reddit was starting out, or more recently?


jedberg was the first employee at Reddit


That was in 2005. I joined in 2007.


jedberg is one of the original reddit peeps, he started in early 2007 I think! He is also one cool frood. Hi Jeremy!


Does he keep his towel on hand?


Moments of whimsy are some of the most important. It was a moment of whimsy that led to me studying abroad in college, and another moment of whimsy that led me to meet my wife while I was there. Couldn't have been more than 5 total minutes of thoughts no more complicated than "yeah, I guess I'll give it a go" that shaped my entire life.

And yet, I can spend another 5 minutes in the grocery store agonizing over which of two near-identical bags of chips to buy. Funny how that goes.


Isn't that just confirmation bias though? If you hadn't made those decisions you just as likely could have met someone else some other way, married them and been just as happy or successful.


Yes, but it contrasts nicely with those "where do you see yourself in five years" interview questions. Life doesn't usually work like that.


I ultimately owe my software engineering career to wasting time posting on a phpBB for a webcomic.


Check survivorship bias. The name refers to deadly scenarios, but what is fundamental to it is a bias in reporting that depends on the outcome of interest. The concept was first hammered out observing that warplanes never got hit in the engines -- well, the ones that made it back at least. Some people thought the areas with the most damage should be protected. Wald thought otherwise and it's him who is remembered to this day. "Moments of whimsy" are like anti-aircraft ammo. They hit everywhere, randomly. But we only report those that are associated with a life change.



Moments of whimsy with a bit of perseverance. Without the second part, you're just a wildcard.


Maybe that's the point. Wildcards sometimes succeed just like that.


Indeed. For me that moment was a single split second where I decided to email my would-be wife. I almost didn’t, but decided to anyway. Of course, I have no idea how life may have played out had I not made that decision but here I am now, some thousands of miles away from my home country, from country I grew up in and in a new place I call home with a little kiddo that makes every day worth living. Funny how a single moment decided all of this.


Well, I met my wife on a train, in 2009. I was supposed to be on a plane, and she lost the previous train, and jumped in a random car in the train I was in, and there was me. Go figure :)


> It's funny and beautiful how a moment of whimsy ends up being a fulcrum point in his life.

I posted a bitchy comment using a throwaway account on Reddit about ten years ago.

It directly led to me moving across the country, getting hired at Google, and finding myself in my dream job doing programming language stuff full-time.

Life is weird, man.

Also, Vidalias (and, really, all of the alliums) are wonderful.


How did a bitchy comment lead to all that?


I was working at EA at the time. I got into the game industry because I loved making games. But I wasn't on a game team at work (which was good, because it meant I had a sane work schedule). And EA's employment contract basically forbids you from doing hobby game stuff in your free time since they would own the results.

So here I was "in the game industry" and spending zero time actually making games. I posted a rant complaining about that.

Some random redditor said, basically, "I work at Google. If you're a decent C++ programmer, I'll put in a referral for you."

Meanwhile, my wife and I had taken a trip to the Pacific Northwest and decided we wanted to move to that area. I started looking for jobs at other game companies in Seattle. I flew out there to interview at ArenaNet. Since I had a referral, a Google recruiter expedited an interview at the Seattle office while I was in town. I wasn't very seriously considering Google, but I wasn't about to say no.

I bombed the ArenaNet interview. (I think the main sticking point was a question around the time complexity of adding an element to a growable array. I said it was constant, but couldn't effectively explained amortized complexity to them and they didn't seem to understand that amortized complexity existed at all.)

Wonder of wonders, I just squeaked through the Google one.

I ended up on a random project doing front-end programming in JavaScript because I had UI experience. I didn't care for the product and programming UI in JS is, uh, not my idea of a good time, so it wasn't super fun.

However, I randomly took a one-day improve class that Google offerred. There, I met another Googler on another project and we started talking about language nerd stuff. He later ended up forming a team to work on Traceur, which was a project to prototype language changes to JS. They were ramping up, and he remembered I was into language things, so I asked me to join.

That project wound down later so I went looking for other projects to join. Dart was ramping up then and went there. It's been a blast.

But, literally, if I hadn't posted a comment on reddit and taken this improv class, my whole career might be different. I might have left Google to rejoin the game industry or something else entirely.


What was the comment, Bob?!


I often marvel at the seemingly trivial events that greatly shape my life. Just thinking about my professional life, I have:

My first job out of college happened because I met and befriended one specific person in college (was there for 5 years).

My second job (and first startup) happened because I went to a 4-person dinner/game-night at a friend's (who I met at that first job) house, and talked to one of the other attendees who was interviewing at this company, and was willing to refer me (was barely there for a year and a half, but it fundamentally changed my view of work and employment).

Fast forward, and my current job (nearly 8 years now) happened because I checked an email account that I hadn't looked at in several years (and saw a recruiting email of a type I'd usually ignore), because I was trying to sign into some random account on the internet and I'd used that email address as the recovery account, many years before.

Obviously there was more to it than those single events, but each of those things were essential in opening up the opportunity in the first place.

My personal life and social circles often grew from similar simple, one-off, surprise events.


Yes! It's easy to regrow kitchen scraps and so few people know anything about it which is a shame. For anyone interested, I recommend the book "No-Waste Kitchen Gardening"[1] for some useful tips.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39835357-no-waste-kitche...


I'm moving to New York after 6 years in San Francisco in a similar moment of whimsy, next month, and I have only loosey-goosey reasons to do it.

It's weird to think about being on this side of a potential life changing choice, but it's really not nearly as big of a deal to me (I'm keeping my fully remote-friendly job) as some people seem to think it is!

I really hope more people do it more often! It's a very effective and wholesome way to foster understanding and spreading of good ideas, and dampening the damning effects of a lot of tribalism in today's political climate.


I also planted the store bought green onions and it worked fine until the aphids showed up - how do you control them? (they reproduce profusely and asexually basically cloning themselves)


My grandpa swore by Sevin, and my father in law uses diluted Dawn soap. Based solely on the chemical content, I'd start with the soap.

Also - predators. You can buy ladybugs in most garden centers for almost nothing, and they eat aphids for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Literally.


if you're looking to sell whimsy on the internet momentofwhimsy.com is still available. and you don't even need a whimsy packing shed.


It wasn't long ago when the knowledge that food is made of plants that grow on dirt was common knowledge, not a life hack. Schoolchildren used to grow plants from seed as homework.


> Schoolchildren used to grow plants from seed as homework.

They still do, depending on where you live. My daughter brought home a sunflower seed from a field trip last spring. By the end of summer we had a 7ft tall sunflower growing next to our deck. This year we have several more already sprouting in that area.

It also had a side effect of really enhancing the plot of pretty terrible clay soil we plucked it in. Lots of herbs we attempted (and failed) to grow last year are already starting to flourish this year in that spot.


Just look at the dignity here in this humble creation he has made!

> [...] she interrupted me mid-sentence and hollered in exaltation to her husband: ” THE VIDALIA MAN! THE VIDALIA MAN! PICK UP THE PHONE!”

The happiness I feel reading that is so sublime. His work is needed and appreciated -- and what a humble trade with a beautiful simplicity to it. It is repeatable; others could do this too! Imagine what our communities would be like if most families had a little something like this. It reminds me of G.K. Chesterton's "Three Acres and a Cow" [1] slogan (implying that can be enough).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributism#Economic_theory


I hope I wasn’t the only person here who thought of the egg man scene in Pink Flamingos when they read this :)



You weren't.


I actually had this exact same idea in like...2011. So, ideas are worthless without execution. I used to work in Middle Georgia where Vidalia Onions are plentiful. I went to visit a friend in NYC, where Vidalia Onions are scarce. I brought some with me on the plane...

The plan was I'd just run to the local grocery store and just fulfill online orders and if demand was there, purchase from local farmers. I didn't get any further than than just mentioning the business idea. Kudos to Peter for executing and meeting a need. Looks like he also owns onions.com, so they are making enough money to acquire that domain name.


Sometimes even execution is worthless. It doesn't sound like this guy is making a ton of money and he says he's doing it for fun, not because it's profitable. Though I'm sure it turns a profit in general.


I looked this up one time, why this was such a big deal. Vidalia's are finicky like wine grapes. You need the right microbiome, you can't just plant them everywhere because demand is high. They might grow but don't taste right.

I suspect that, like vinyards, if demand stays up long enough we'll find all sorts of weird little spots all over the world with nearly the right kind of soil and moisture and heat.

[edit] Rereading: It's a regional appellation but the taste has much to do with low sulfur content in the soil.


> So, ideas are worthless without execution.

This is such an excellent quote and motivational.


So much so that I made this for fun a few months ago :)

https://www.ideasarecheap.net


I've never known NYC, the sitting famous for a bodega on almost every block, and street vendors with cars of produce, to be short on any produce available in USA.

https://www.myfreshgrocer.com/nkz/exec/Phone/Product/Display...


Case in point - they appear to be short.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/g7q4injeb2w8du8/Screenshot%202019-...


Peter here (author) - happy to answer any questions..


Hi Peter,

Congratulations! You're an inspiration. A few questions, if I may:

1. Do you plan to expand to other produce other than just the onions?

2. How did you arrive at your current business model (like min order quantity, areas served, return policy, shipping rates etc)?

3. How do you deal with customer complaints, in particular, with something as prone to decay as organic produce?

4. What significant part of the way you do this business changed after v1? Esp, as multiple customers would have inevitably given you comments and suggestions.

5. You mentioned you're registered as a LLC. You don't intend to raise VC money? For instance, YC prefers not to invest in LLCs.

6. What does the tech stack look like (Shopify? Weebly? AWS? Frameworks? Payments? etc)?


1. Right now, we're concentrating on just Vidalias. We continue to grow at a pace I'm happy with, so there's no need to get complicated. 2. We learned it as we went along, really. ie, "Oh crap, X happened.. what do we do?" And then we figure out what's best for the customer, and do that. 3. We listen, and empathize. I want all our customers to get the onion they're expecting. If they don't, I'll cover the cost to get them more that meet their needs. 4. The logistic changed the most, by far. Our second year, we added order tracking, and that helped a lot too. (Our first season, the customers would call me and ask where their order was, and I'd manually look it up) 5. We're profitable. I have no interest in raising money or taking direction from a VC. 6. Tech stack (if I even understand what that means).. Wordpress, Shopify


Just chiming in to say that I loved reading your article, and I really wish you all the very best. I'm you have inspired many people in one way or another!


Thanks a lot. I sincerely wish you nothing but the best.


Is it a 50/50 partnership with the farmer? What was that negotiation like?


no kidding, here was the first negotiation. I'm at the shed, in the front office with the farmer. We talk about whether this could work. We realize it might. I then bring up how to split money. From my side, it seemed fair to pay him more, so I suggested they keep 60% of profit, and I keep 40%. He nodded, and agreed. So we went with that. We changed it slightly over the years, but it still falls around that range. You wanna know funny thing? UPS makes the most on the entire transaction (as we roll in shipping costs on all our orders).


> UPS makes the most on the entire transaction (as we roll in shipping costs on all our orders)

And this is what every company finds out eventually. Shipping is key and out of your control. Thus, Amazon starting its own fleet of air carriers.


> And this is what every company finds out eventually.

I wouldn't say every company. Just the ones shipping products that are relatively heavy.


Not even. Tried to start a small (friends and extended family) coffee roasting business. Most of the margin shipping a 12oz bag of coffee after all other costs is eaten by flat rate USPS shipping. Only made economic sense at a much greater scale, or for orders > 5lb.


Can you just stick a stamp on the onion and drop it in the mail? I think there is a potato shipping business that does this


Or even cheaper, just ship the seeds and tell the customer it's a pre-release alpha product, like the game companies do.


Yeah, what sort of USDA issues do you need to fulfill in order to ship food like this?


The skin would fall off?


Concurrency!


Loved this story. Your writing style is succinct & speaks to the heart. You really should write more essays if possible (found only 4 here: https://www.deepsouthventures.com/essays).

- A captivated reader


thank you. I'd love to write more, it's just time consuming. That onion post took me, off-and-on, over 6 months to write.


What's been your feeling on generalizing the idea to other products?

There's certainly value in being The Vidalia Man, having connections within the industry, and owning the domain. At the same time, the lessons you've learned (not to mention the platform you've built) could apply to just about any other niche agricultural product, such as ramps in the northeast, or southern flour.

How do those two tensions play against each other when it comes to deciding where on the spectrum between "I sell onions and only onions" and "I will become the next Amazon" to fall?


Honestly, I don't want to build an amazon size business, so there's no tension. Too complicated. I sorta follow the same path at Paul Jarvis, and his book https://ofone.co/ . Right now, from a product standpoint, I focus on one thing, Vidalias. But I'll have to note that we also own the domain name 'Onions.com', so there's possible opportunity for growth down the road. Not right now, though.


Hey Peter,

I'm quite fond of buying domains myself. I just came here to tell you I'm so happy to have found someone with a hobby like mine, though it is more accurate to call yours a business. My wife hates it, but many of the ideas I have had, have started with a domain name and that being my lift off point.

I tend to buy 1 year registrations for $8 like they're lotto tickets or something.


You mention putting purpose over profit, but I assume you still make a reasonable living doing this from the sounds of things. Is this your only job currently? What's the tech stack like?

Thanks for a great article :)


It makes enough to make me happy. And yes, I have other projects (jobs) that bring in revenue.


Your post just caused me to make an impulse purchase of 10 pounds of onions.

This is the first time this has ever happened to me in my life.

Though I've only been 35 or older for a year. Should I expect more decisions like this?

:)


thanks so much for the business - your order will leave the farm next week!


Just bought a 10 lb box. Supporting a fellow hacker / business person. I look forward to them with my eggs and bacon.


thank you so much! We'll start shipping next Monday, 4/29, and your order will leave the farm that week. We'll also send you a tracking link when UPS gets their hands on your box (fyi)


Could it be a good idea to combine a few orders for San Francisco customers like me? And then use the opportunity to just meet and share our 10 pounds of Vidalias and shake hands?


Likewise, looking forward to my 10lbs as well. I love onions.


really appreciate your order - thank you..


I'm guessing that shipping is the biggest part of the cost? I see that a 10lb box is only $5 more than a 5lb box...


shipping is a large portion of the cost. But I was adamant in rolling it into the cost to keep things simple.


How close is M&T's operation to "organic"? I know some farmers follow a lot of the practices, but don't necessarily want to bother with the cost & hassle of the formal certification. Would love to see them or some future partner get into that. Any interest in that direction, or obstacles in the way?


We're about as close to organic without putting the label on it. But we are test growing some 100% organics now, trying to determine next steps with that..


What was the issue with the faulty shipping boxes?


they weren't strong enough, and crushed heavily during shipment. I had to refund alot of orders, and eat (no pun intended) the cost of the boxes.


Where do you go to get the box made? What is its cost? And what is shipping cost (for ex within GA) per box? Does shipping cost increase by weight too?


Did this post on HN lead to a large increase in sales today?


Did you ever consider registering a .onion domain?


nah.. we do own Onions.com, though..


Wouldn't it be better to be a direct redirect to vidaliaonions.com or maybe even have the website under both domains? onions.com is a great domain and it seems a bit of a shame to have the landing page about the domain name rather than the product


Do you know anything about the demographic of your customers?

Are they people who graduated and moved away, looking for a little bit of home? I'm suspecting a fair number of Gatech alumni, for one. Or people like me who have to negotiate the onion content of dishes very carefully with friends and family (shallots and Vidalias make that easier).


Typically older demo.. over 35 usually.. I only know this cause I speak to so many customers on the phone.. Most customers are folks who are foodies and have read about Vidalias, or are already familiar with..


Is the image a composite of many? If so, how is it created?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19733080


if you're referring to that 360-degree photo, you can make the same kind of image through the Google 'Street View' app.. you'll then upload to your Google account and share..


Yes, I was. Thanks.


Do you like Vidalia onions?

More seriously, how much interaction do you have with the farmer(s)? Seems like there would need to be a lot of communication to make something like this work.

Super cool story!


Great question (do I like Vidalias).. I was indifferent on them at the start. But when you're surrounded by them, you start eating them. And now, I put Vidalias (or other sweet onions) on virtually anything. Eggs, Chili, burgers, list goes on..

And yes, I communicate quite frequently with the farmer. We got along quite well, and I'm fortunate for the friendship I have with him & his team.


Hah, same here. I was indifferent but introduced to sweet onions while in Mexico when they were being served, grilled whole, by a street vendor. I have been hooked since and buying them now whenever in season.


Great post! How do you decide which tasks to do yourself and which to outsource? Also, at what point do you consider incorporation?


We're an LLC. Regarding tasks -- there really wasn't any deciding. We just starting doing stuff. The farmer grew the Onion, and I built out all the online stuff and logistics. When pain points arose, I tried my best to find software to shoulder those loads. But I made sure to never outsource my phone calls. I answer those. I wanna talk to my customers.


How does the farmer get the orders?


Our online orders come through me. The transaction is made online, or over the phone.


No I mean, do they get a fax? An email? A SMS message when they have to ship a product? Or do you handle that logistics?


Sometimes I print the orders in my office and physically take them to the farm. Other times, I transmit the orders to them online, and they print them at the shed.


How do you take care of the shipping? Do you pick up the onions and ship them? Or do you have the farmer do that?


we ship directly from the farm.


If the farmer infrastructure goes away, would you look for another partner, or just find something else to do?


These days, the farmer and I are equally devoted to this. If the farm goes away, the farmer and I will start again somewhere else. Highly unlikely the farm goes away though.. The farm could possibly change names down the road.. small things like that.


A good partnership is a wonderful thing :)


How do potential customers find you? Do you do spend a lot on marketing?


A lot of different ways. A lot through word of mouth now. Some paid search, some organic search, some through other farms pointing customers our way, some though our billboard on i-95, and some through the magnets I have stuck on my car.


This is an American dream-esque article about a boy and a domain name. They meet, he wins the auction, and they start spending time together. The domain name, she calls to him and eventually they hook up with an industry group and bring onions to the world. While on the face of it, this may not seem like the best business plan - I actually really like it. He found something personal (domain knowledge from his home state industry), something with a good customer need, and filled a niche of better customer service and process. Here, everyone wins... So I guess it is also an 'invisible hand of the free market' dream too.


I want someone to write some analysis of this particular... voice, or style of writing, being used here.

"I'm a web guy. I’m not a farmer."

I already knew that, because in just a couple paragraphs, I was already recognizing the style of writing as... SEO, "influencer", I don't know what to call it?

It's a personal first-person voice, which right off the start tries to establish that the author is a human being writing about their life -- but also that they are an expert in what they are going to tell you about, and very successful too.

The text includes many one or two sentence paragraphs, and has aggressively styled pull quotes and/or callouts. Short sentences too. Not entirely complete sentences. Interspersed.

It makes sure to open up with some kind of very short story that is only tangentially related to the content but is folksy and cute. (Smuggled vidalia's onto cruise ship).

The information is very cleverly structured to keep you reading, by dropping just enough of the actual info, page to page, to pique your attention and make you think there's an interesting story here, but not enough that you can leave having actually learned anything before you've read a pretty big chunk. And is written artfully for this purpose, it works, and keeps you reading. Sometimes at the end you feel rewarded, other times you feel like it was a shaggy dog story. The best authors leave you happy, of course.

It's got information to convey, but the goal is not to convey the information as effectively as possible, but to keep you reading as long as possible -- and, usually, to sell you something.

I don't know if I have a value judgement on it exactly -- okay, I'll admit it annoys me, perhaps because it all sounds the same while trying to convince you it's a folksy authentic voice. But either way, it's a thing, a genre even, that I'm not sure I've seen anyone comment on.

It's: "Content Marketing Voice".

(Also selling people onions on the internet is "purpose over profit", really? What the world needs now is frictionless access to vidalia onions shipped directly to your home?)


While I enjoyed the article, I agree it was a very modern web marketing voice. This is a guy who makes marketing websites for a living and it shows.

Still, more interesting than most...


I think it‘s called Direct Response Copywriting and has been around quite a while.


It's direct. They don't generally teach people to talk like that in formal English courses I think.


I could not finish the article because of this style. I am quite fed up with it.


I think it's possible to be using a genre voice unconsciously, or doing it consciously but for your own purpose. Just because the genre is X, doesn't mean we can assume the purpose.

I think you missed the point about "purpose over profit", it really gave this guy a feeling of that. And him telling that personal story is valid. It's interesting to think about why you seem to have deliberately side-stepped the point of the story.

Actually, analyzing and thinking about the way you wrote this comment, it seems you're just bitter that someone found something they really liked, that gave them a sense of purpose, and now you're trying to find some way to diminish that to yourself, to make yourself feel better, without actually taking the responsibility to do something to make your life better. Which tells us that you wished you had that purpose, but you feel you don't.

Some free advice: go about making that purpose for yourself, rather than making yourself feel better by trying to diminish the achievements of others that trigger you right in the feels. Another way to say it is, instead of making it all about this guy, when you get triggered, stop and think about "why do I feel that way?" and go deep into that. It's not about other people. What you feel is about you. Learn from that. Don't project, don't take it out, don't blame others, just learn from that uncomfortable emotion you're writing this thing to avoid.

Don't get me wrong, this is more than advice. I've seen that attitude cause a lot of unnecessary hurt and conflict in the world and in relationships, and I want people to stop it.

It's a pattern I've see a lot. Definitely has it's own genre voice as well.


> I think it's possible to be using a genre voice unconsciously, or doing it consciously but for your own purpose. Just because the genre is X, doesn't mean we can assume the purpose.

Certainly. It is still interesting to analyze as a genre, this is how we make sense of the written world. Perhaps you are doing that same assumption of purpose with my writing.

> I think you missed the point about "purpose over profit", it really gave this guy a feeling of that.

Is the point of "purpose over profit" to engender a feeling of purpose in the people who think they are doing it? Is that the "purpose"?

I think everyone should endeavor to treat their customers, suppliers, and coworkers with respect as human beings, instead of trying to take them for all they are worth. I agree doing so will make you happier. Which can perhaps be surprising to someone who tries it and has never done it before, how much it improves their own life. This is called being a decent human being, and there's no reason for everyone in every job not to do it. There's nothing wrong and a lot right with trying to behave like a decent human being in whatever business you are in, it's commendable, but it's not "purpose over profit."

I think it's disingenuous to elevate the idea of "treating people like humans instead of just instruments for my own profit, while at my profit-focused endeavor" to "purpose over profit", and disrespectful to people who really do make significant material sacrifices for a non-profit-oriented purpose.

What do you think his "purpose" was here, and in what ways were any profits sacrificed for it?


> Actually, analyzing and thinking about the way you wrote this comment, it seems you're just bitter that someone found something they really liked, that gave them a sense of purpose, and now you're trying to find some way to diminish that to yourself, to make yourself feel better, without actually taking the responsibility to do something to make your life better. Which tells us that you wished you had that purpose, but you feel you don't.

Wow. You sure read a lot into someone's analysis of a writing style. One that I think accurately described the details of the piece of writing. I'm trying to summarize my feelings on your post without actually being hostile, but I can't help but find your entire comment to be really low value, even if it was meant well.


This was really fun, so I checked out the site

- Least expensive order is a 5-pound box for $34.95

- Runs on Shopify

- As they're seasonal, there are some built-in scarcity aspects I hadn't thought of (which is kind of neat business wise).

Two aspects I might try if this was my business:

1. Some kind of "Chef/Restaurant" option

2. An option to send 1 beautiful onion (ala the referenced Harry and David's)


Seconded: I would totally pay for 'ship this person an onion'


Grade your onions and sell the top 10% at a premium!

I sincerely believe that our society would be much happier and healthier if top-shelf/"celebrity" vegetables existed that could cost $XX, sort of like in Japan.

Someone would probably pay $1000+ for "The best dozen onions of the season"


My knucklehead friend, who I grew up with, keeps insisting I ship the onions in a heavy wooden crate, for aesthetic value. He says I could upsell that "value-add". I've yet to implement that idea.


I was thinking something more like handcrafted artisanal compost, extra row spacing, daily weeding and hand watering? Kobe-beef of onions.

What could make an onion beautiful enough to buy for $100/ea? If you made these, I bet you'd find a market in Japan. Could make a good gift for people who like cooking.


It's the opposite that's a bigger problem, a lot of all fruit and vegetables are thrown away because they're not perfect looking.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/us-food-...


"You eat with the eyes first" is a common cross-cultural idiom. I'm not saying it justifies the waste, just that it's probably an evolved human behavior that we're stuck catering to. At least there is a counter-culture ugly produce movement right now.


I think that increasing the unit price of produce would reduce pressure on farmers to optimize for volume. A lot of the waste is a result farmers optimizing volume over nutritional quality because the market doesn't really have a place for "top-shelf" produce currently.

Vegetables can vary by an order of magnitude in nutritional density based on growing and harvest conditions. I wish there was a way to pay 10x for vegetables that are reliably 10x more nutritionally dense (as verified by laboratory analysis of random samples from every harvest).


I spent a minute thinking about a product local to me that had the same appeal. I typed http://michiganlamb.com into the browser and discovered the concept is not uncommon.


Yes, I think it's pretty common (here's one around me: https://locavoredelivery.com/ ), but still delivers value and can be a good business.

Reminds me that middlemen provide value in a lot of ways, even though they are hated and everyone thought the internet would disintermediate them all.


Yep. Even if it has never been easier for the maker/producer to setup their own Shopify store, it's still not enough. Sure a decent website on shopify is better than nothing, but most likely only your current customers will go. You need extra skills to bring NEW customers: marketing, SEO, social media, etc.. and chances are that it's someone else that will have those skills.


the only people who hate middlemen are people who cannot into economics.


I typed in "Kentlamb.com" and found out Kent Lamb is the name of an attorney.


I remembered this comment when I noticed that the person that wrote the Dockerhub breach blog post [0] was a Mr. Kent Lamb. Baader-Meinhof?

[0] - https://success.docker.com/article/docker-hub-user-notificat...


For the case of Mr. Lamb perhaps it would be 'Baaaaa'der–Meinhof :-)


That's awesome. A couple responses to yesterday's thread regarding bookmarked hn quotes really opened up my eyes regarding building and maintaining side projects. I picked up a book, "Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup" which has been informative (if a little dated). This article is a great supplement to that book, and is inspirational to a 9-5'er like me.

[0]https://www.amazon.com/Start-Small-Stay-Developers-Launching... | https://startupbook.net


Author of Start Small, Stay Small here.

>> if a little dated

Argh! I know. I literally opened the Doc this week to start to parse out sections to update. It’s overdue ;-)


This is one of the reasons why I love HN so much.


Rob & Mike's podcast is great on this topic as well.

https://www.startupsfortherestofus.com


Can you please refer me to that thread?


This story brings a tear to my eye.

I'll see myself out.

But seriously, this is the type of side projects I dream of. Not the next soul sucking social network, but rather something meaningful and real.


Your comment resonated with me. I'm just about the launch the a social network. Our whole goal was to design around authenticity, something that is severely lacking in other offerings.


If I were to offer some unsolicited advice. Authenticity arises out of real communities, and that is something social networks are quite bad at. They often focus on the self much more than communitiy participation. I think that's why old chat networks and forums were so good at building communities, as you had to truly contribute to be part of them. You didn't even have an identity until you contributed to the community and revealed it while doing so.

Current social networks allow you to hit "join" or "like" and that's all the participation you need to get your validation. You're part of the group just by signing up, rather than because you helped make it a community by contributing.

That's probably why this story resonates with people here so much. It's not just a tech business, it's an attempt to contribute and be an integral part of the local community. Not something every startup gets to do.


Absolutely agree. We have made some design decisions to force consideration into the social aspect in the aim of increasing the quality of interactions.


Interesting, could you elaborate on the authenticity bit? How will it differentiate from current offerings?


I don't want to spend too much time talking about it as I'd rather show it. I can say that we designed to focus on quality rather than getting drunk off the of the crowd as practically all other social apps do.

Edit: Send me an email and I will be happy to let you know when we launch.


> This story brings a tear to my eye.

Like an onion


It sounds like he created a co-operative. This is the case in Oregon where lots of milk growers...er...dairy farmers pool their resources into a funnel organization, Tillamook Farmer's Co-op, that handles packaging, distribution and marketing. This is such a wild story tho, I loved reading it.


Not really a co-op. Unless I misunderstood something, he contacted a single farm and is basically acting as their digital marketing side. They got so good at this that the other farms in the area decided to stop competing on this front(DTC online sales) and focus on other segments of their business. That's what I assumed he meant when he said "other farms started sending people our way".

I believe M&T is a single farm/growing operation.


There are very few co-ops in the South as compared to other parts of the world. There is a lot more direct-to-mass production/buyers farms here as well as a lot of "factory" farming.

That being said what he's doing is something that is hard to reproduce simply because Vidalia onions cannot be grown except in a certain geographic area. You can take the same onion and grow it elsewhere, it will taste exactly or very close to the same, you just cannot sell it as a Vidalia. I'm surprised that there aren't more of the boutique style shops for things like Vidalia onions, Georgia peaches, etc.

Source: born, raised, lived whole life in Ga within a farming family.


It's weird that this was done with special legislation. I see that the US does not have any general mechanism for such situations, although it has done this for these onions and for Tennessee whiskey specifically.

The EU has a system-wide concept of products (mostly but not exclusively foods) that are by definition produced in a set region, by a particular method etcetera called the Protected Designation of Origin. This is inspired by laws in some of its member states (most famously France's AOC laws which protect Champagne) but because it's a system rather than being stapled into the law for one specific product it makes it practical to use for less famous things where the heavy lifting of actual legislation would be too much to ask. If your town produces a peculiar furry hat, and then one day sales of the furry hats begin to drop off because it turns out somebody is making replicas in China and selling them under your town's name, applying for PDO is a relatively straight forwad way to fix that across the entire EU without trying to attract attention from legislators in two dozen countries.

Of course PDOs can be abused (e.g. arguably protection of Newcastle Brown Ale was pointless, its only producers were indeed in Newcastle, but when they decided to move they simply applied to discontinue the PDO status...) but overall it seems like having a framework makes more sense than only doing this as actual national legislation (a rule saying Vidalia onions are from Georgia only works because the US government enforces it, the part in Georgia state law has very little effect)


The effort was initially at the state (Georgia) level in 1986. Then the producers pushed to have the Department of Agriculture make the area the official designation at the federal level. This was done later in 1989.


The US doesn't have a lot of "protected region" products. Obviously things with a state name or place have to be from that place, but we don't really do that as much here as Europe. Just not the American way I guess.

It's why you can buy "Swiss Cheese" from Wisconsin and Bourbon Whiskey from Orlando.


That's fair. The US has a history of special interest groups petitioning the government for regulations that would benefit them. I suppose this happens in the EU too but it's all over the place here.

I didn't grow up in one of the counties that are considered under the bounds of the Vidalia area (although pretty close) but we grew the same onions. They tasted, smelled, and looked exactly the same. Were I to try to sell them as Vidalias I could have been sued, but we were growing them for personal consumption anyway.


Peter here - you're correct. M&T is a single farm, growing & packing our own onions.


Ah, no I think I misread it. Thanks.


I toured the Tillamook plant a couple months ago. It's worth stopping by if you're in the area. The cheese was delicious :)

4165 Highway 101 North, Tillamook, OR 97141


For people like me with a family diaspora and australian quarantine, they also sell very cool teeshirts. I loved watching giant bricks of cheese come out of the cheese-a-mathon.


The gift shop was nice and not stupid expensive. Picked up a few things for my nieces that they liked.


See also Organic Valley, and Kerrygold (which I just learned) are also co-ops.


As of 5 minutes ago I am now the proud owner of VidaliaOnions.co.uk..... UK vidalia market here I come!


Vidalia onions come from Georgia, in the agricultural belt south of Atlanta.

I know you're probably joking, but you should order some. They're delicious.


I actually wasn't joking, I did buy it (it was unregistered so it was only 6 quid), but now perhaps it was rather pointless if Vidalia onions only come from around Georgia. I just read the article and then googled to see if the uk domain was free.


The most impressive thing was the bit where he spent 2 grand on a domain name he didn't want and didn't think "Oh shit, I've just blown 2 grand I needed to..."


I've worked in the domain space. Two grand is not that bad of a deal for a semi-common object, especially if there is an industry behind it.


It was a fun read. But also a bit sad that it takes thousands of dollars and a lot of available time (which many people don't have) to do something as fundamental as this.


I think the thousands of dollars really just sped up the timeline. The domain definitely helps, but I don't think it's required. There's others that could have been used for a good business, it's only integral to this specific story. The $10k loss in boxes to me seems like he got ahead of himself and took a risk to save on shipping supplies, and got bitten for it. A slightly more conservative approach might have put that off and paid more for shipping for a while until some smaller amount of boxes could be tested from that supplier.

The good thing about a business like this is that it's much less likely someone is going to swoop in and steal your idea and customers because you took a little longer to work out the kinks.


True. You could to some extent. I think part of the story is the opportunity though. The domain name, the boxes and the time are all things that grant him the opportunity to do it. He probably could have sold them in plastic bags on eBay (someone probably already does), but it wouldn't be same thing.

We all seem to agree like things like this is a good thing, but then we undermine people's ability to do it by favoring things like real estate, domains and "middle man businesses" instead.

I guess bunnie said it best: "supply chains are made out of people" https://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=4266


He could have sold them on ebay in plastic bags - but then he would learn a different expensive lessons: onions need to breath, don't ship in plastic. Actually it is more complex, if you ship fast enough in plastic you might be okay, and some types of plastic are better than others, thus this is a lesson that he might or might not have learned the hard way depending on if he was lucky enough.

Real business is hard because of all the not obvious things you need to account for.


Right, but that is a factor of your supply chain.

In Shenzhen you might make hundred boards, go down to the market and buy a hundred boxes and leave them with the shipper. Boards don't work? Re-work them or make another hundred. Box doesn't work? Buy another box. You don't like your box supplier? There is a hundred others on Taobao.

In NYC it might take you weeks to do the same thing while you are bleeding rent (and everything else) so you need the thousand boards and boxes to make it work (or you are selling very few in your spare time). And if something goes wrong you are probably fucked.

I am exaggerating, but you get the idea.


New York is enormous and there are plenty of places where you could buy a few hundred boxes wholesale.


There are many things that can be done, especially online. The question is if you can do it in a way that make sense. I am sure there are many people from New York on tindie. It is just hard to make it into a full time small business if you have a high cost of living and a limited supply chain.


> He probably could have sold them in plastic bags on eBay

Well, there's a massive middle ground between plastic bags on eBay and placing a $10,000 order for boxes. I didn't mean to imply they couldn't eventually place a $10k order, but often you can order in smaller (but still large) quantities to check the quality. Or just use Uline for a while until you've gotten samples from enough locations to confirm a provider can service your needs.

We don't have the details of this part, so a lot of things could have gone into the decision to place a bit order which made it what appeared to be the correct choice at the time. I just thought it sounded a bit risky given the little information we have.


Growing the onions is even more fundamental. It also takes even more money and a hell of a lot more time!

That's life in a nutshell, I guess.


I have available time. Get me someone with thousands of dollars (and willing to risk them) and let’s collaborate!


I've thought about this a lot lately. I have (some) money, but not a whole lot of time. It's really hard to find reasonable direct investments for "down payment on an investment property" style money, with "rent from an investment property" expected returns. Seems all that's available at that level is more or less gambling on potential unicorn style stuff.

Or put other way - I'd love to find some great "regular" business ideas to both fund and assist in getting off the ground to the tune of $5-50k, and if successful make a few thousand a month down the road in a couple years - not millions on some future exit.

Basically I want to seed-fund/invest in/be involved in what HN calls "lifestyle business" - just a regular old sustainable business expected to grow 10% a year and comfortably employ a couple founders and employees.

Many good reasons this market doesn't exist and is "hard", but one can wish. It would feel fare more satisfying to invest money in actual hard working people with real but boring (read: low risk) business models than tossing it into the S&P500 or engaging it yet more rent-seeking by buying up small properties to turn into rentals.


It gets better - in the UK you can offset 50% of the investment directly against your income tax (up to a limit, and if the company qualifies for SEIS) + and the returns are free of capital gains tax. The issue is finding good enough "regular" business ideas/teams


I listened (again) to an Indiehackers podcast with Rob Walling this morning where he described pretty much that problem. He had "lots of" cash and "little" time to spend in building a business from scratch. What worked was to find a business he liked that wasn't making much money, but could be bought for cheap (he overpaid!) and turned into something that made money.

To respond to the "rent from investment property" concept, you can get in on investment properties at a fairly low price (IIRC 40% discounts) if you invest when builders are looking for prospective buyers. i.e., before anything is built. I looked into doing this some time ago, but the builder couldn't find enough buyers, so the property was never built.


"you can get in on investment properties at a fairly low price (IIRC 40% discounts"

I've been trying to work this out, that seems like a massive discount, what's the expected profit margin for the builder? Surely not much more.

Why not get a loan? Would be cheaper, certainly on the land. I don't get it, something doesn't add up for me.


In-process construction is pretty difficult to evaluate the value of for banks. Often times, the market will value an investment property much higher than a bank will value it, because the banks aren't always in the business of real-estate speculation. a 40% discount on the price of the finished development is sometimes more than the land may be appraised to by a bank.

It comes down to: if you are interested in real estate investment (either renting or flipping), you are going to find the property more valuable than a bank, who isn't as interested and would just auction it off if they had to own it.


In a number of situations that I have been involved in (Canada), the builder cannot get funding from traditional sources because there's no tangible asset to fund, and the builder still hasn't obtained permits from the municipality, etc (the necessary boilerplate to get going on construction). In these cases some builders will seek out a lawyer that will pool together funds from various investors and the loan rate is typically 15%-25% which makes for a nice profit, but with the knowledge that it could blow up. Once the permits are in place, then traditional funding comes a lot more readily.


I mentioned land, that's a (the?) tangible asset.

The situation you're describing seems to suggest that it would be better to split up the permitting and the building.

Company A buys land, gets permits, then either sells on to a builder, or contracts a builder.

But then I don't understand why so much capital would be required just for getting permits.

I'm guessing it's another example of different countries doing house buying/building differently, and none of them optimal.


>But then I don't understand why so much capital would be required just for getting permits.

There are lots of permits that only become available much later in the process. For example, an occupancy permit is only granted once the building is in a habitable state.

There are always permit delays of some kind or another because no matter how much research and planning you do, there are things that are simply unknown or that have to be changed (and thus re-permitted) at the proverbial last minute.


I very likely got the percentage wrong. It was in the 2005 timeframe that I was looking at doing this.

I remember that it was a substantial savings, but I can't say exactly where the 40% number came from. It was condos in a retirement community so the builder was making a big deal of "these tenants won't leave until they die..."


You probably need to look somewhere were that amount of money would actually makes a big difference. It just doesn't go very far in many places today. Or you need to provide some other value.

Edit: Don't know why this is objectionable. $5k is like one months living costs in many places, and sometimes one months savings. You aren't going to get much in return for that. You need to go somewhere cheaper where that kind of money can buy someone some time. Unless you can provide something else.


There are tons of regular businesses available for sale (laundromats, car washes, hotels, bars, etc.). You could buy one and hire people to run it for you.


I do agree it’s an ideal kind of business to invest in, but it seems to me there’s one major reason they’re hard to find: had I that type of business, I wouldn’t accept outside money. I’m frugal in my living, so any business that brought in a few thousand a month would be enough to live from.

I could scrape the $5K to get an idea off the ground, but if it failed I’d regret it. Simply put, it’s not money to risk.


Seedrs, although might only be uk based.

https://www.seedrs.com/


Drop in on your local bank and SBA. They are looking for people like you.


A loan has to be repaid. Since most projects fail, odds are not on my side. I have no desire to dig myself into a hole.

This is why it’s more common for people that are already well off to be entrepreneurs[1] — they have a safety net.

[1]: https://qz.com/455109/entrepreneurs-dont-have-a-special-gene...


A business loan is issued to the business, not to you as an individual. Failing to repay the loan means your business goes into collections (and possible bankruptcy), not that you as an individual suffer for it.


Please don't speak of things you know nothing about. No brand-new business would ever get a loan issued without a signature from some person or established entity who can be held liable if the business defaults.

Source: I have owned multiple small businesses.


No one gives out unsecured business loans to start-ups.


All businesses take time and money to build. How is that sad?


It is sad because it doesn't really go into the core business. He spends thousands of dollar on marketing, domains and suppliers just to have a farmer sell to consumers. It should almost be two clicks on "etsy for farmers".


> It should almost be two clicks on "etsy for farmers".

Sounds like a viable startup opportunity. Especially with the Beyond Meats S-1 post from yesterday where hackers talked about buying meat directly from farmers.


Would spending thousands of $ developing "etsy for farmers" be sad also?

Its the nature of the beast, you invest money to make money, the internet is no different.


No, because the money would be going into the business of serving an entire nation of farmers with these services. The cost for each instance of doing the fundamental thing, having a farmer sell to consumers, would hopefully be low.


But on the other hand Etsy4Farmers (tm) would probably turn out like Etsy, and care progressively less about the farmers, more about money and eventually turn into just another online supermarket riddled with fake products and fake reviews (not suggesting Etsy has made it all the way there either btw).

This guy has one partner, Incentives are aligned, if I were one to buy onions online, I can see myself still being happy with them in 20 years time. Maybe it cost more, but they don't have a monopoly on Onions, their ability to pass on that cost is limited, which is the major concern, is it not?


I don't disagree. I am just saying that thousands of dollars to bring a farmers business online to consumers shouldn't necessarily just be seen as a success thirty years after AOL.


More generally, all open problems are hard, because the economy's limiting reagent isn't mildly intelligent people willing to do easy work for good money.


That's why it's a fundamental thing: it takes time, effort, and money. Things that take neither time nor effort vanish as trivialities, even if there's an interesting story in how they got reduced to that point.


I bet if you added up all the time in your day and cut things out you could find the time! :)


Turning a domain name into a business.

Even more simple than that really, taking an existing industry and using a domain name to create a front end to that industry.

There is opportunity everywhere. Especially if you don't require creating a billion dollar company.

Thanks for sharing Vidalia Man.


Couldn't help but think of this [Planet Money episode](https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/10/14/448718171/epis...) about a man who cornered the onion market with some repercussions.


> universally, the domain name always comes first, the business idea comes second.

I wonder what others think about this quote. Could he not have started the same exact business with another domain? Is owning the "right" domain that important that is should "come first" and be forgotten without it? naively I'd think Google@2019 gives more importance to content then to the domain name. No?


Feels like that's just his way of brainstorming ideas for side gig. Some of us get inspiration from problems we run int ourselves, some actively read blogs, blogs, trends, etc and try to find opportunities, while this man gets his from finding descriptive domain names.


Yeah, my first thought was, "why would you spend that much on a domain name?" Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, all could have done just as well with different domain names.

However, I guess it did function as a sort of method of brainstorming business ideas.


It means he picks up random domain names, and then tries to find an idea that matches/fits the domain name.


It seems like operating an online business is 5% software hackery and 95% finding a cool thing to sell, finding a supplier, building a supply chain and fulfillment system, and customer support. Think about it like this: if you can find a thing to sell on a street corner, you can sell it online. Seriously. Say you found these awesome fucking USB-C cables for about $1/each from a Chinese supplier. You think people will pay about $15/each for them, so you set up `awesome-fucking-cables.com` and start selling them. Registering a domain and setting up a web shop is the easy part, but it tends to be what people focus on.

Some ideas of the stuff you could sell:

- Kombucha

- Specialty sodas

- Heirloom seeds

- Specialty light bulbs and/or batteries

- Spice packets

- Carpet cleaning powder

- Dice

- Specialty candles

- Prepared origami paper

- Specialty pens/pencils/crayons

- Funky hair accessories (someone recently asked me why there aren't many superhero themed ones because it would be a huge market)


My wife paid for her grad school entirely by selling direct-from-manufacturer fashion goods, from China, to middle-aged upper/middle-class women in central Europe. The crazy thing that made it all work, IMO, was that the website was invite only. The women used the exclusivity as a status in their social circles, and invites as favors.

It's fascinating how these small market niches exist but it really is the other 95% that makes them take off.


Great story. One quick bug report: your Bulk & Wholesale page has a broken contact form: https://www.vidaliaonions.com/bulk-wholesale/


darnit.. thank you.. now fixed.


Originally I was expecting an article about mining .onion domain names, but this is good too!


Though vidalia.onion would be a stylish domain name. It'd be better than vidaliaonion.io.

\s


Lots of posts nowadays are just people humble bragging. This was read as an honest account of an enjoyable business ride.

Thanks for sharing this!


you're welcome! Thank you for that feedback - I was concerned that it'd come across as a humblebrag.. I just like sharing neat things people can do on great domain names.


I buy domain names for weird and random ideas that come to me. I really like the reverse concept of buying interesting domain names and then letting them turn into something that you never anticipated. That sounds like a really fun and potentially highly rewarding hobby. It also seems to break every Startup book's rules, since you're looking for a problem to a solution, but who cares? This guy is having tons of fun and learning a lot, so good for him.

Edit: Looks like they have some competition: https://www.vidaliaonion.org


That looks like more of a marketing arm of the state of Georgia or some regional agricultural or co-op entity. Not selling onions directly.


Thanks for such a great read. I have a somewhat similar story.

My brother and I started our company the moment after we bought our domain name: retreat.guru. We actually wanted a different domain but didn’t get it; retreat.guru was the runner up. Then we had a spontaneous 3 hour call where we mapped out the entire global wellness retreat marketplace we would build - all based off the domain name! 5 years later we are still going strong.

We are based out of a small mountain town in B.C. Nowhere near the buzz of Silicon Valley. We gradually took investment and grew from revenue as well. We are very vision driven.

‘I sell ayahuasca retreats on the internet’

:D


What I liked most about this story was the fact that he went into it kind of ass-backwards - domain name first (almost by accident too), then the business.


That's what makes this story unique. The domain speculation industry thrives almost entirely on the opposite.


Sort of ended up in a similar boat: I sell hemp on the internet at https://www.cascadiablooms.com/direct

These stories are good to tell, sometimes what can help a farmer the most is just someone who can help market and sell their crop.


I’m a sweet onion fan. I didn’t realize that Texas sweet onions were a different variety: https://www.texasmonthly.com/food/the-texas-sweet-onion/

(They’re real good)


Why didn't the farmers just independently open an Amazon shop before he came along? Is it just the case that they're not tech savvy enough?

I'm not downplaying what he did - it's really cool - what I'm trying is to get a better sense of the business dynamics here.


Like the other reply says, it's probably just the farmers don't have time or don't want to.

I expect you could make the same comment about just about everything on the planet that is grown or made, but then sold by someone else. The original person could try to sell it to consumers, but that would take so much time and effort they wouldn't have time to grow/make the thing in the first place!


Peter here (author).. They didn't have a need, desire, or employee to run that type of operation. The farm didn't have a website when we started, so my sales pitch to them at the start was 'Even if we miserably fail in this project, at least you'll get a free website out of it'..


I think it's less about tech-savvy and more about deciding to go larger-scale and adopt all the problems that come with that. Handling order fulfillment and customer service isn't something most farmers probably want to do.


Great read! The blog has another post which I found personally interesting -- Slow Down & Wander [1]

[1] https://www.deepsouthventures.com/slow-down-wander/


This is really inspirational: who knew that such a rudimentary site could be a viable business?


Craigslist, or perhaps Tarsnap, or many others providing services to people who know exactly what they're looking for.

Being flashy helps sometimes if your customers are fickle and you need to sell them on something they didn't know they wanted, but if you've got an enthusiast audience or specialized product, substance is all that is required - at least at a fundamental level.


Every junkyard website is basically just a business card with the ability to search their inventory (or the fraction of it they choose to list) on car-part iframed in.


Craigslist provides a very common, broad service to a broad demographic of people. Almost everyone will want to sell something or buy a used product once in their life.

This site provides one very specific thing to a niche market. It's the difference between opening an office supply store vs a site selling one specific type of rubberband.


You don't need a fancy site to have a viable business. You just need customers. Sounds like they have their 1,000 true fans[0].

[0]: https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/


It is not that viable to be fair.

The costs of shipping is killer.


The fact that it's been running for 5+ years seems to suggest otherwise, mate.


But people are paying it.


I never said they were not. All I said was that in the long term, it will only be as viable as long as people are willing to pay that cost. If his onions are truly better than the onions you get in your local supermarket, then it will continue to be viable.


it will only be as viable as long as people are willing to pay that cost

Can you think of any example where this is not true?


Thoroughly enjoyed this. I'd love to read a bit more detail on his process of spinning up the customer relations sides of the business that he mentioned. What was the hardest thing to get right? What were the unexpected pitfalls?


Peter here (author).. happy to share a little more. I oddly enjoy the customer relations side the most. It's so old school - alot of my customers are surprised when a real human picks up the phone to take their order. The hardest thing to get right (and we continue to refine) is the logistics part. The pitfalls I encounter are the very tight margins. If I take my eyes off of operations, I could quickly go under water.



Oh wow, that's wild.


Buy buy buy, they are shipping soon: (I'm not affiliated in any way)

https://www.vidaliaonions.com/


How was organic traffic in the early days?

You're now ranked #1 for "vidalia onions" in Google -- but, I'm really curious what the evolution was after buying the domain?


Thanks for sharing your story. I think there are a lot of people out there like me not looking to be a unicorn company, but would love to be the next VidaliaOnions.com


That's the kind of lifestyle business I dream of finding myself into. Except maybe I'd want it less involved with customer service, but roughly similar. Somehow that's much more appealing to me than heading the next big buck hot startup out of my SF penthouse office. Guess there has to be some for everybody :) That was a good read and I bet that to the core more people resonate with this than most startup jobs!


I loved this piece. I'm from Florida and Vidalias are a staple.

Whole wheat bread, lightly toasted with a smear of mayo and a thick slice of Vidalia. Mmmm... So good.


add cracked pepper and a squeeze of lime.. mamma-mia!


sorry about a tangent, but that Indian Jones scene bothers me so much. i mean... there are so many safer ways to validate you can take that first step. i'll name a few

    1. crouch down and reach out your leg gently tapping the "invisible ground" 
    2. throw a pebble. 
    3. throw a bunch of sand to see exact available surface area.
i mean.. he's a scientist.


Sure, but the point of the trial is that he needs to take a leap of faith. Within the world of the movie, I bet those tests would have failed.

Plus if there's "really" an invisible bridge you could throw a pebble at, it should already be covered in dust anyway. Unless the guy who lives in the grail room comes out and sweeps it or something.


It's a leap of faith, you're not supposed to cheat it. However after crossing the bridge, he DOES scatter sand over the surface area revealing the bridge (which was really just a camouflaged stone illusion shown by an alternate viewpoint)


he DOES scatter sand over the surface area revealing the bridge (which was really just a camouflaged stone illusion shown by an alternate viewpoint)

that's the point of my rant! :)


Yeah, but he did it AFTER the leap of faith. It makes all the difference. This is all about letting go of your ego.


While we're at it, "IEHOVAH" begins with an I because there was no J in the alphabet then. So why is there a J carved into the floor?


I'm not sure I've ever seen such a highly-voted post.

I checked using the search box, and it appears this the 12th most voted post of all time (so far!).


This is what a marketing piece should be. This is an ad I'm happy to read. Were I in the US, I would totally order onions from this guy.


"I'm addicted to Domain Names... but for kicks & giggles, I dropped in a bid around $2,200".

Not trying to be a killjoy, but everytime I hear about people reserving domains for fun or future, it just tells of so much privilege. Americans and other Westerners people have already reserved so many domains. Domain name squatting always is a rich-get-richer story.


This is by far my favorite post on Hacker News. :D


I would say this is crazy, but truth be told... if I saw someone selling like super high quality heirloom tomatoes online... I'd probably buy some. But what I've actively searched out, and have yet to find is someone selling lobster stock. Sometimes if i'm lucky, I can pick up some from my local fish monger... but it's uncommon.


Probably what's holding that back is shipping cost since stock is mostly water, quite heavy and needs to be sent frozen or at least cooled with freezer packs, further adding to weight. My favorite place for andouille sausage [1] will ship cooled packages but the shipping costs are roughly equal to the product cost. So whenever I drive to New Orleans I take an ice chest with me netting twice the product for the same price.

[1] https://www.cajunsausage.com/


There's a way to make it by reducing most of the water away so you get a 20x concentrate that's quite shelf stable... and probably cheap to ship. Here's an example (https://www.morethangourmet.com/) these stocks are quite good.


I shall bookmark that. Thank you.


Amateur tomato grower here. One key difference between the flavorless tomatoes you typically find at the grocery and heirloom varieties is that the non-heirloom tomatoes are genetically optimized for shipping durability while the heirloom varieties are optimized for flavor. I'm not saying you can't ship heirloom tomatoes, but they're definitely more prone to bruising, so this is likely an obstacle in shipping them over longer distances.


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