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Born to Run…Companies

Expect the unexpected from Paula Jagemann.While she now speaks with the soft twang of the Maryland hills where she’s lived most of her adult life, Jagemann is a subject of Queen Elizabeth II and carries a British passport-a tribute to her Manchester roots-on her frequent overseas travels. But the CEO of eci2, a growing online …

Expect the unexpected from Paula Jagemann.

While she now speaks with the soft twang of the Maryland hills where she’s lived most of her adult life, Jagemann is a subject of Queen Elizabeth II and carries a British passport-a tribute to her Manchester roots-on her frequent overseas travels. But the CEO of eci2, a growing online office sleepy New Jersey village.

“My mother worked all kinds of hours at two jobs,” says Jagemann, who is the youngest of four children reared by a single mom. “I took after her and that’s how I got ahead. I was willing to work until I bled.”

After high school, Jagemann landed a hotel job with the Trump organization, where she rose quickly to the ranks of management. While visiting a friend in Maryland, she met her future husband, moved there, and took a job managing a hotel.

Next, Jagemann became the executive assistant and then protege of John Sidgemore, now vice chairman of WorldCom, and made a cool $3 million when Sidgemore’s UUnet was sold to the global telecom giant. Sidgemore participates in eci2, the company Jagemann helped found, as investor, chairman, and architect of its business model.

“My brother-in-law had been in office supplies forever and he did well for himself without breaking much of a sweat,” says Jagemann, recounting the serendipity that led her to the online office supply business. “The big chains like Staples reach the retail trade and the Fortune i000, but miss the middle market.”

That market is served by 15,000 independent retailers in the U.S., who, in turn, buy from two distributors: United Stationers and SP Richards. When Jagemann approached United Stationers, the firm was purely old economy, publishing a print catalog with a 14-month lead time. At the time, no one was selling office supplies on the Web.

Jagemann’s first task was to webify United Stationers. “They realized we could get them into the dot-com space,” she says. Her next step was to have eci2 build Web solutions for the office supply industry and to sell eci2′s proprietary software, which automates the dealers’ complex pricing schemes and provides them with a Web storefront. “We had 50o customers in February and now have 1,200,” says Jagemann.

While Vienna, VA-based eci2 brought in just $i million in product sales last year, Jagemann has ambitious growth plans, expecting to generate $40 million in revenue this year, $75 million next year, and reach profitability the following year. The lion’s share of revenues, obviously, will come from eci2′s infrastructure efforts, and Jagemann says she may jettison the direct sales operation. eci2 is also in the process of building an Office Products Digital Exchange, where manufacturers and distributors can sell excess inventory.

While new economy ventures are out of favor, Forrester Research analyst Matt Sanders believes the office supply space is a good bet. “We project online sales of office products and paper to amount to $235 billion by 2004,” he says. “Office products fall into an interesting category of indirect materials. Companies are more likely to take the plunge with less than mission critical activities.”

The number of office products sites and e-marketplaces are abundant and growing, according to Sanders, making Jagemann’s infrastructure play look pretty smart.

“Not bad for a poor girl from the Jersey shore,” says Jagemann.


Vital statistics

Paula JAGEMANN

CEO, eci2

“If I could outsource kids, I would.”

Birthplace .. Manchester, England

Age€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦..33

Family: Husband, Joe, who now works in sates for eci2. Hopes to start a family in three years, preferably with twins. “If I could out-source kids, I would.”

Education: BA, economics, Hood College, with honors, 1999.

Interests: Rides a horse named Tank “who tortures me.”

Personality type: “Type A, without the nasty aftertaste.”

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