An entrepreneur who wants to differentiate a business in an industry chock full of competitors must find the right hook. For Chris Davenport, that hook has always been technology.
Entrepreneurial by nature, Davenport bought and sold at flea markets as a kid; after high school, he started a satellite installation and repair business. But his first “real” business was On-Site Dental, a mobile dental company launched in Las Vegas in 1999. Using large vans with state of the art equipment, the company provided on-site dental services to the employees of large corporations, such as casinos. Davenport leveraged new — at the time — technologies such as filmless radiography and virtual patient charts. “Las Vegas was exploding but there were no dentists because the Nevada dental board was so strict,” Davenport recalls. “So access to health care was limited. We were in the right place at the right time.”
He exited that business in 2012 and, shortly thereafter, set his sights on the auto parts industry. The first iteration of his current company, AutoParts4Less, was LiftKits4Less, an e-commerce website for aftermarket automotive parts for Jeeps, trucks and SUVs. “It’s anything and everything aftermarket, from cool LED lights to electric steps to fenders,” says Davenport. The site carries a little over a million SKUs, stored in a warehouse in Las Vegas.
According to Davenport, LiftKits4Less serves a $50 billion niche market. But he had bigger plans — the broader $500 billion auto parts industry. But it’s a traditional industry, slow to embrace digital technology. “Most people go to a shop, hand over their keys and say ‘fix my car,’” says Davenport. But Google and YouTube have given do-it-yourselfers the technical information and the confidence to work on their own vehicles. “I taught myself the entire suspension industry through YouTube,” says Davenport. He reckoned he wasn’t alone and the time was right for an online marketplace dedicated solely to auto parts, where buyers and sellers could connect.
"Every time I write another story [on Newsweek Expert Forum], it’s more validation of who I am and where we’re going and what my history is. There’s a snowball effect.”
Most multi-seller platforms, such as Amazon and eBay, sell everything from lipstick to household appliances, and charge sellers multiple fees. “There was a huge gaping hole in our industry because there's not a multi- seller platform dedicated to the automotive parts industry,” says Davenport. “So out of that need was born AutoParts4Less, the world's first enterprise-level, multi-seller platform for auto parts.”
But it was not an easy lift. Auto parts sellers have millions of skus and all that data is monstrously difficult to manage. Big companies like Amazon and WalMart have the infrastructure and resources to do it relatively effortlessly, but a startup? Not so much. “Our platform had to be built to that standard and meet the scale requirement, which is massive,” says Davenport. So he went to India at the peak of COVID, in late 2020, on an emergency work visa to work side-by-side with a team of developers for three months. “We built out the UX experience and then we built the code,” he recalls.
Unlike other multi-seller platforms, AutoParts4Less does not charge sign-up or listing fees; the site simply takes a percentage of each transaction. Sellers are vetted and go through an interview process, and Davenport says he’s partial to experienced e-commerce sellers who provide good descriptions and high quality photos. He markets the company through involvement with the automotive racing industry, and with car dealerships. “Through my marketing efforts, we were able to attract the types of companies that wanted an alternative to eBay, Amazon, or Walmart,” says Davenport.
Davenport’s holding company, The 4Less Group is publicly traded on the OTC exchange but he says he's in the process of transitioning to NASDAQ. “We’re very excited, and we’re very bullish,” he says.
Newsweek Expert Forum, says Davenport, “gives me the authority I need to build out my resume and to build trust among investors, and our buyers and sellers.” He’s written long-form articles and is a regular contributor to Expert Panels. That thought leadership content, he says “is just another feather in your cap. Every time I write another story, it’s more validation of who I am and where we’re going and what my history is. There’s a snowball effect.”