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25 Years Later: How I Started My Business with Zero Capital and Grew to $100 Million

When I look back over my 25 years running PostcardMania, my main thought is:

“Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 25 years!”

And I also think, “What a magnificent team we are!” And also, “…dang that was a lot of work, but I love it!”

Yes, it was super hard at first, but the rewards of all that hard work have been infinite. Providing a livelihood for my 350 amazing staff, helping small business owners succeed, and strengthening the American economy are all reasons starting PostcardMania was more than worth it.

Often I get asked the question, “How did you do it?”

I’ll share with you just how I went from zero start-up capital to owning a company that brings in $100 million in annual revenue.

Even I am bewildered sometimes by how I went from nothing to managing a multi-million-dollar company! Believe me, there were maxed-out credit cards and a few panic attacks along the way. However, it’s been more than worth it.

If you are looking to grow your business, look no further than the 4 principles I applied to achieve my success.

1. I marketed WAY MORE than any typical person would.

If there is one aspect of my personality I’m more than aware of, it’s that I am 100% honest with people, and I can confront anything. I’m not afraid of telling people exactly as it is — in a good way. (I hope! haha)

So my brutal truth for you is that too many business owners play it safe. They spend far less than they should on their marketing, and it shows. If you put in the bare minimum, expect to get the bare minimum back.

Marketing is your most important investment.

The amount of money you put into advertising your products or services is directly related to the results you’ll receive. So if you dial up your investment to a 10 instead of a 5, you’ll double the returns.

It’s scary because not all your efforts and all your spend will be a home run — BUT, you will figure out what works, and then it’s much easier to spend the money on the marketing.

A lot of businesses spend their money on things that won’t make a big difference in their revenue in the long run, such as renovating an office, big bonuses for the leadership team too early on, and other big-ticket items that make your company look nice.

You can’t get that money back, so it’s best to spend it in areas that will help bring in more customers — i.e. marketing. Then, once you’ve settled into a more comfortable state of success, you can do some upgrades. But in the beginning, it’s crucial to market your business more than any sane person would think is normal.

Then as you grow, your marketing budget should too.

When I started out, I put as much of my money as possible into marketing. I barely paid myself anything for years because I was so focused on putting all of our profits back into our marketing to keep us growing. (More on that in a second!)

Then as PostcardMania became more profitable, I continued to increase my marketing budget. Just recently, I increased my marketing budget again by over 20% — an additional $1.5 million for the year on top of what I spent last year — in order to push forward with PostcardMania’s expansion, reach new goals, and plan for the long-term future of the company.

Currently, we’re spending $110,000 on marketing every single week without fail. While our marketing budget has changed over the years, the fact that we mail postcards and run Google ads every week consistently has stayed in place.

Make marketing your priority #1 and you’ll see a huge difference in how fast and how big you grow. Which leads me to my next important (but kind of painful) point…

2. Do whatever it takes to fund the growth of your business.

Making something out of nothing is hard. BEYOND hard. In 1998, I had a computer, some friends, and a dream.

Back then, I didn’t drive a fancy car, and to be honest, I didn’t even really have a weekly salary! I drove a Nissan Pathfinder that was paid for (so I didn’t have a car payment), and I lived pretty simply.

The reason? I was putting a good chunk of money into marketing my new business. In 1998, mailing 2,500 postcards a week cost me a little less than $1,000 a week — a decent weekly check I would have loved to enjoy myself!

But I knew that marketing was the only way I was going to bring in leads and increase my revenue. I told you that investing money into marketing was your #1 priority, and when you don’t have a lot of money to make it happen, you have to get creative.

You might have to use some credit cards, borrow money, get investors, apply for grants, and even dip into your savings or massively cut back on your quality of living.

But in the end, all those efforts will pay off. The reality is on the road to success, personal sacrifices will be made.

Back to my story about the Pathfinder….

After about five years, PostcardMania was becoming a stable, growing business and I decided to reward myself with a Mercedes convertible. It was a pretty low-end one in hindsight, but for me it was a CRAZY indulgence!

You know what I did BEFORE I bought myself the Mercedes? I purchased a building for PostcardMania! In order to do that, I took money out of my own home.

Even though you may have to take a pay cut initially, you’ll reap the rewards later on.

Third, I’d say your success depends on how passionate you are about your ideas.

And let’s be honest…I wouldn’t have made any of those sacrifices — like driving an old run-down car for years — had I not believed in PostcardMania and had the passionate drive to make it a reality.

A funny tidbit about the car transition — one of my staff at the time said to me, “I’m so glad you got a nice car!!” When I asked him why, he said, “I thought maybe we weren’t doing well enough or you had bad credit!”

My staff wanted me to drive a nice car. That was a weird eye-opener for me. My personal choices and PR impacted my staff and their perceptions of PostcardMania. That had never even entered my mind!

So side note: the money you spend even on yourself makes a difference in how people perceive your company!

3. You need to be 100% invested in your business concept!

Before I started PostcardMania, I sold printing services as a print broker. So I witnessed other printing companies providing low-quality postcards for a LOT of money. Also, I had my share of bad experiences using direct mail companies and finally decided it was time someone got it right — so why not me?!

I wanted to deliver a fast, reliable, and high-quality product that far outshined what was available for 1/4 of the going rate, and I did! Back then it cost $1,100–$1,500 to buy 5,000 full-color, super glossy postcards! Can you believe it?

Decades later, PostcardMania is still outshining the competition with personable customer service, custom marketing solutions, lightning-fast, in-house printing, and some of the newest marketing tech available.

Today we have serviced more than 110,000 clients across 350 different industries and mail more than 3.5 million mail pieces every week. I’m super proud of how far we have come and everything PostcardMania has to offer.

Last, but certainly not least, my team has made a huge difference in our business growth.

4. Choose the right team players and you’ll win the competition.

I’m so thankful to all of the staff members who have been loyal to PostcardMania and put in loads of hard work into making us the very best direct mail marketing business in the United States.

Everyone, from the executives down to the maintenance crew, has played a part in making PostcardMania a huge success and a phenomenal place to work.

Of course, building an incredible team of smart and talented individuals didn’t happen overnight! I started out with a small team, including Melissa Bradshaw, who was 19 years old at the time and now she’s the president of my company! She became one of my best friends!

When you choose the right people, they will inevitably become your friends and confidants — people you can 100% trust.

Over time, we have vetted our staff through a selective hiring process. Melissa played a significant role in providing the blueprint for the type of team member I wanted. Someone very capable, driven, with a high care factor who deeply understood the importance of helping small businesses.

My HR team has taken this formula to the next level and spends a lot of time recruiting the best professionals in the marketing and printing industries. This effort has made a big difference in the products and services we deliver to our clients.

Today we have about 350 employees who are a part of making PostcardMania a light and fun place to work. This has only been possible as a result of our no-office-politics policy and the fun events we plan every month to make the workplace enjoyable.

I decided early on that my business would never be a place where office politics and toxic chatter reined, so I made sure that policies were put into place and enforced. As a result, it’s made PostcardMania a stronger company.

A drama-free workplace will lead to better products and services, better customer service, and more annual revenue. Happy employees equal happy customers. Trust me! It’s done wonders for us.

If you have any specific questions for me about what it takes to build a thriving business, please reach out! I’m all ears, and I love helping small business owners make their dreams come true.

You can email me at joy.gendusa@postcardmania.com.

If you want to supercharge your marketing this year, my marketing experts can help tailor a plan for you! In recognition of our 25th Anniversary, we are offering a special discount of up to 25% on all marketing services throughout the month of June.

Call us at 800-442-0112 for more information on how our marketing strategies can grow your business— the consultation is 100% cost- and obligation-free!

Best,

Joy

FREE DOWNLOAD: Postcard Marketing in an Online World Ebook

 

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