Tor Sweeney is an attorney and entrepreneur. He owns Dresses.com, a site built on a keyword domain that manufactures and sells dresses online. Tor is also the husband of one of my past interviewees, Deborah Sweeney of MyCorporation.com. Tor took a few minutes of his time to answer some questions for me about Dresses.com.
Mike: Tell me about Dresses.com. How long have you been in business and how does the business work? Is it as simple as picking out a dress and clicking on it?
Tor:Dresses.com went online in 1999 and we have always been a direct to consumer play. We do the designs, we manufacture, we develop the site and we work directly with the customers. We manufacture and ship out of our factory in Los Angeles.
Mike: Dresses.com is a category killing domain name. Tell me how you acquired the name. Are you willing to share what you paid for it?
Tor: I bought the domain name back in 1999 as I was graduating from law school. My family has a clothing manufacturing company and I thought this would be a great way to evolve the business. I purchased back then for a few thousand dollars and my friends/colleagues thought I was crazy!
Mike: How much of your traffic comes from users directly typing in the domain as opposed to searching for “dresses” or other keywords?
Tor: About 70% of traffic comes from the domain directly – we don’t have to purchase the keywords as much any longer. The domain name is pretty valuable in and of itself.
Mike: Is this a one man show or do you have others that help run the business with you?
Tor: I have a team of people I work with. We manufacture in-house, so I also have sewers, cutters, etc. We have different domains that support our dresses.com URL (prom-dresses.com, etc.).
Mike: Dresses seem to be the type of item a woman would want to try on before purchasing. Do you see this as an issue for Dresses.com or is this not a real barrier?
Tor: Women do like to try on dresses, but our clothing was historically selling via different catalogs. We know how to manufacture and design dresses that are more suitable for varied shapes and sizes. We also provide guidance on sizing. We also sell quite a bit in markets that are not as close to great shopping outlets – the Midwest, for example. Our customers are used to ordering online and we have a liberal exchange policy too, so it all works out.
Mike: As the owner of a premium, keyword domain name, do you feel the value of the name has delivered for you? Would you recommend a keyword domain to others starting a new business?
Tor: Yes, the domain has delivered on its value for us. While they are hard to come by, a keyword domain is valuable on so many levels.
Mike: What do you find has been the most challenging, unexpected aspect of running an online business?
Tor: Competing with the big guys in an online search game is very difficult. The playing field used to be more level, but now that the 800lb. gorilla can outspend a smaller business any day, having a generic/keyword domain can make all the difference.