Business:

Chinese company relocates downtown with $10 million in capital

Jonathan and Danielle Jenkins, owners of Order With Me, are seen at their new office in the Ogden Executive Building Nov. 14, 2013.

At first glance, Jonathan and Danielle Jenkins’ new office building doesn’t seem like a hub for innovation.

First, it’s a former motel, built in 1963. Vagrants loiter across the street. Its neighbors include Bob’s Bail Bonds, a low-end motel and a law office that touts images of a medieval sword.

“There’s no telling what went down in this place,” Danielle Jenkins said.

The renovated building, though, is bringing new life to a quiet stretch of downtown. It is the headquarters of Order With Me, the Jenkins’ software firm, which recently moved to Las Vegas from China with workers in place and a healthy amount of revenue.

Led by CEO Jonathan Jenkins — Danielle's husband, a seasoned pitchman and former retailer — the company aims to help small businesses save money on wholesale orders and steer clients to distributors. Order With Me’s software is free, but Jenkins takes a cut of customers’ payments.

He has raised almost $10 million in investor funds, including millions from international investment firm SOS Ventures. Jenkins expects to have 25 workers in Las Vegas this spring and 50 by the end of next year. He would not disclose the company’s exact revenue but said it’s in the millions.

The company’s most recent fundraising effort netted $6 million last month. Much of it came from local investors, including Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and his VegasTechFund.

Jonathan and Danielle Jenkins had planned to move to the San Francisco Bay area this year, figuring it was the logical place to build a tech company. But after someone suggested they look at Las Vegas, they decided to join the valley’s budding geek scene. They liked the energy downtown and their customers flock here for trade shows.

The couple moved here in August and set up shop in the former Uptown Motel, 813 E. Ogden Ave., this month. As an homage to their building’s roots, they kept the room numbers on the doors.

Ancient by Las Vegas standards, the building received a much-needed makeover.

Landlord Kamran Fouladbakhsh bought the two-story, 8,500-square-foot property last year for $200,000. He received a $50,000 grant from the city of Las Vegas in January for exterior upgrades and another $45,000 in May for interior renovations.

Fouladbakhsh planned to rent each of the motel rooms as separate offices, but the Jenkinses decided to lease the whole building. There aren’t many options for large, affordable, quirky office space downtown.

Jonathan Jenkins grew up near Dallas and became fascinated with China as a teenager, moving there almost a decade ago after college. He initially taught English but after looking for business opportunities, found a factory that made women’s handbags. In early 2007, he launched Zida, a small U.S. retail chain that sold imported purses and other accessories.

He expanded the business quickly, opening nine stores in several states in a two-year period, and split his time between China and Texas.

And though he met Danielle through Zida — she worked at Jenkins’ Abilene, Texas, store — the chain didn’t last long. Jenkins closed shop in late 2010, partly because he wanted to live full time in China, partly because of the recession.

He and Danielle drew up plans for Order With Me in early 2011 while living in Hangzhou, an hour train ride from Shanghai.

At first, their company acted as a brokerage for individual business owners who wanted to buy together in bulk from Chinese factories. The couple later expanded it to help clients buy from U.S. wholesalers, too.

Having worked in China, the Jenkinses carry an “impressive story” and already have shown strong results, VegasTechFund partner Andy White said.

“A lot of companies are doing some sort of business there, obviously, but they’ve definitely taken it to a new level,” White said.

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