Neil Marriott took a niche (HDMI cables and audio-video accessories), and transformed it into a $4.5 million business in just a few years. In Sunday's story, I explain that he recently added a retail store because he had so many Twin Cities' customers who picked up their orders at the warehouse to save on shipping.

Rypen, another online business started locally, took the unusual step of creating a furniture and home furnishings business online without the benefit of an establishing bricks and mortar store. Eighteen months ago, co-founder Peder Nyhus has tried to focus on unique products, including the Equilibrium bookcase ($1,390, shown below) as well as sofas, which range from $1,500 to $8,000.

So who buys a sofa without sitting on it? Lots of people in all age ranges, said Nyhus. "We just have to walk them through the process slowly and make them understand how it feels," he said.

Nyhus is considering a retail store, but for now he's enjoying the online biz without the retail anchor. Rypen sells about 3.500 products including sofas, solid steel desks in eye-catching colors, end tables, chairs and clever accessories.

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