Wayfair CEO and cofounder Niraj Shah is a true unicorn entrepreneur.
After noticing that consumers were unable to successfully shop online, Niraj took the opportunity to create a user-friendly e-commerce website to meet market demands.
This led him, along with his business partner Steve Conine, to launch the world’s largest home retail website: Wayfair.
Here, discover 10 inspring facts about Niraj Shah.
1. Even as a child, Niraj was an entrepreneur.
Niraj explained that his family shaped his views of owning businesses and taking risks from a very early age.
“My parents both immigrated to the U. S. from India, so I think that takes a certain type of entrepreneurial spirit,” Niraj said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.
With Niraj’s parents carving the path for their son, and his grandfather being an entrepreneur himself, Niraj began starting his own businesses as a child.
Two of his earliest business ventures included a lawn mowing company and paper delivery service.
2. Niraj has been working with Wayfair cofounder Steve Conine since high school.
Niraj and Steve’s friendship started long before they co-founded Wayfair.
The pair first met during a summer program at Cornell University as high school students. When they met again in college as engineering majors, Niraj and Steve became inseparable.
The two entrepreneurs then roomed together and eventually began several other e-commerce companies before striking it rich with Wayfair.
Niraj and Steve told NPR’s “How I Built This” that their relationship has been able to withstand the test of time because they’re both hardworking and dedicated — two traits that are critical when looking for a long lasting business partner.
3. Niraj’s life changed after taking an entrepreneur class in college.
According to an interview with NPR, Niraj was a senior in college when he and Steve Conine took an entrepreneur class.
As part of the course, the pair had to fabricate a business plan.
This led Steve and Niraj to create their first company together — a website designing service called Spinners.
While it didn’t take off — the internet hadn’t yet hit its stride in 1995 — it did solidify their mutual desire to build a successful company.
4. Niraj doesn’t believe in a traditional office space.
Hate feeling isolated from everyone in a cubicle desk? So does Niraj.
That’s why Wayfair’s office has a completely open layout.
“One of the things we found is that, by having an open layout, it makes it a lot easier for folks to know what’s going on, makes communication a lot easier and it actually increases the energy level,” said Niraj to Yahoo Finance.
This unique office set-up has contributed to Wayfair’s award-winning workspace, which has been recognized by Forbes and the Boston Globe as a top place to work.
5. Niraj co-founded a non-profit that supports education and healthcare.
Niraj and his wife, Jill, founded the Shah Family Foundation to support local education and healthcare programs.
One of their biggest focuses has been to provide students with healthy school lunches.
“Jill drives the family foundation’s efforts, but those are the areas we’re both really passionate about: public education, health care — ideally projects that are getting to the core of the problem versus just treating the symptom,” said Niraj in an interview with The Boston Foundation.
6. His first successful online business sold TV stands.
In August 2002, Niraj launched his first online business, racksandstands.com.
The website only sold entertainment furniture, such as television and speaker stands.
While Niraj understood that this was a niche market, he also realized there was a high demand for a single online shopping website.
In December 2002, the company had made about $250,000 in sales and grew to be one of the largest online sellers of entertainment furniture.
While listed under a different name, racksandstands.com eventually evolved into Wayfair.
7. Niraj is a Forbes 400 member.
In 2018, Niraj joined famed entrepreneurs, such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, on the Forbes 400 list.
The annual report highlights the richest Americans in the country.
To make the list, entrepreneurs must have a net worth of $2.1 billion, a $100 million increase from the previous list’s requirements, according to Forbes.
Niraj is just one of four Boston-based billionaires who made the cut.
8. Wayfair came from humble beginnings.
While Niraj and Steve are both billionaires today, many of their ideas and business ventures were born in Steve’s basement.
The entrepreneurs would look for internet ideas constantly and try to find businesses for sale they could buy.
“I remember there was one lady who was selling birdhouses she was storing them in the garage,” said Niraj during an NPR interview. “Every day she was taking all the orders and collecting all the items out of the garage and packing them up and take him to the post office.”
Looking at this model, Niraj said it became apparent that consumers were turning to the internet to buy products.
This ultimately led to the creation of their first online furniture business.
9. Niraj was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Bostonians.
In 2018, Niraj and his wife, Jill, were chosen to be inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Bostonians.
Hosted by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the academy celebrates businesses that are improving both the local and international community.
The couple was recognized for their outstanding work with the Shah Family Foundation, as well as their personal business ventures.
10. Niraj has strong ties to Boston.
Not only is Wayfair headquartered in Boston, it’s also where Niraj and his family make their home.
In addition to creating jobs in Boston, Niraj also serves as a director for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
Niraj grew up near Boston, in nearby Pittsfield, Massachussetts.
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Originally posted on Inc.com
Get to Know Wayfair’s Founder: 10 Facts About Niraj Shah was originally published in Marketing and Entrepreneurship on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.