From pizza delivery to 7-figures in sales, John Sanders has overcome language barriers, financial disasters, and multiple business failures to get where he is today. To understand Quadra, one must first understand John, his life, and his mission.
Growing Up In Brazil
John Sanders, a co-founder of Quadra Ecommerce, was raised in Brazil, between the ages of five and eleven. His parents met when John’s father was on a religious mission in the area. After his religious service period ended, he reconnected with John’s mother and they married. John was born in the United States but the family moved to Brazil during John’s formidable years.
When John turned 11 his family moved back to the United States, which provided a unique challenge for John: the only language he knew was Portuguese. John looked like all of the American kids he was going to school with and they expected him to understand them perfectly. Faced with their expectations and the reality that he didn’t understand a word of English, John was forced to adapt and learn English or be left behind by potential friends.
From an early age, John learned skills such as resilience and the true value of effective communication. He often attributes the lessons he learned during these experiences to his future successes while building the Quadra Marketplace from the ground up.
The Infamous 2008 Recession
By the time of the 2008 recession, John had gotten married, graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Marketing, and had a job selling software to homebuilders. However, disaster struck his personal life, as it did for thousands across the country when the recession hit. John was laid off and couldn’t find work to provide for his still-growing family.
John made several plans for how to make money and provide for his family, including contracting work and starting a business. John’s debts continued to climb even as each venture John started failed. Eventually, John had to humble himself to do something he’d never thought he’d have to do: spend his nights delivering pizzas for the local Pizza Hut.
For John, delivering pizzas was humiliating. Here he was, a well-educated, entrepreneurial, and motivated man and he was delivering pizzas just to make ends meet. John clarifies that “there is no shame in providing for your family and doing the hard work.” But for John, delivering pizzas was a real low point in his life. He felt like he’d failed and those feelings were compounded when he looked at his classmates and friends who were all thriving in well-established careers.
In 2013 John heard about a selling platform called Teespring. Teespring is a print on demand platform that allows you to sell t-shirts without holding any inventory. John took an internet training course about how to sell print on demand t-shirts on Teespring and got excited about the concept. However, when he pitched the idea to his wife she was less than enthusiastic about yet another business venture that could lead to nowhere. Because of this, John made a deal with her, he got 30 days to make a sale, or he quit trying to sell print on demand products forever.
By day 21 John was starting to get worried. With no sales and his deadline coming up he saw the death of his dreams fast approaching. John decided to lean on his heritage a little and made a Brazil-themed t-shirt. Somewhere in that third week, John made his first sale, and then he made another and another. 40 Brazil-themed shirts later and John had successfully proved to his wife, but more importantly, to himself, that his dream of selling products online was possible.
“You can still go for your dreams no matter what your situation is in life.”
Quadra Marketplace Is Born
John kept selling with Teespring and eventually got big enough that the company lined him up with a mentor to show him the ropes. During this time, John’s big question was about unique products. In the print on demand space, less so now, but certainly at the time, the only selling options were shirts and mugs. John thought these products were great, and they were certainly earning him money, but he kept wondering about other products that could fit the print on demand model.
In 2017 John met his future business partner, Scott Carpenter. He pitched the idea of creating a platform that would be home to a large variety of print on demand products for sellers to take and sell on their own websites. Scott liked the idea, and together they started the long journey of making the Quadra Marketplace a reality.
Along the way, John and Scott met their third business partner, Brian Rueckert, who owned a laser engraving business selling laser-cut products to national parks. With Brian’s manufacturing experience he was a great fit for the team of Quadra founders.
The Quadra founders used their Ecommerce store, Urban Forest Woodworking & Design, to fund their work on the Quadra Marketplace app. The store also served as a way to test that Quadra Marketplace was working, because a large majority of the products sold on Urban Forest are on the marketplace’s catalog.
The Product That Changed Everything
In early 2020 this strange virus called COVID-19 was starting to make headlines. After supermarket aisles were emptied of toilet paper overnight, Brian came to John with an idea to sell a Christmas Ornament shaped like a roll of toilet paper. John agreed that Brian should run with the idea but didn’t think it would go very far. “…I’m like, this things ugly–looks like a whistle–it’s not going to do anything…We put it on the website and I didn’t even launch any ads on it.”
Like most people in early March of 2020, John thought the COVID-19 virus was going to be a passing event. Eventually, John looked at the sales on Urban Forest and was shocked to find that dumb little toilet paper ornament had made several sales–all without ads. So John started running ads and between March and April of that year they “…made close to a million dollars on just that ornament.”
With the success of the toilet paper ornament, as well as a few other products, the team was able to fund Quadra Marketplace using just the revenue from Urban Forest. Now, two and a half years later, Quadra Marketplace is live with close to 500 users and is about to close negotiations with its second and third manufacturers. The Pro subscription for the app comes with monthly training sessions that are provided live so viewers can ask questions to both John and Brian. Replays are always available and the topics vary from print on demand specifics to tips and tricks about scaling your business.
John was 44 when he first had the idea for Quadra Marketplace. The previous ten years of his life had been filled with financial problems and multiple failed business attempts, but John maintained that “it’s never too late to go for your dreams.” It took him five years to accomplish it, but John has successfully become a 7-figure Ecommerce seller and the co-owner of an up-and-coming print on demand marketplace. In an effort to help all those dreamers out there who believe it’s too late, John has made it his mission to not just create a marketplace, but to teach people how to make money using it.
“There were some people who made their first online sales ever. And for me that’s been the most rewarding thing. I look at those stories and I just smile… for me it’s not about selling product, it’s about seeing other people succeed.”
While John’s life is a far cry from where it used to be, he’s never forgotten the steps he had to take to get where he is now. As a daily reminder that anyone, from any situation and any age, can make it, John still drives the same car he delivered pizzas in over a decade ago.