Alumni Profile: Jeremy Miller ’10 on his Company, FSAStore.com, and Entrepreneurial Perseverance
Jeremy Miller ’10 on his Company, FSAStore.com, and the drive to succeed.
Tell us about FSAStore.com and what have you been up to post graduation?
FSAStore.com’s mission is to promote and encourage the use of Flexible Spending Accounts in a way that makes it easy for the average participant to understand, spend, and use their own FSA funds. Given our mission to makes things simple, we decided to carry only those products and services that you can buy with your FSA.
And because we get this question so often, let me detail exactly what an FSA is. An FSA allows employees to put aside tax free money to spend on medical expenses throughout the year, and can be used to cover many common expenses such as over-the-counter supplies, glasses, contacts, doctor visits, dental work, and more.
FSAStore.com launched right after graduation and along with my amazing business partner Azar Gurbanov ’10 and our stellar team, we have been working on it full time ever since.
What is unique about your site?
We are the only standalone site catering to people with Flexible Spending Accounts and the only site exclusively carrying products and services for purchase with your FSA funds. Therefore we greatly simplify the process, and the headaches, that most people associate with these accounts, including “what can I use my FSA for!?” We also have formed several partnerships with FSA administrators that market our site as a service to their FSA participants.
What has been your biggest “A-Ha!” moment to date? How did it change your business?
There was a lot of fear around the impact of healthcare legislation but one of our strongest months was after this took place and sales and traffic has been strong despite the change in FSA accounts so I think it helped our business to realize that we were really filling a need. The icing on the cake was when we noticed how many orders were coming from New York City – a place that has a drugstore on every corner. Really, each day is full of firsts and aha moments, constantly trying to learn and do better each time.
How has the Healthcare debate impacted your business? What has been the biggest change?
We originally thought the healthcare changes would topple the business. The fact that half the products we sell now require a prescription for reimbursement kept us up at night, strategizing what to do in midst of this change. We quickly realized that our value proposition didn’t change based on what might happen in healthcare. We make the education process for consumers with FSAs simple, while also making it easy for them to shop. There are still thousands of products that do not require this prescription to be reimbursed and with all the twists and turns surrounding the healthcare debate, the information our site provides is more important than ever.
What improvements would you like to see?
We are constantly improving our site and offerings. We have several projects that we are working on that I can’t detail at the moment, but that seek to further cement the relationship between our site and our users.
How do you promote your business?
Our administrator partners have been key promoters of our business; they are big fans of the site and they especially appreciate the ease of use for FSA account holders.
How have the classes [you took] at Columbia Business School shaped your business/management approach?
The progression of the Entrepreneurship program from Murray Low’s Intro to Venturing through Cliff Schorer and Brendan Burn’s Launching New Ventures and the Greenhouse Program really enabled me to focus and develop my business idea throughout my time at Columbia Business School.
Managerial Negotiations with Ann Bartel was one of my favorites as it taught skills that I use every day. Michael Preston’s Managing the Growing Company had a great focus on the importance of keeping growth in mind at every stage and in every aspect of the company. I found the most enriching class from a personal standpoint was Personal Leadership and Success with Hitendra Wadhwa.
The Columbia Alumni Connection: How have you used it?
The Columbia Alumni Connection has been instrumental in the formation and growth of my business. I started reaching out to Alumni at Columbia before I even began my MBA program. I was able to connect with recent entrepreneurs, get advice on classes, and discuss different business approaches. I also found prospective clients through the Columbia network.
Current classmates also figured into my network, one of our initial investors was in my learning team, and my business partner, COO Azar Gurbanov ’10, was in my Cluster (X!).
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
I see us thriving in this competitive, low margin industry. We have focused on a concrete need in the marketplace and will not stop until we addressed it.
What advice would you give to a graduating Columbia student with entrepreneurial aspirations?
My motto when I started Columbia and went through the Entrepreneurship Program was the good ol’ saying, “Just Do It.” I really took it to heart – it was my password for all of my Columbia logins!
So for a graduating student with entrepreneurial aspirations I would simply say now is the time to just do it. A lot of us look at the opportunity costs of giving up the sure thing with something that might not pay the bills immediately. You’ve just got to go for it.
And also I think after you go for it, persistence is key. Stick with it, don’t give up, and follow through with what you said you would do, pour your heart into it remembering the other important things you have to do to balance it all.
But I would also say don’t expect it to be easy. I’ve learned to celebrate successes along the way, because the work is long, the end goal is undetermined, and each day is never the same.