It was 2005 – I was a recent graduate from Bradley University and found myself working in advertising sales for a Chicago radio station. I went to school for web design, so radio sales was a bit of a divergence. At the time it offered a nice paycheck so I was blindly following the money. I enjoyed moonlighting with web design projects on the side, and dreamed of one day escaping the monotony of corporate life. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart.
Around that time, one of my web clients was a printer. He told me – “Marty, I want to give these PURL things a try, but they’re way to expensive.” It seemed like a pretty simple concept, so off I went hacking together a basic PURL platform. It ended up saving him thousands. Literally, thousands. I came to realize that there may be a need in the marketplace for a simple and affordable PURL solution – and Purlem was born.
My wife, MariKate, had the opportunity to do some travel nursing. Essentially, we’d pack up and go live somewhere new around the country every few months. It was an incredible experience that really helped to solidify our marriage. Before leaving for our first travel assignment, we made a deal that if Purlem was not at a level that could support a family, I would revert back to white collar. I was very lucky in that the travel opportunity allowed me to work full-time on Purlem right from the start, without the pressure of making money.
I created the first version of Purlem using Dreamweaver (the only application I knew). Really this was my “Minimum Viable Product” – although I had no idea what that meant at the time. I did some testing with Google Adwords, which proved there was a demand. And off I went to hire a professional software developer to really make Purlem shine! Two horrible outsourcing experiences later, I realized that if I was going to make Purlem work, and remain bootstrapped, that I would have to learn this software development stuff myself. So I put my head down and pushed forward.
I remember during our second travel assignment in Stamford, CT, when I received my second paying Purlem user. I was ecstatic to say the least. I told MariKate on one of our jogs together – “there is no way we’re not going to double to 4 paying users, and then 8!” It’s strange looking back, and how I had no doubt that Purlem would succeed. Possibly even stranger, is that there was not a doubt in MariKate’s mind either.
During the first couple years, I focused nearly all of my time on development and SEO. Being that I was in a relatively niche market, I was able to rank on Google fairly quickly, which ended up being the source of nearly every new Purlem user at that time.
Although Purlem was not at a “support a family” level when we were done traveling, it did prove itself enough for me to pursue full time.
Today, Purlem is one of the largest Personalized URL platforms with passionate users around the world. I’m still my only employee, but refuse to hire for hiring sake. It’s been a slow journey that took a significant amount of dedication, persistence, and patience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.