Categorized | Shoestring Startup

P.S. I Love You Letters offer a new and unique way to communicate with loved ones after you die.

Name of the Company and URL?

P.S. I Love You Letters, LLC

www.psiloveyouletters.com

Date officially launched? The Company was founded in February 2010 and our launch date was Wednesday, April 27th, 2011.

What is your product or service?

P.S. I Love You Letters are time preserved, handwritten letters that you compose on elegant stationary to share what you’ve always wanted to say to those close to you, but never did. After you write your letters, you return them to us where we store them in a secure, climate controlled facility. Each of your letters are safeguarded with us and later delivered in accordance with your instructions.

Similar to what have traditionally been called Legacy Letters or Ethical Wills, they are for those who wish to express their feelings for those they are closest to, with assurances that these words will never be forgotten.

Main Kit

 

Why did you start your company?

Our inspiration came one Christmas Day several years ago while viewing a major television news channel. We watched a warm and heartfelt story about a man who wrote a special letter to his adult daughter. He left the letter with his barber, asking him to give it to her on Christmas Day two years after his passing. Filled with tears of excitement and joy, the daughter expressed to the reporter that it was the greatest Christmas gift she ever received, and stated she would treasure it for years to come. The news channel ran the story repeatedly throughout the entire day and the more we viewed it, the more inspired we became. So we decided to start P.S. I Love You Letters to allow people a safe depository in which to leave their letters.

How was it financed?

P.S. I Love You Letters was financed primarily through asking friends to put up money to help start this project. It was a hurdle because such a business had not been done before. We had to convince them of the potential, sell them on the idea if you will. One investor who put up most of the money, about $10,000 dollars to help with the product development, lost his sister at age 26 to cancer so he could relate to our plans.

The website design normally would have cost between 20k and 30k, not only due to the graphics but also because of the back end management system which allows people to manage their letters utilizing their on-line account. We simply could not afford that. We were blessed to know a young and brilliant programmer and a friend of his who is a graphics designer.

They agreed to take a chance and do the work as strictly an investment, each receiving a 10% stake in the company. I was told many times not to give away so much equity, but what choices did I have? There was simply no way to afford to pay anyone. Talk about getting things done on a “shoestring.”

The best part is that they both had a unique grasp of the emotional and caring part of the message we wanted so badly to share with others…that of the importance of giving loved ones the words you know you should say but probably never will. We wanted partners who shared our compassion and our drive to provide a quality product and service and we were very lucky to find those two.

What is your marketing strategy?

Our marketing and advertising is also being done on a “shoestring”. One partner is our Marketing Representative and comes to us with many years of sales experience. For the past two years she has taken that background and coupled it with her love of working with seniors. Today she is active in several local senior organizations, primarily non-profits, where she is building personal relationships with companies and individuals who specialize in products and services for seniors.

Only four days following our soft launch she is working our first trade show, a small expo sponsored by the San Diego Memorial Society. All advertising is being done by the Memorial Society; however, in the near future we will be incorporating our extensive contact list into events where we will be participating. Attendance at this event is expected to be less than 300, and attended primarily by seniors, 55 – 105. She felt doing a small event in a small venue with an audience of forgiving seniors would be a good place to get her feet wet prior to stepping out into the more professional or corporate type venues. The San Diego Memorial Society will offer us an audience of not only seniors, but seniors who are very much in touch with their mortality. One can only imagine that many younger people look at us with dazed eyes when we tell them what we do, but seniors, well, they pretty much get it!

For the immediate future our marketing focus will remain with the seniors. Currently, we have four larger senior exhibits booked for the Spring/Summer and four in early fall with events for women 35 – 80. The fall events will begin taking us up to 100 miles north of our home town.

We also envision working with corporate clients such as estate planning attorneys, upscale retirement homes, and high end residential real estate agents. All of these types of businesses have clients who recognize and identify with their mortality. P.S. I Love You Letters make a great gift for their best clients and a great way to say “Thank you.”

First responders and those with dangerous occupations such as fire, police, military, coal miners, oil rig workers etc. are our secondary market and, should our senior game plan be successful, we will duplicate it with the first responders, where our Marketing Representative is now putting the same beginning efforts as she did with the seniors.

What free online tools do you use? What about social media?

We use Google Analytics a great deal to see page views, where people are coming from, and how long they spend on each page.

For social media we use both Facebook and Twitter. It was amazing that we gained over 175 Twitter followers in three months prior to launch and didn’t even have a product to sell. Twitter requires daily attention if you want to be relevant in your user’s lives. Both Twitter and Facebook provided us a wonderful opportunity to get our brand out there with very limited investment. We recently began advertising campaigns with Facebook and Google.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/p.s.iloveyouletter
Twitter: www.twitter.com/psiloveuletters

What is the best advice you never got?

Learn about color and learn about printing. We have gone through several bad print runs to get our colors the way we envisioned them. It is a very difficult process working with people who sometimes want things done their own way instead of the way the owners envision them. There is such a difference in offset printing as compared to digital printing and every time I thought I was seeing the right color, after spending a thousand dollars to print something, the colors didn’t match. It was eventually fixed and now our brand is consistent, but we lost some money along the way. At least now our color call out numbers are set. This is why you find so many big companies that have their exact colors on the web so that no matter who does their printing, they must stay with those same numbers. Turns out that our crimson is the same as USC!

What almost killed your business in the start?

Our biggest mistake was jumping into product production too quickly. We should have waited until we had designed the systems and procedures before we produced the actual product. As a result, it ended up costing time and money, but we learned a lot.

What is the one thing that you did right?

The absolute best decision made was to surround ourselves with graphics and technical experts. I don’t know that we would have ever ended up with such a beautiful and functional site had we just gone with average web designers. Plus, the fact that they agreed to do this for part ownership made it even better.

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

The most challenging aspect was learning social media. Sure, I had a Facebook account, but having a Fan Page, or a Twitter presence where it is all about our brand is a different animal all together. Those sites represent who we are and a great deal of care must be taken with each post and each Tweet so that it reflects our brand positively. There is certain etiquette in social media in regards to selling your company or product and if you screw that up, no one will pay attention to you.

Another challenging part is setting up this entire company while working full time at another job which also requires my full attention. It is just like having two full-time jobs.

Are you currently in the black or red?

Since we just launched, we are in the red, but not like the entire house is mortgaged. I think what worries me is not being able to pay friends back right away and asking them to just be patient with us until this thing gets moving. It is not just as easy as throwing the product up on the web and sitting back waiting for sales. We have to get out and engage and we are doing that by going to three tradeshows locally in the next 90 days.

What would make your business more “Successful”?

Thankfully, we are in a position that once we start selling, buying more inventory will be self funding. Other than wishing we had an advertising budget, it has actually been a good thing that our money has been tight because it has made us focus down to the last paper clip. I think too many companies start with more money than they need and end up wasting it on items that really are not absolutely necessary to launch a business.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

We plan on being in this for many years to come. That said, if Hallmark or a similar company came along and said “Hey, we love your brand and this whole idea,” well, we would want to speak with them. But until then, our goal is making this company as successful as possible.

What do you think your projected annual revenue will be?

This is a very difficult question to answer and will just come down to how quickly and effectively we can get the word out to those who might have a need for our product.

Linda Asakawa
Marketing Director
Managing Partner
P.S. I Love You Letters, LLC
800-928-9837

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