Building a Prank Musical Greeting Card Business – Travis Peterson of Joker Greeting
INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 56:50)
Sponsors & Partners
People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode
Book: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
What You’ll Learn
Interview with Travis Peterson of Joker Greeting
|07:35||Product Demo and Product Development|
|12:58||Starting on Kickstarter & Launch|
|42:36||Shipping and Fulfillment|
In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.
Travis Peterson of Joker Greeting
- One book that you would recommend to entrepreneurs/business professionals in 2021 and why? (Response: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight)
- An innovative product or idea in the current ecommerce, retail, or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Apple)
- A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend (Response: Video shop)
- Best business advice you ever received (Response: If something stupid works and makes money, it cannot be stupid)
Hey there entrepreneurs My name is Sushant and welcome to Trep talks. This is the show where I interview successful ecommerce entrepreneurs, business executives and thought leaders and ask them questions about their business story and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses. And today, I’m so excited to welcome Travis Peterson to the show. Travis is the Founder CEO of Joker greeting. Joker greeting creates and sells prank, greeting cards and other prank gift items. And today, I’m going to ask Travis a few questions about his entrepreneurial journey, and some of the strategies and tactics that he has used to start and grow his business. So thank you so much for joining me today. I Trep talks Travis?
Yeah, sure. I should have I mean, I’m in my office. I have a lot of product but no, no, I don’t have one in front of me. I could grab and grab some if we need to. But um, thanks for me.
But But did I describe your product correctly? Like do you do you describe it as a prank greeting card company? Or how do you describe your company?
I you know. They’re they are pranks. I mean, there’s nothing there’s definitely a joke that we are trying to obtain. But at the same time is I’ve always found that you know, people buy the card. Not always to have a prank. War, it’s really much more just about getting a laugh. You know, if that’s a prank, it’s a prank. But I think it’s just for me, it’s about relationships. We just want to, you know, have fun and enjoy life and get a laugh from them get a laugh for me. But, you know, I’ve never none of none of what I do is a prank where only one person laughs It’s both people. They enjoy it. Cool. Cool.
Interesting. So I know that you when you started this company a few years back, right. And, and now it is doing reasonably well. Could you share a little bit about what motivated you to start this business? I mean, this is quite a unique idea.
Yeah, I mean, what motivated me was I was always kind of making stuff. And the funny thing is, is just from my background, I used to live in New York, and I worked in finance, right? So I went to school, my undergraduate was business. And I worked in New York in one of the is kind of a little boutique firm. I was there for six, seven years. But at the same time is I, I just liked making things. And during that time, I was you know, all in I love, I still like finance, I still love all that. But after a while, like once like so just be very clear when I got my job was when the financial crisis happened. So I was hired in 2007 2008 happened, crash happened. So I was kind of in a it was a difficult time. But I was very fortunate. I had a job I worked and and I enjoyed the job. It was fun. But at the same time is after so many years, it was just a question of like, do I stay? Or do I just want to look into something else. And as much as I would. And quite frankly, my job. At that time, I would be in meetings with funds, like investors who would manage lots of money. And I would be in the same meeting would be a CEO or CFO. And they would be pitching their company to be invested, you know. So I would be in all those meetings, I’d be setting them up. And I just, you know, I was on the sidelines. And, you know, I could have stayed there as a broker. But I just always looked at this dynamic. And I would ask myself, you know, who’s really in like, the position here? Is it the buyer because they’re in a good position. So a lot of it was I just always looked at the people making things and I don’t know if you know, they had the best position, but I just wanted to be there more so. And I think that was the ultimate, ultimate motivator. I just looked at the dynamic of where all we were sitting as I just kind of want to be there. And I liked making things. And to be frank. I started to make a software company originally, which led me to kind of going back to school, which at the time the software company was so hard to do, I can go into all of that, but it’s very difficult had a lot of challenges. And then Joker greeting was an idea. And it was purely purely an idea that I thought was hilarious and funny. And I could make but it was not intended to be a company.
I mean, this is always kind of a dilemma for any startup entrepreneur, right? Someone has an idea. And they I mean it’s an it’s a dilemma in the sense that you know If you already have a job, do you quit your job and go 100% Start a business? Or do you keep your nine to five job and do this part time. So if I’m understanding correctly, you chose to completely quit the job and go 100%. In this,
I did not even entirely know, originally with a software company, I think I had, like, I won’t remember exactly how much time, you know, it was probably six to 12 months, I honestly don’t even remember. Because there’s, there’s, there’s a difference between origination of the idea, and then building it and where it is. So I can’t really recall, it could have been 612 months range when I was at work. And it’s not nine to five, it was a lot of time. But luckily, I didn’t have kids or wife to really think about or worry about the time, I would do both. I was working on the software and talking to engineers and building something. And it was actually with a software business where I got it to a point where I said, I feel really good about this. And that’s when I actually took off. And part of my thinking was I kind of took a safety. My safety margin here was I’m gonna go back to school, because at the same time is I don’t know what happens with software, my thinking at the time was, if I’m going to build a software, I’ll learn a lot that I think will implement anything, even if I get a normal job, I think it will all kind of come in. So I actually did school, and the software company. And then at the same time, during all of that, of course, I got married and had a kid. So I was busy with just a lot of things. But it really was getting my master’s in business, getting an MBA, that’s when the software company just couldn’t, you know, it just couldn’t take off, I would get users but it was nothing significant. And I didn’t really intend to stop making it. I still love the project. But I just had made a decision once Joker greeting launched, and we can talk about that. It was just a decision of like, well, this joker greeting brand is working. I keep making a software that I’m grinding on spending money on and sure potentially could be much bigger, or do I work on something that I know people like today? And that’s what I want?
So how like the Joker greeting does have some technology inside it or some sort of mechanism to get it going. Yeah. Can you share a little bit like how did you first test this idea out? And how did you get it made?
Yeah, I mean, I might as well show a product real quick, right? It’s not really a shameless plug. But everything is a plug when you’re in business. So all it is is a greeting card, right and things. The funny thing is is today versus this is this, the card I launched, the company technically launched April 1 2015. So we did a Kickstarter, I’ll get you know, we can talk about all that. But I know what you’re I’m gonna answer your question. Things have changed. So this, even though I’m showing a card right now, throughout the seven years that I’ve been in business, internals have changed, designs have changed. But anyway, the point is, is right now if you open the card, okay, it’ll play music, nothing magical, very normal. But the point is, is what we did is, there’s a safety tab that we’ve now shifted to the outside. So you can sign the card, once you pull the tab out of the card, and then you open it, it will play non stop. So the joke here is that most people, you know, are used to buying musical cards or musical gifts, and they stop, but I don’t think anybody ever wants that music to keep going. And so the joke is that we just kind of took off the off switch, there is no off switch. And now we’ll repeat until the battery dies. So most of these cards, they’ll go for at least three hours. And we’ve had cards go for 10 hours, just non stop. But um, and I’ll say this one more thing is we so think about it. If it’s gonna go three hours, you can break the card. Right, you can rip it in half. Yeah. And so what we did and this also really helped us is we just hit glitter inside the card, so you probably can’t hear it but inside is glitter. So if you actually break it, there’s glitter so it’s kind of like this really funny and it’s glitter. You can clean up it’s not tiny sand glitter. It’s kind of almost confetti ish. But you can vacuum and it’s not a crazy deal. But getting to that point of like, how did I get around to this? I was looking for. I mean, I guess what do you do like was anything that you don’t know what to Google? So I just Googled stuff. I think I started I want you to remember we’re talking 2014 When I was talking to people, you know, who can make it can you know? Can it be done? It’s a silly, simple idea. But I’ve learned that even though it’s simple, some people just don’t like we have a product, some people have a process built, and they don’t want to change it. And I’ve seen that with a lot of, you know, a lot of ideas that I think are simple, but people just aren’t able to make those little changes, because a little little thing to me is a big thing to them. I don’t I’m sure I have people say no to me along the way. But the funniest thing about all of this, and I’ve never been there before I was in LinkedIn. And I think there was like, a user, like a group. You know, Facebook has groups. I think LinkedIn had like a group. And I don’t, I think it was just called the greeting card association group. I’m just making this up, because it’s been about eight years now. And I swear, all I did, I wanted to the group, and I think I just asked, Does anyone here know how to make a musical greeting card? And someone just replied, said, Hey, talk to me, I can, let’s see if we can work together. So all I did was I, you know, there’s a leap of faith here, because of course I can be, I can ask people, kind of what I’m looking for, you know, everyone’s trying to be careful with like, their new big idea. So once he replied to me, I just told him like, can you make a car? Okay, you can make a greeting card, great musical greeting card. Great. But can you play? You know, can we make it so it doesn’t stop. And most people didn’t understand why they’re like, it really didn’t make sense to them. And even today is, you know, not everybody’s gonna buy it fine. And he just said, I think we can do it. And so I think like the sample cost was, I don’t know, a few $100 or something like even $1,000. I don’t even remember what I was wondering. For one car. It was like for three cars. It was like a couple $100? Probably, right. So it’s like for three or five cards, just for samples, right. And that I think, may have even included shipping.
Because what it really took was them taking an engineer, which I get an engineer kind of fiddling for a couple hours, that’s really what I was paying for. You know, it’s not material, it’s time. So whatever, I paid a couple $100 I got the card, I tested it. And again, it was like, it was really good. I don’t actually I’m sure I have like a one of my older cards somewhere, but I don’t even need to get it. So that’s really that was the process. And, of course, the next question was, you know, how if I buy 100, how much does that cost? But by 1000? You know, what does that cost? So it’s kind of just learning if they can scale if they can do it. And that just led me to once we have the sample in hand, it was just a matter of let’s make a Kickstarter, and that was kind of the next step.
Okay, so you didn’t you didn’t try to sell it. You basically went directly to Kickstarter away. Okay. It was
100% planned to go to Kickstarter, I didn’t have any plans to. Because like I said, I wasn’t trying to make a company. But the fact is, is I don’t know if you know, this is it’s kind of like a known story now. But if you recall, the founders of Airbnb, yeah. If you ever look up their story, they always had like the story. And this was known. You know, when I was making what I was doing, they built Airbnb, but they were running out of money. And I think they did like cereal boxes.
for Obama, Obama again, but yeah,
right. It’s a well known story. And honestly, that’s kind of what I was thinking here. I’m like, I’ll just make some extra money. 10 grand, 20 grand, if it works out well. And then I’m done. So I didn’t have like, I didn’t plan to go to a retail company and plan do any of that. It’s just like, I’ll do a Kickstarter, make some extra money. It’ll keep me making my software company. That’s what I want to do. And so that was really the plan. It was just like, a bit of side cash. And I’d be done with it.
And to your surprise, Kickstarter really, really kicked off.
Yeah. There’s a it wasn’t in so I don’t want to say that it wasn’t planned. Because once we decided I say we ultimately it was my brother. And I, who got all of this started granted. You know, I’m the one who found the manufacturer on the one who kind of got the artwork, and I really did all the backend. And if you watch the videos, I’m the one in the videos. Yeah. But at the same time is he is a videographer. He had used Kickstarter already. A couple of times. I think I forget what he raised, like 10 grand or something for a couple of videos that he did. So he was a bit more familiar with Kickstarter. And so I went up to his house, we made a video of the product. We shot it in like an hour. Luckily, he is a professional. He knew what he was doing. We shot it. He went to his office, he made some edits and then he sent The video, we posted it on Kickstarter. And like I said, we planned to post it. I think originally we were looking like February but it just kept getting pushed. You know, as things go along, and then it um, I don’t know you’re in Canada, right? Yeah. Correct. I have no idea of Canada celebrates or has an April Fool’s Day.
They did. Okay. I think proof is pretty, pretty global.
Yeah, well, I even though it’s, it’s different. Um, so what happened was, um, we just decided we were launched on April 1, because it’s April Fool’s Day, we’re making like a prank card. It just kind of made sense. So it gave us a bit of extra time. So we just prepared a little bit better with the video and everything. And that was, that was I’ll say, That’s it. But you know, it still took a good six months of just getting the products ready. I had, I think, a few 1000 to my garage, just in case. So I can, you know, send them. You know, it was kind of I was prepared for something. But I thought I would sell maximum 1000 cars. So we actually launched the Kickstarter on April 1 2015. The reality is, I don’t think people realize that we were a real company. Because there’s so many there are so many like fake product releases on April Fool’s Day, especially the a Microsoft and all these other companies have done like fake launch, especially I think Amazon has done them before. So when we logged on that day, I think we did. I don’t know, $50 or something. So it wasn’t it was not successful. And we were kind of sad, of course, right? Well, okay. And I at that same time, as I kept, you know, reaching out or trying to do something. It wasn’t until day two, when a company noticed us and we were still around, you know, the joke was the, the the campaign wasn’t a joke. It was real. You know, give them a shout out. They were probably the first company to recognize us. It’s a website called, dude, I want that.com. Right, if they’re relatively small company, but they actually highlighted us, and I think that was really what triggered that helped. And then all of a sudden, we did like $1,000. Right? So we’re like, fantastic. And, you know, long story short, once they picked us up, it was I won’t remember the order. But it was like, Dude, I want that to another website or another website. That all said it was ABC News. And then it was Gizmodo. And then, it was BuzzFeed. We actually trended on Buzzfeed, Buzzfeed. I don’t know if they have it today. But they had like a top 20 trending. We were I think 17 Maybe 13. I don’t remember at the time. So, you know, that was like a day when we did like $10,000 in a day. And we were literally, it was so crazy. Because in the first week, everything kind of exploded. And we actually had phone calls with Good Morning, America. Wow. Yeah. And so we actually had a date set. And I think it was just gonna be a phone call. We were gonna dial in. I don’t remember if there was a lot of specifics around it yet. But of course, the day the day came, and Good Morning, America said, oh, you know what, something happened maybe tomorrow. And then once the next day happened, we ever heard back from them. So Good Morning, America never happened. But, you know, I wasn’t that depressed, we ended up doing $92,000. And in those 30 days, and we had no ad campaign, and we didn’t, you know, there was no like, magic button here, except for we just made something that people wanted to talk about and share. And like I said, I was working on a software that I had spent, you know, a lot of time trying to make, and I think I had, I don’t know, 50 users. And then all of a sudden that made this and it was instantly people want to talk about it, share it, buy it, it made sense. And it was a $15 card. And I think today my card is cheaper. So I priced them cheaper. But yeah, people spending you know, $150 on 10 cards. And you know, surprise me so that was you know, just to be clear, there was no Corporation nothing was incorporated. There was no bank there was there was nothing truly it wasn’t built the company until about 15 days in I recognize it was doing well. I started to set that up. But yeah, it took me about 30 days again to get all those pieces in incorporated bank setup, etc. And then I just made the final decision of like, I guess this is what I’m going to try. And you know, deep down I just felt I had to, even if I didn’t think it would last truthfully I was like okay, maybe I have another year but cuz I just felt that I had to kind of keep running with it. And so I, that’s what I did. I just, I had to turn off the software company, I lost a lot of money on it. And then I just changed it all towards this.
Cool. So I mean, this is really a unique product when you started it. Did you like was there any other of course, you know, musical greeting cards is one thing, but you have this is kind of a little bit of a different idea. Did you have any competitors? who are doing the exact same thing at that time? And do you have anyone who’s doing it now? Like, do you have real competitors? Now?
The funny thing is, is just before like, I mean, even the idea of what we had, I think we technically thought of around 2013. But as you know, it’s like one of those ideas that comes to you. And you’re like, Ah, maybe it’s funny, but you know, and I was kind of I’m still I still do this today is I’ll write down ideas. And that’s I like to write things down. I have a whiteboard, there are some of them are those are, like, on my, my phone, I write down ideas. And I, I just feel like if it comes back to me, and I keep thinking about it, I’ll push it forward. And this was one of them. And so I actually specifically what was so funny, I think it was in January, another company launched, it wasn’t, it wasn’t nearly what we were doing, you know, an endless musical greeting card, but they had, like, glitter in an envelope. And they made a website, you can look it up doesn’t matter. But they basically it was something that kind of like what, boom, and then the guy sold the company for $100,000. And he sold it in like 30 days, and he walked away. So that’s happened first. And I was like, wow, like, I kind of saw them as a competitor. Very indirectly. Fast forward to today. Um, yeah, the only I have competitors. One of them was a vendor Long story short, he’s now he’s now I have a patent on my card. So I actually get a royalty from those cards. of the people that have really copied me, most of them. I’ve been able to kind of suppress and when I say surprise, I just feel like they literally copied like my product, image and artwork. And so I can find ways to kind of like have YouTube helped me. But for the most part not, there’s not a lot of competitors coming at me there’s there’s a big reason. I mean, I guess, like, Hallmark could copy me 100% But I don’t think they want to get into the glitter, business type of thing. It’s a little bit pranky maybe to pranky for them. And I’m doing well. But at the same time is I’m not making $100 million. So, um, for anyone to really come into my space and challenge me. It’s not like a billion dollar space where anyone can coexist. I actually think I know one very particular company that came in, they tried and then they just stopped. I know actually actually one more company that tried and nothing ever came of them. Because it’s hard I mean, I think I’ve been very lucky one one Kickstarter helped me if you like look up endless greeting cards. They either have to kind of outspend me or something else but at this point my brand is known after seven years but who knows maybe someone will I’m always the reality is I’m always trying to improve my product. And I will say this is I like when I I’ve tried other manufacturers and tried to second source and I’ve actually I think I’ve been very lucky with my current manufacturer. I’m sure some people can do as well out there I haven’t found them I’m sure can happen but what I’m trying to get at is I have learned like as simple as the product is making one that is consistently good. That isn’t always that easy. A quality quality matters. It’s not just a piece of crap. We have we tried to I think we’ve set the bar high. We’ve made some certain things here that I think are doing well but I guess that I do have a patent around the idea that has helped me already so you know, I try to defend myself how I can
the price point of your product I believe it’s 899 per card right which is a which I think is a really good price when because if you if you go to buy like any regular card which have like Hallmark or brand name card, I mean they’re they’re usually pretty expensive. So my question would be how have you managed to keep price point low. And still, I’m assuming you have a decent margin on the product. So is it like getting manufactured in China? Or is it you’re able to control the cost a little bit more?
Yeah, I guess I’ll be very clear. I have, at this point, I have more than one product line, I have four technically, and another one coming. But I have a different product, this product is 899. Okay, this is not a greeting card. This is actually more in the Frank realm. Right. So these are like called crickets. And this one has like a little sticky on the back. But the whole point is, yeah, it will play like a random cricket noise, you can hide this somewhere. You just take it and you can put on a fan on top of a fan. And it will play a random cricket noise output on it. Right,
it’s also non stop, or
it’s non stop and the essence that it’s intermittent. So this one because of how it’s intermittent like little chirp, chirp, chirp, be silent. And then three minutes later chirp, chirp chirp, or Meow, meow meow, or whatever it is. So these ones will last sometimes up like 24 hours. And these ones are 899. Because I’ve just anyway, long I can explain that this one’s 899. For the greeting cards, I usually prize them. There’s kind of a difference there between 999 and 1199. There’s licensing fees and other issues. But I still think it’s fair. And I know what you’re asking. I’ll let me get to the short answer. Are they manufactured in China? Yes, I’ve, I’ve tried USA, I’ve tried. Canada, I’ve tried a lot of countries. But yeah, it’s there definitely now made in China, I technically, probably should charge more. But at the same time is I still like the price, the reality is I have to charge shipping. So there’s always gonna be shipping price on top of it that I don’t pay for. Most customers don’t buy one car, they like to buy multiple cards. So that’s kind of where I go for is more of that bundle price anyway. And so they’re gonna buy two cards, and then we’re talking at least over $20, etc. So that’s kind of more, that’s how I’ve, in terms of business management, I’ve chosen to not sell one card, but a few cards to them. I think if they buy two cards, even if even if I lose $1, or whatever it is, you know, there’s other things, I do lose money in other ways. I do it with purpose, because I see it all as marketing as well, they have to give the card to someone, specifically. So if I can get more products out there, it’s the brand out there. And anyway, that’s kind of how I’ve done it, I believe, personally, I’m I believe in volume. So I’d rather get volume that just high margin. That’s my basic idea.
So that’s very interesting. There’s there’s referral kind of built into the product. Like it’s not just one person, they have to give it to someone so they will now know about it. And they will be excited about it. And they’re going to probably part of it is they’re like Do you have a defined target market? Or is it like all over the place that mostly like young people, or?
No, yeah, i Everyone has the even me like, the initial thought is that it’s for like college kids. But it’s not like I said, that’s why it’s not really a prank card. It’s just a funny card. And I mean that, by if you’ve ever purchased a greeting card, or you watch people buy a greeting card, they’re always looking for the one that gets a reaction. So you’ll go through it, you’ll open the card, and it’ll have like a dude on there and thong like No, not that one. So you’ll go through these cards, you want one that’s funny, that gets a reaction, unless of course, it’s supposed to be sad, or whatever. But that being said, Is my audience probably skews female. The the age is probably 30 to 55, like larger in terms of just like that realm. And I kid you not like I think this is like I had a look, I really tried to do a lot of customer service. I think I’m probably unique that I probably do too much customer service personally. But I don’t pick up the phone like rarely. It’s not because I don’t like it. It’s because it’s limiting. I can do I can talk to 10 people on an email or chat versus one phone call. And anyway, so I had this one person call me and I had like three voicemails and I was like, oh, maybe they’re mad at me. But, um, okay, so I listened to the voicemail. I don’t know how old She was I’m just gonna say she was 70. She’s probably a little bit older. But she was she sent me three voicemails saying I need help buying cards because I want to give some of these to my friend. And I want to give some to my grandson. But I’m having a hard time, you know, making the purchase. I was like, alright, so I called her back and she bought like five cards and she gave it to her friend. She lives in a nursing home. This was just last year. And so I think our friend was like, you know, her next door neighbor nursing home or something. And then she sent a car to her son so I think she ended up buying like eight or 10 cards. That’s what I mean. It’s I’ve seen grandma’s give it a gram sons grandsons give to Grandma’s and every, you know, boyfriend and girlfriend doesn’t matter the area, I’ve just seen it all. The only slight differences this one is a bit more of like an office prank. But I’ve seen fire like firefighters and police officers love these they. So that one has a bit more of like a niche of like fu I would say this one does a bit more like Office related pranks and I think industry wise, it oddly enough firefighters, police, fighter policemen, ambulance drivers, like they have a really different humor amongst them. And were honestly warehouse employees. You know, anyway, so there’s that kind of thing. But, um, that the I don’t have a single demographic, it’s very wide, much wider than I would have thought.
Have you ever tried the personalization idea where someone could come make the purchase, but they’re not sending it to themselves, they’re sending it to their friend. And basically they’ll they’ll give you the information, what they want written, maybe you’re going to write it or you know, and then you basically send it out to, so it’s not going to be you know, your next door neighbor or your friend, but they can send it out all over the country or something.
Yes. So the question is how to implement it right. And I chose to actually build a different website. Okay. My company, right, my main company is Joker greeting.com. And, as I mentioned a little bit earlier, I decided to really focus on selling, you know, bundles or groups. And that’s because I have four products. And you know, a lot of people are that way, like, they’ll come by a greeting card. And you know, they want a candle, and they want one of my office pranks, or they just kind of want separate things, and I have like wrapping paper as well, they’ll buy a bunch of these things. Or they’ll buy, you know, 10 Christmas cards very, very normal. But at the same time is it never made sense to me from a consumers viewpoint, if I start adding in like more buttons and features, I was always worried that it would just make it more difficult for them to Oh, I just want to select one product, and then add a message. And so for me, the user experience actually didn’t feel comfortable just to, you know, I don’t like a lot of buttons, right? That’s just me, I think, you know, I don’t know, I guess that’s why I I know, some people don’t like Apple because it removes functions from you. But that’s kind of how I believe that’s one of you know, my core ideas is just keep it simple. And I instead of building in all those features, I just, you know, if you’re on my product page, I just have little statements as if you want to send this to someone else, we have a whole nother website for you. So they go to the website, and it really does make it it makes a big difference because now that I have another website called ship Joker. So they go to ship Joker calm and I you know, I just advertise it from my site from my website. That way, it’s a whole different experience, because then they can select the date, they can write a message we you know, we do it all for you. They can only pick one card. And importantly, when we ship a product, it doesn’t say from Joker greeting it it actually we just made up a name. Okay, right. And so it’s basically much more anonymous. And so they can’t just Google it’s called like forever gifts as means nothing. Right? So they get the package, they won’t know what it is. That’s another reason why I felt I needed a whole nother website because in order to do it properly. That’s why I did so yeah, it’s I know, oddly enough, I’m maybe if I marketed it more. It’s kind of been one of those areas where I’ve been building slowly and I now have an employee focused on it. And it’s growing. It’s not my main focus But I like it. I’m starting to give it more time and attention. But yes, you have to do it today.
How many employees do you have? What does your team look like? Do you want
one employee? That’s a full time employee, but how I so that what that means is I’m a full time employee, I’ve hired a full time employee now. And but you know, the biggest job here is fulfillment. Okay. And in house, I’m assuming Yeah, I know, I used to do it in house, there’s too many. So I used to, like, when I used it, for the first six or eight months, I was like, let me see how this goes. And then, you know, I’d have like, 100 orders on the weekend, and I’d be busy like Boxing, boxing, and boxing and shipping. I couldn’t get it. Like it was it was possible, but then I couldn’t do my the rest of my job. And then I figured, okay, let me hire people. And then I would hire people, you know, mostly part time just to see, but it was just, it was never really worth it. People wouldn’t come it’s kind of a pain. And so that was just another decision. Do I want to do this myself? Or do I want to put it so I work with a partner shipping partner, I have for six years now. I think it’s for me, I know other people that will disagree for their own reasons. But for me, it was, you know, the best decision for what I do. It allows me to focus on what I do. Well, it allows them to focus on what they do. Well,
do you do ship internationally? Do you ship in other countries?
The only just to be clear, the only thing we do ourselves is from ship Joker when we handwrite notes that comes from us directly. Okay. So that’s the only thing that’s in house and I have like a part time employee. But yeah, well, we’ll ship anywhere from our warehouse is in Pennsylvania.
Okay. When when? Just out of curiosity, when when you’re shipping internationally? Are you charging US dollar? Or are you charging other currencies?
I think I mean, the websites built on Shopify. Okay. I think I think it converts it to their currency. But the hardest thing about that, I mean, it’s enter shipping International. Canada’s not so bad. But Europe has been horrible. It’s the challenges there. It’s very, very slow. I’ve never found a good way to do I mean, I do have a when it comes to retailers, I really like your wholesale, like, you know, outside. So I do have retailers in like the UK and Netherlands and even in Paris in Australia. So I do have some partners around much. I think that’s great. But shipping directly. It’s like I had customers. I have like two a couple customers in Italy that are have been waiting six weeks for products. It’s pretty slow.
So the retailers that are international, you basically they purchase wholesale from you, and then they would fulfill the order. And when when they make the order, like do you basically just shipped directly from China or do you ship locally?
Locally? Yeah. I in fact, you know, it’s actually cheaper. I’ve looked into like keeping the warehouse in China or Hong Kong or somewhere else. But every time I would price it with my ups or whoever DHL didn’t matter if I have to ship from there to the UK, it was always like two to three times more expensive than if I shipped it to me and then to the UK. Well, why not?
I’m just saying. I’m just saying well, no, I
know. Okay, I’m saying it myself. Like it always like it blew my mind. I remember all the time I’d be like why is it so expensive to do that because it’d be I would love to kind of like hold inventory elsewhere but it’s always been cheaper to ship to myself first. Um,
social media do you view get a lot of sales through social media? I did. I did read somewhere that you had good success from tick tock. Could you share a little bit you know, which which social media works? Great for you. And yeah, what has been your experience with tick tock tick tock seems to like some people get to see seem to get a lot of success through there. But for others, it’s it doesn’t work. So how do you what is your experience?
Um, some? The short answer of Tik Tok I also guess I’ll say that first. I had a phone call today. I have like, I don’t know what he’s called. I should know. I can look him up but I have like a tick tock representative. Now, he they contacted me and said, hey, you know, can we like give you a representative to help you with your advertisements. So you know, sure. Anyway, we’ve been we’ve been meeting for like two months now. He’s, he’s great. Today we were talking and he just, you know, and he’s been this way since the beginning. He he can’t believe how well I do on Tik Tok. And even today, he was like, he’s just like, the fact is, as we, you know, we go through the advertising. The fact is your ads do so well. I don’t know how to guide you. Because I can’t do it better. So my success with Tik Tok is very good. And you know, I can explain what I do and how I got there. I don’t know if the success is because of tick tock, but let me be I mean, the reality is, this is I was having success with Facebook before this. But I’ve tried, you know, Snapchat and Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, I’ve kind of even Google or whatever. You know, so that’s been my job. My very specific job. Day to day is I make videos and I manage the social media. That’s what I do. Oh, yeah. Yeah, that’s, that’s what I don’t, that I do not give to anyone else. And because if you if you watch a video, you’ll hear, you’ll hear my voice and some videos are just my face. I take all that very seriously, because I just don’t think anyone else can. Or knows my product the same way that I do.
What about ads? Is that something that you do yourself also? Or that 100%?
Okay, okay. Yes, when I present, I do all my I do all of my ads. Like, the only thing I don’t do is some Google stuff. That’s a different reason. But I don’t spend nearly as much money advertising through Google. But there’s like some Google stuff that I hired someone else to do. Because it doesn’t, because it doesn’t require my front end video stuff. It’s a bit more back end stuff that I you know, I don’t like doing
in terms of shipping, you said that you charge for shipping. I’m assuming that you’ve built partnerships with shipping carriers. based on volume and things like that. You share a little bit about what your experience was like. And because your your I mean, your products are usually I think, probably would be easy to ship because they probably go in and will offer something,
or, yeah, I still have to ship it, it’s always gonna ship as a package. Through, you know, USPS donor US postal. And that’s mostly because of how like thick it is. It’s not that thick. Now, I could ship it in an envelope. It could ship that way. The problem is, if you ship it as a regular envelopes, it goes through processing machines, and it can get bent. Okay? So that’s why the moment you put any padding, you put bubble wrap around anything, or you ship it differently, it ships the package. So it’s, it’s kind of unfortunate. And it’s kind of this is the next process I’m working on. But that’s different anyway. The price jumps, right, so right now, it’ll cost me from three to $4. Just for shipping. Well, I wish it were zero. I wish it were $1. But that’s just not how it works. So I don’t I wish I had like Real Tips. The fact is, is if you’re on Shopify, they usually give you the benefit anyway. I my shipping partner is the one like my volume is very good. But at the end of the day, it all goes to my shipping partner, they’re the ones that you know, work with their shipping label, I don’t negotiate any of that. I just kind of don’t get involved. I do. And the reality is, is when I when it comes down to shipping for me my decision, I won’t explain, you know exactly what’s going on here. But some of my shipping is I actually don’t charge like all of it. And sometimes I do it kind of depends. But I kind of help keep the shipping costs low on purpose. So I eat some of the cost. While sometimes I you know, I don’t always but anyway, there’s the whole thing there. I don’t know if it’s that interesting, but I sometimes I’ll even eat some of that cost because I think it’s worth it.
Final question. So, before we move on to rapid fire round, I’m sure you know, over the last five, six years that you’ve been running your business, you have had some failure and mistakes made lessons learn. Good. Could you share maybe one or two big things, big failures that you may have encountered throughout the process and you know what, what have you learned what can other people Learn from it.
Yeah, I mean, the biggest failure I had was, you know, it was funny, I was just speaking how I’m really good, really good. My manufacturer I really liked. And about 12 months in, I think I placed like, it was one of my biggest orders from them as 8000 cards, I get my cards, I ship them out, I had like, right, a retailer in the UK, I forget how many they bought, like 1000 cars or $2,000, it doesn’t matter. And I had shipped out, you know, 4000 cards to customers, the fact is, all of the batteries in those cards were defective. And they would that they were defective to the point where they worked for about three months. But after three months, they just deteriorated. And that was I mean, so basically, I was, you know, a year in the business a little bit more 16 months. But at the same time was now I was back to zero any dollar that I had made. I just so I had to make the decision of, you know, do I keep doing it? You know, can they manufacture? Are they actually good? Are they gonna, you know, be difficult? You know, the short answer is, because I had in because I put all my money in new product. I think I don’t know how much I had in the bank, I’ll make up a number $10,000 for like the business. Maybe was like 15 or 20. But it was I just in order to get right to get fixed again. It was I had to refund everybody I just had to like, and I didn’t have to do that I probably could have could have said, Oh, it was a fun experiment. I made 20 grand. I’m done with Joker greeting. It was fun. But I called up my manufacturer and I said, Hey, here’s the problem, what can you do? And I think ultimately, they, they basically offered to fix as many products that I had know that I knew that were broken. I think I got about 50% of them confirmed. So they gave me they gave me some free cards left. But it didn’t matter. Once I refunded like all the other customers, I was back to zero, literally back to zero. And all of a sudden I had a I had never, I had never taken a loan at that point. But that’s what I took my first loan to kind of pay for things that was very early, that was probably the most painful, because I’m such like an intimate CEO. I like that term as I should say President probably better term. I’m much more of a very intimate president with my customers. So when they tell me like my car didn’t work, the fact is like, it always hurts me even to the even to the like today. And I you know, I hate it. But I don’t care about fixing their problem. It’s not about refunding them the $15. Of course, you know, I don’t want to do that. But it’s much more like I did that there’s a failure in there. And I don’t like that. So it was that was a really depressing time. Problem number two, was because I had a shipping partner, they shut down, they actually sold themselves to someone else. We’re talking 2020 April. And they said, hey, they sent me an email said, Hey, we’re done. Someone acquired us. You can stick you can stay with them or leave. Anyway, the Long Story Short with that one, his eyes figured, ah, you know, these people can ship you know, all the state. I stuck with that company. And it was the most horrible experience. And because I you know, just to give it numbers here, they lost probably over two to 3000 orders, orders over those two or three months that I worked with them. And they, if I called them to fix it, they wouldn’t fix it. It was such a disaster. That again, it was I just recall that time specifically. Because I just had like a headache for three months. I was like and it was by the law. Like truthfully, it’s like it was just a long headache of everything was bad at that at that point in 2020. It wasn’t easy on anyone so I couldn’t really you know, cry, you know, to anybody because it was a terrible year. Yeah, I just remember that one. I had vendors, I lost some vendors and they didn’t want to work with me and it just caused it just kind of spiraled into a lot of other problems. But that one was painful. So definitely. I don’t I don’t know. I mean, there’s probably ways around that. But ultimately, you know, you’re gonna have partners really, really mess up. But fortunately I was able to find someone else. And they’ve been great. Cool,
cool. So now going to move on to the rapid fire. Where is the hard part? Right? Where you have to answer in one or two words or a sentence or two. So the first one is one book that you would recommend to entrepreneurs or business professionals in 2022. And
the book that I like that is that I think about a lot is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.
Yeah, Nike, okay. And innovative product or idea in the current ecommerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about?
I honestly, I couldn’t come up with a good answer here, guys, just either I’m too focused on Joker greeting, or
what? What was the last product that you purchased? Or that you really liked purchasing?
I just like food. Yeah, I like food, I guess I’ll put it this way. I’ve never been leading the pack on tanker. I love apple. If Apple comes out with a new product, I’ll be like, I’ll wait for the next one. So I think that’s kind of baked in. I just, I just that’s how I look at things,
a business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or appropriate.
Okay, this one I can talk about, I’m gonna just pull up my phone for me. And I’m sure there could be better apps, but I’ve always used one called Video shop on my phone. I like it. Because it’s just for at least for like for me, whenever I edit in that application, it’s always been really, really good. It’s worked out great. And then the other one that I’ve actually on top of that one is called captions. All they do or all they do are text captions, but it’s actually really, really
cool. A startup or business that you think is currently doing great things. Yeah.
Did I have an answer for this one currently doing great things. Like
someone that you look at and think, wow, they’re really near locked?
Well, I’m on the board of a couple of a couple of companies. I can talk about them. Um, yeah, I guess like, I don’t know, I this is like one of those questions. I feel like I don’t have a good answer for again. Maybe I’m too buried in my own work. I have kids and I work I don’t know,
appear entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to someone who inspires you?
Nobody, Nobody. Nobody. And it’s not from an ego. That’s not an egotistical answer. I just mean, I, you know, and I’ll answer it this way. I honestly talked to my customers, and they’re the ones that guide me. And if they buy the product, I help them they don’t buy the product that I scrapped the whole thing and I try something new.
Cool. Final one best business advice you ever received, or you would give to other entrepreneurs?
This one I had to look up I thought it was a good question. I’m a big fan of to lab I know is less than one supposed to be two words, but doesn’t matter. Years ago, I read anti fragile. Yeah, I seem to let you know what when I was reading that book, I would think I was in my third or fourth year making Joker greeting but this one I always loved. So get this one. He says By definition, what works cannot be irrational. And he says, failure to realize that if something stupid works and makes money, it cannot be stupid. Yeah. Therefore, therefore, a joker greeting company that makes money cannot be stupid.
Do you? Do you ever think that this was kind of like, you got really lucky like you came you you thought of an idea. And it just worked. And and maybe this is not something that that can be replicated again, like you can think of another idea, maybe it will be very difficult for it to work.
100% I definitely believe in luck. But that’s like the important thing when making products you can’t. I mean, the reality is like there’s products you just can’t make like my software company. It just required too much money in time or whatever. But I’m happy I tried to I’m happy I tried it. When you’re trying to make a business you just have to be willing to try things and once you throw it out there, hopefully it didn’t cost you too much.
Perfect. Thank you so much. For all the questions that I had today. Travis, really appreciate your you sharing your story and sharing a lot of the business advice with us. So thank you again for your time. If you want to share all the data From the websites, you can share them again. And if people want to get in touch, what is the best way?
Yeah, I mean, the only thing I would say is, hey, I’ll do this. Right?
Joker greeting.com You know, it’s funny, um, I run my website this way, which is I try to, I don’t know if this makes sense. I like to punch above my weight. Right if you know if you’ve ever if you know boxing, yeah, right, you look small, but you can punch really hard. Personally, like, whenever people learn, like what I do they all Haha, that’s pretty cool. And then I tell them how much like how well I’m doing, which is now seven figures. Everyone’s blown away. I don’t like to be like, super open about that. But I’m just like to say that because you don’t have to spend, you know, every dime, like make it big or make you know, crazy things. I’m super happy with how last year went, you know, we grew 50% last year and 20 100% in 2020. And this year, probably grow another 30 to 50%. So things are going really well. It’s a very silly idea. It’s niche. But I also feel very comfortable because home like I said Hallmark and these other big companies. They’re too big for me to come after me. Maybe they buy me but that’s up to them. But yeah, it’s kind of a weird little spot. I think there’s a lot of little spots that people are making today. That’s why Etsy and Shopify are doing so well. So don’t be afraid to kind of make a little things that you like.
Okay, thank you. Thank you so much, Travis. Really, really appreciate your time
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