Aug 25

Imagine what Roseann Phillips’s original investment would be worth today

Grandma Roseann Phillips died this morning at the age of 89. She was my mother-in-law. She was also a very special lady in lots of ways. And, along with my older brother, Russ, she was one of the two original investors in Peppercom.

To jump-start our nascent firm, Ed and I had asked various people for seed money. The only two who stepped forward to pony up cash were Roseann Phillips and Russ. Mrs. Phillips gave us $7,500. Russ forked over $5,000. We offered both equity in exchange, but both declined (a seemingly wise move at the time, since conventional wisdom holds that 90 percent of all small business fail within the first three years. And who wants to become ensnared in bankruptcy proceedings?).

Anyway, armed with the $12,500 cash infusion, we set out to conquer the world. Ed created the business infrastructure while I tried to generate some semblance of marketplace awareness. After 60 days of deafening silence, we signed our first client. And then another. Soon, we were in a position to pay back our investors. But, Roseann Phillips refused our money. I remember her saying our early success was the only return on investment that mattered to her.

Roseann Phillips did many things for many people. To an upstart start-up named Peppercom, her money was like manna from heaven. And, it’s not too far a stretch to say that, without Roseann and Russ, there would be no Peppercom today.

Considering the fact that we posted some $14 million in 2008 revenues and were willing to give Mrs. Phillips three percent equity in exchange, her original investment in ‘The Ed and Steve Company’ would be worth a pretty penny today. But, then again, that wouldn’t have mattered to Roseann Phillips. Seeing us racking up success after success was the only reward she sought.