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From Donuts to Appliances: My Multi-Million Dollar Path to Success

Luke Peters, founder and CEO of NewAir

NewAir is now one of the most trusted brands in compact appliances, but that's not where our story starts. It starts with donuts. Along the way, it became about family, timely inspiration and at least one deal brokered in the parking lot of Anaheim Stadium.

Growing up with hard work and inspiration

I was first exposed to the business world at my family's donut shop in Huntington Beach, California. All 12 kids in our family worked in the shop. I'd bring donuts to school from time to time and trade them for "real food" at lunch.

After high school, I earned a degree in microbiology from California State University, Long Beach. I ran my own pool repair business to pay for school and went to work for the state of California as a hazardous waste scientist after graduation.

It was a bit of luck that led to NewAir. My brother Steve was an early internet entrepreneur, and I thought I might also make money online. Feeling inspired, I was going over the freeway and the thought "air and water" popped into my head.

Starting NewAir while raising a family

I started the NewAir site as a Yahoo store with no programming background. Luckily, I wasn't doing this alone. My wife Mariella and I had our second child by this time and were running NewAir, and our lives, out of a condo in Huntington Beach.

Those were long days. I would get home from work around 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. and work on the site from about 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. when the kids were asleep; and Mariella would answer customer calls and ship products during the day.

Keeping up the image of a large, busy company wasn't easy. One customer wanted to pick up an order at our location, and we offered to "save him some time" by meeting him at the parking lot of Anaheim Stadium. He said the circumstances made it feel like a "mafia deal," and we later discovered a supplier error meant we gave him a box filled with hoses instead of heaters.

We continued to grow and move both our family and NewAir. Business never stopped, even when our new house was tied up in escrow and we were living with my mother. We were shipping 20 to 40 products a day, and packages were strewn on her front lawn. Mariella would drive around town looking for UPS trucks if we missed the daily pickup at the house.

NewAir's original warehouse: the family garageNewAirCredit: NewAir

Compared to the condo, the 400-square-foot garage of our new home was a luxury. We hired our first employee, Mark Shannon, who's a member of the NewAir team to this day. Putting in 18-hour days while looking after our four children and German Shepherd, Hero, wasn't all that different from my own childhood, growing up in a big family and working in the donut shop.

In 2004, NewAir moved to a 4,000-square-foot building that had an 1,800-square-foot warehouse and added a second warehouse soon afterwards.

A new direction: B2C to B2B

In 2012, I completely shifted the focus of NewAir from direct to consumer via our website to selling our brands to large retailers. In the five years since changing focus, we've grown 250 percent. We now have a diverse set of sales channels and sell to large retailers like Home Depot, Target, Walmart and Amazon.

Mariella gradually stepped back from NewAir to focus on our family, which has now grown to six children, aged 1 to 19 years old.

In 2016, we moved into our current distribution center, tripling our footprint. We've increased from a team of about 35 to over 60 employees in 2017. Our brand is a leader in unique home appliances such as wine coolers, beverage coolers, evaporative coolers and ice makers.

My words to live by are "just do it." Only 3 percent of business make it to 15 years, and now that we've reached that milestone, I feel like I finally have this gig figured out.

About the author: Luke Peters is the founder and CEO of NewAir, one of the most trusted compact appliances brands in North America.

Edited for brevity and clarity by Sammi Caramela.

Image Credit: NewAir