Multi-Million Dollar Customized Presentation Folder Business – Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders
INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 56:14)
Sponsors & Partners
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders shares the story of starting a Customized Presentation Folders business offering the largest selection of options available and growing it into a multi-million-dollar business. Learn about how a business can differentiate itself in a commoditized market by focusing and doing a few things right.
Vladimir Gendelman, the founder of Company Folders, who shares his story of starting a company that specializes in providing customized presentation folders with the largest selection of options available. Gendelman emphasizes the importance of physical marketing materials and engaging multiple senses when reading material. He discusses the company’s end-to-end process of creating a high-quality product using a team of designers who specialize in various design styles. Gendelman also talks about the cost structure of the business, the pros and cons of going all-in on a new business idea, and the impact of referrals and resellers on his business. He advises entrepreneurs to start doing something instead of overthinking and shares his website and email address for those interested in his business.
- 00:00:00 larger selection of options for folders available anywhere. In this section of the video, Vladimir Gendelman shares the story of how he founded Company Folders, the ultimate presentation folder boutique. Vladimir, who immigrated to America from the Soviet Union in 1990, talks about how he was struck by the sheer variety of options available in America compared to his native country, where everything was owned by the government with no competition or entrepreneurship. His search for a company folder led him to discover a gap in the market for high-quality presentation folders, and he began Company Folders to fill that gap.
- 00:05:00 In this section, Vladimir Gendelman, the founder of CompanyFolders.com, talks about how his journey in the printing industry began in 2002 when he realized that there was a lack of variety in presentation folders for businesses. He started the company online, and by November 2003, he had officially launched it. When discussing the shift away from paper-based businesses in recent years and the impact it has had on his industry, Gendelman explains that the print industry is responsible for the majority of new tree growth in the world. Furthermore, he uses the example of selling widgets to argue that physical marketing materials, such as presentation folders, are still necessary in a world where digital content can easily be forgotten, and the physical presence remains a powerful tool for businesses.
- 00:10:00 In this section, Vladimir Gendelman, founder of Company Folders, explains the importance of engaging multiple senses when reading material, and how traditional paper evokes a sensory experience beyond just sight, such as touch and smell, leading to better comprehension and memory retention. He goes on to discuss how his business has grown each year, catering to those who want to make their folders stand out and expressing themselves through a wide range of customizable options that include different types of paper, standard die-cuts, print methods, and foil options. He emphasizes that his company offers the largest selection of options available, creating over 10 million different variations of unique folders based on these options alone. This competitive advantage sets Company Folders apart from traditional stationary vendors and appeals to businesses wanting to showcase their unique brand personalities.
- 00:15:00 In this section, Vladimir Gendelman discusses the competitive advantage of his company, Company Folders, which provides customized folders with high-quality materials and precise attention to detail. Gendelman emphasizes that the company’s folders are the most complex printed product out there, and that the quality of the folder matters greatly in terms of the way it is folded, glued, and designed. He also shares the company’s end-to-end process of starting with a flat sheet of paper and doing all the printing, foil stamping, scoring, and gluing themselves to ensure a high-quality product. Gendelman also describes a customer story that exemplifies the level of service and attention to detail his company provides.
- 00:20:00 In this section of the video, Vladimir Gendelman talks about a client who wanted “the bling” in her branding materials and how he and his team went about creating a Louis Vuitton-inspired folder with rhinestones and intricate designs. Gendelman explains that he is the creative director and has a team of designers who specialize in various design styles. He also offers to share a link to the folder they created for the client, which he describes as both professional and well put together. Overall, this section showcases Gendelman’s design expertise and his team’s ability to meet a client’s unique branding needs.
- 00:25:00 In this section, the interviewer asks about the cost structure of the business, wondering if they are printing the folders themselves or working with a partner. The business owner explains that they start with a blank sheet of paper and build the design from there. They go through printing or foil stamping, die cutting, scoring, folding, gluing, and packaging. Printing presses can be highly involved because they combine print methods, have different coatings applied later, and require different cost structures. They do have a printing house, but the business owner initially started with credit cards and built up from there. They did not call anybody to validate their idea, but they built the website themselves and marketed through participating in online conversations and forums. They slowly but surely gained interest, leading to more sales and growth in the business. The owner was still repairing computers at the same time.
- 00:30:00 In this section, the speaker and the interviewer discuss the pros and cons of going all in on a new business idea versus starting it as a side hustle while maintaining a day job. The speaker advises against quitting a day job to start a business, as it can be a risky prospect and fail within the first few years. However, the speaker also states that if a person is truly driven and committed to the idea, they will work tirelessly to make it succeed, especially if they have no alternative option. The personality of the entrepreneur and what drives them can also play a significant role in whether or not they are suited to the demanding life of an entrepreneur.
- 00:35:00 In this section, Vladimir Gendelman discusses how his company, Company Folders, focuses on doing a few things exceptionally well rather than trying to do too many things. Their main focus is on providing custom-made folders and related products, which sets them apart from their competition. Gendelman notes that they have tried having salespeople in the past, and while it did not work out, they hope to be ready for it in the future. The company primarily relies on repeat business and referrals from customers as well as social media and online marketing to drive new customer acquisition.
- 00:40:00 In this section, Vladimir Gendelman discusses the impact of referrals and resellers on his business, specifically how referrals can lead to a snowball effect of more jobs and customers. While there is no formal referral program or incentive, he believes that customers will refer others based on their positive experience with the company. Gendelman also emphasizes the importance of technology and user experience in his business, particularly with the upcoming release of a new and improved website. His team consists of individuals in customer service, development, design, project management, marketing, and production, with a focus on being agile and adaptable to change.
- 00:45:00 In this section, Vladimir Gendelman discusses how his team operates, including having team members located around the world, including in Ukraine. He also shares some of the biggest mistakes he has made in his 20 years of running his business, including relying too heavily on a team to manage his company’s SEO, which led to a significant loss of traffic when Google penalized them. He also learned that micromanaging isn’t as effective as trusting employees to complete their projects on their own time. Finally, he recommends “The Diamond Cutter” as a book for entrepreneurs.
- 00:50:00 In this section, we learn about Vladimir Gendelman’s business success story and the book he recommends for applying Buddhist principles to control oneself and, by extension, one’s environment. Gendelman also mentions his use of Evernote for productivity and a business that he thinks is doing great things with artificial intelligence. As for who inspires him, Gendelman credits his mom for the wisdom she imparted on him about not being “rich enough to buy cheap things” and treating every customer well. His advice to other entrepreneurs? Just do it.
- 00:55:00 In this section, Vladimir Gendelman advises that it’s important to start doing something instead of thinking too much about how, why, or what. He notes that whatever you start with is unlikely to be what you’ll end with, but you won’t be able to pivot unless you start with something. Lastly, Vladimir shares his website, companyfolders.com, and email address, email@example.com, for those interested in his business.
People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode
Book: The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life
What You’ll Learn
|[00:00:08] Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Introduction to Trep Talk and guest introduction|
|[00:00:24] Vladimir Gendelman’s journey and motivation to start the business|
|[00:01:18] Unique niche of Company Folders and its specific product offerings|
|[00:02:11] Lack of variety and self-expression in the Soviet Union|
|[00:03:00] Immigration to America and experiencing a wide range of options|
|[00:05:00] Transition from web development to launching Company Folders|
|[00:06:00] Impact of digitalization on the demand for presentation folders|
|[00:07:00] The misconception about print industry’s impact on trees|
|[00:08:00] Importance of physical marketing materials and sensory experience|
|[00:09:00] The value of physical folders for marketing purposes|
|[00:10:00] Engaging multiple senses for better comprehension and memory|
|[00:11:00] Growth of Company Folders and customers’ investment in stand-out options|
|[00:12:00] Offering the largest selection of options for unique folder customization|
|[00:13:00] Conclusion and reflection on solving the variety problem|
|[00:13:58] Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Consumer Perspective|
|[00:14:40] Competitive Advantage: Selection and Other Services|
|[00:15:59] Importance of Customization and Quality|
|[00:18:00] Printing and Artwork Components|
|[00:18:48] End-to-End Process: Order Placement and Delivery|
|[00:19:22] Customer Story: Daniella and the Bling Folder|
|[00:22:25] Design Process and Team Collaboration|
|[00:23:39] Sharing the Folder Link (Not Included)|
|[00:24:39] Examples of Extreme Customer Requests|
|[00:25:33] Cost Structure: In-House Printing Operations|
|[00:26:37] Starting with a Different Model: Creative Cards|
|[00:26:46] Starting a Business: First Products and Customers|
|[00:27:19] Validation Process and Early Growth|
|[00:28:38] Building the Website and Marketing Strategies|
|[00:29:53] Transitioning from Computers to Folders|
|[00:30:31] Side Hustle vs. Full-Time Business|
|[00:32:00] The Importance of Having No Option B|
|[00:32:45] Factors Affecting Business Success|
|[00:34:22] Entrepreneurial Drive and Risk-Taking|
|[00:35:06] Organic Growth and Phone Sales|
|[00:36:01] Focusing on Core Strengths|
|[00:37:00] Value Proposition and Customization|
|[00:38:11] Expansion into Other Products|
|[00:39:00] Customer Acquisition and Repeat Business|
|[00:39:09] New Customer Acquisition Strategies|
|[00:41:05] Referral Program and Customer Experience|
|[00:41:56] Website Functionality and Technology|
|[00:43:44] Importance of Technology and User Experience|
|[00:44:19] Company Team Structure and Roles|
|[00:45:05] Remote and International Team Members|
|[00:45:49] Lessons Learned from Failures|
|[00:46:20] SEO Mistake and Google Penalty|
|[00:48:05] Shifting Focus to Delivering Results|
|[00:49:00] Changing Work Culture and Productivity|
|[00:49:40] Book Recommendation: “The Diamond Cutter”|
|[00:50:44] Innovative Product/Idea: Applying Buddhist Principles|
|[00:51:00] Exciting Innovations in E-commerce, Retail, and Technology|
|[00:51:29] Recommended Business or Productivity Tool: Evernote|
|[00:52:12] Recognizing a Startup or Business Making Great Strides|
|[00:52:50] Revolutionary Impact of AI, Specifically GPT|
|[00:53:11] Inspiration from an Unconventional Source: My Mom|
|[00:54:02] The Importance of Treating Customers Well|
|[00:54:38] Customer Treatment and Business Success|
|[00:54:57] Best Business Advice: Just Start Doing|
|[00:55:20] The Significance of Taking Action|
|[00:55:49] Website and Contact Information|
|[00:56:02] Closing Remarks and Appreciation|
Interview with Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders
In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders
- Book recommendation that you would make to entrepreneurs or business professionals (Response: The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life)
- An innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Artificial Intelligence)
- A business or productivity tool that you would recommend (Response: ChatGPT, Evernote)
- Another startup or business that you think is currently doing great things: (Response: ChatGPT )
- A peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: His Mother)
- Best business advice you ever received (Response: Taking action and starting something is often the first step towards progress and success)
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: hey, there’re entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant and welcome to Trep Talks. This is the show where I interview successful e-commerce 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 really excited to welcome Vladimir Gendelman to the show. Vladimir is the founder and CEO of Company Folders Incorporated. Company Folders is the ultimate presentation folder boutique, and they have the largest selection of options, uh, for folders available anywhere. And today I’m going, few questions about his journey, some of the strategies and tactics that he has used to start his business.
Soir, thank you so much for joining me today at really, really appreciate your time.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Sushant, thank you for having me on. This is exciting. I’m looking forward to,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: so you know what, on, on this podcast, [00:01:00] I get the opportunity to interview so many unique entrepreneurs for ideas and, you know, all different types of businesses that many times, you know, I wouldn’t even think about, you know, start that there, there would be an opportunity there and your business is one of those business, I would, would you describe it a very niche kind of a thing?
I mean, you have really targeted on very specific product folders, so can you share a little bit about, you know, what really motivated you to start this business and why folders?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Yeah, actually great question and um, probably interesting story as well. So I immigrated to America from Soviet Union in 1990.
So we’re talking about Soviet Union, we’re talking about communist regime. We’re talking about no entrepreneurship whatsoever. Everything is owned by the government. When everything is owned by by one entity, [00:02:00] what happens is there is no competition. If there is no competition, there is no variety, right? So everything is pretty much the same.
So as the result, every house you go into, everybody has the same wallpaper. Now there might have been five different wallpapers. Two of them were absolutely horrible. So now you have three that people picked from. So you go to people’s houses. It’s one of those three wallpapers. Mm-hmm. You go to people’s houses, everybody has the same tv or maybe one of those two, three different options that are available.
Everybody has one of three, five different dish. Dishes, silverware, um, plates, clothing, cars, like everything, right? Um, and so on and so forth. So there really was no way to really stand out [00:03:00] and express yourself the way you’d wanna be expressed. So then I come to America and, oh my God, we’re talking about 50, 60 different cheeses and sausages and options for anything and everything, right?
I’m not even mentioning clothing, I’m not mentioning any kind of design, um, objects like that. And that was really cool, really exciting. I really dug the way, the way that Americans are able to express themselves, right? So there I go. I, I live my life and obviously America is the. Land of plenty and you can express yourself in any shape or form.
So I actually was a, um, I ran a computer repair company and I come to see my customer. One day he looks at me and he says, Hey, you’re a computer [00:04:00] guy. Can you help me find a company folder? I’m like, of course. How hard could that be? It was 2002 and uh, you know, internet was a full swing. Just put in company folder.
You find all sorts of stuff, right? It’s America. So I do that and I don’t really see magical in under. That’s strange. So I got my car, um, and I started driving and I would go every place where it says print and yeah, we can do folders. White folder, two packets, one packet. Uh, you know, you print full color.
There you go. I’m like, um, okay. And another place I go. It’s the same story and the same story, and the same story. And, and, and here I am. I, I I, I ended up in a small [00:05:00] portion of the Soviet Union because when it comes to presentation folders, there is no variety and you cannot truly express your brand the way in my mind, Americans should.
And of course, what is my first thought? They gotta fix it. Mm. They gotta do something about it. And then I caught myself thinking, well, who is they? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s me. How do I do that? I don’t know. And that was the beginning of the journey, right? So prior to to all of that, I actually was a, uh, web developer.
And when I figured out this whole folder situation, I, uh, naturally put it online because that’s what I knew and I started marketing it online. And, uh, so the company [00:06:00] launched. So this whole discovery happened beginning 2002. By the time we got everything put together and ready, we launched in, um, I think November, 2003.
And, um, yeah, the rest is
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: history. So let me ask you this. I mean, you, as you said, you know, that time was kind of like an internet was booming, right? And everything that’s now becoming digital. Um, how has things, how have things changed? Because, I mean, these kind of presentation folders, I’m assuming is.
Taken into account a world where people are, you know, doing business in person and, you know, they’re, they’re using these folders to put like papers in there now, you know, as you see the whole culture kind of shifting away from, you know, paper-based business to like a digital business. And in fact, these days there’s so much push of, you know, minimizing how much paper people use and printing, you know, don’t use, don’t print papers, [00:07:00] useless and these kinda things.
I mean, how has your business and the demand of this kinda a product category changed over time? Is it, is it like declining? Is it growing? Like what’s going on here?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: So, a few things. Um, the fact that, uh, doing print is not good for trees is very misleading statement because print industry is responsible for majority of the new three growth.
In the world. As a matter of fact, and I, unfortunately I didn’t think of this, but I don’t have the numbers with me right now. But, um, we are,
I wanna say 40 to 50% more trees now than we did in 1980s when the print industry started planting trees to offset the paper created. Right? So using more [00:08:00] paper and, and using more print is actually better for trees because the more of them get planted from that perspective. Um, now from the perspective of usage and, and going digital, that’s a very interesting point.
Um, so let’s, let’s play a scenario here, right? Um, I’m selling widgets and I come to you, let’s say, b2b, uh, situation. And I offer you my widgets, my widgets. And you say, okay, that sounds good. Uh, do you have some kind of information for me to go over? I’m like, absolutely. Let me send you this email with all the information p d f filed.
So I send it to you. Um, you happen to be busy. Um, and then, uh, maybe you glanced at it. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s not highlighting anymore, right? Uh, and then somebody walked into your office, asked you something, and the phone rang and something else happened. You forgot about [00:09:00] it. Chances of you finding that email again or consciously thinking are not very high.
Okay? Now the same scenario. I come in selling widgets. I bring the folder with all the pamphlets, brochures, information in it, and, uh, we have a conversation and you’re like, oh, great. Let me go over all this material. I’ll talk to my team, and so on and so forth. And I leave it on your desk and I leave.
Somebody else comes in. They ask you something, then your phone rings, then you get busy with something else. Then you check your email, right? You forget about my folder. But your desk, it’s on your desk. Hmm? You do see it. Hmm? Now, if it gets shuffled in papers, you’re gonna go through those papers every couple of days anyways, cuz otherwise God knows what’s gonna be there, right?
So the physical paper for marketing purposes cannot go away. [00:10:00] We do not have a good alternative solution for that. Also, keep this in mind when you read digital material, right? Like email, p d f file, whatever it might be. The only sense that is invoked is your visual sense. The more senses we do engage, The better we remember the experience, right?
And, and the information. So when you actually look at paper, you’re now talking about visual. You’re talking about sensory, right? Because you’re attaching this, you’re talking about smell because paper has a smell and all of a sudden your comprehension of that improves. Your memory of this improves, your experience improves.
So that’s, that’s the big difference there. Now, if you’re talking about office paper [00:11:00] printing out the form that needs to be signed, yes, that, that is easily replaceable by digital stuff. And, but that’s, that’s not the case. Now as far as my business goes, except for the covid year, we have grown every single year since inception.
Um, and the trend. Is this, there are definitely companies there that are trying to save money and not do the folders, right? They try to do digital, they, they try to do whatever. So the industry as a whole might have shrunk a little bit. Hmm. But the people who do use folders, uh, what I noticed is more and more over the years, people spend more money per folder by aging on other options that make their [00:12:00] folders stand out.
And that is exactly where we shine. Uh, in the introduction, you, you did mention that we offered the largest selection of options and that, uh, that was the whole point for me starting this company. Hmm. Like I really wanted to create, uh, Boutique where companies and people in those companies could really express themselves in the way that their company should be, uh, expressed.
So when we talk about largest selection of options, we’re talking about largest selections of papers that we carry. Largest selections of standard dye cards, largest selections of print methods available, largest selections of coats and largest selections of [00:13:00] foil and, and, and so on, so forth Co. As a matter of fact, I’m, I’m sorry.
Um, here’s the very interesting fact. We, um, we ran a scenario of taking all of our options, multiplying and like within each other, right? To see how many different variations of folders we could possibly. We ended it up with, uh, it was I think over 10 million different variations of folders Okay. That we could create that would be unique from each other before you even talk about what kind of design is gonna be on them strictly from the option
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: perspective.
That’s awesome. I mean, you definitely, I mean, that would definitely solve the problem that you had in the, you know, growing up in a That’s right.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Yeah. That’s right.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, so your business, I mean, it sounds like based on the description, it’s um, it’s primarily B2B and maybe some B2
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: consumer [00:14:00] people. Um, people personally don’t use folders.
Okay. Typically, and if they do, they need, you know, three folders for something and they go to office different. Hmm.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And. That, that brings me to the next question, I guess, uh, your competitive advantage is really the, the selection, right? Like, because I’m sure there’s a lot of other businesses, large corporations, like, you know, as you mentioned, people and so forth, uh, that actually do have, you know, folder like yourself and probably do work with a lot of businesses, uh, themselves.
So, you know, the reason a business would select your company rather than just going with the regular stationary vendor that they use is because, you know, they’re looking for, you know, the selection, the, the variety of selection you have. And, and I believe you provide other services also, like printing and so forth.
Absolut, [00:15:00] why, like, what is your, what is your competitive advantage?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: The competitive advantage is in selection of all the options, uh, that we carry, right? So think about it this way, if you need folders, Just folders. You can go anywhere. Just like when you need a pair of pants. You can go anywhere as well.
You can go to Walmart, you can go to Target, you can go T G M X. It doesn’t matter. Now, when you want a nice pair of pants, high quality, that will fit you better, that will be made of the kind of material that you would really like and so on and so forth. You are going to go to tailor, right, and the tailor will measure you, and the tailor will select the material with you.
And the way that those pens will fit you is gonna be very different from the ones you buy at Target [00:16:00] or Walmart. Right now. This is the same thing. You can go to any printer and any printer can do folder for you. Hmm? You come to us. And we could really customize that folder better than pretty much anybody out there.
Now here’s another thing coming to us for folders. You and, and folder, believe it or not, is the most complex printed product that’s out there because of all defaults, all the glues, right? Uh, so the quality really comes into play. And, um, where the quality of the folder makes a difference is in the way it is folded, in the way it is glued, and the way the glue actually stays glued.
Because I have seen many, many products that are folders where the glue comes undo, that is done by some of some of our competitors. [00:17:00] In some cases, you see folders where the front and the back do not line up. The back is always shorter because they cannot properly. Uh, fold. Do the fold, right? The score for the fold.
And therefore they’re afraid that if it shifts a little bit, the back cannot go in front of the front. So they on purpose, make the back shorter. So even if it shifts, it, it doesn’t stick out, right? We don’t do that. Ours is perfect every time. So you just really get the quality, you get the attention to detail.
If it’s important to your brand, that’s where you go.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And I do feel like on your website, there’s, um, I mean, if you think about your business model, or at least the cost structure or the, the, the services that you provide, it’s not just the paper or the, the variety of, uh, [00:18:00] types of folder on your website.
You provide the ability to upload artwork and, you know, uh, so, so it’s, it’s kind of like, You know, there’s an artwork component and printing component of this also. Can you share a little bit about what exactly is involved? Like, are you doing the printing yourself, like, or are you actually just, you know, you have vendors that supply you the different kinds of folders that you purchase.
And when you receive, you know, the orders, uh, you have another, uh, supplier that does the printing and basically then you, you send, send the products to the customer. Can you share a little bit about the end-to-end process of how a customer places the order and, and how do you deliver it?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Yeah, great question.
So we do everything from scratch. We, we start with a flat sheet of paper and then you have to print it first or full stamp it first, right? Then you, uh, score full [00:19:00] glue and so on and so forth. But to really, um, So really describe the, the experience, right? I guess, uh, let me tell you a story. Okay. So couple of years ago during Covid, um, I think it was either a year or two ago, um, the phone rings.
I happened to answer the phone, and this woman, Daniella says, hi, I am looking for a nice folder. Can you help me? Of course, we do this all the time. So we start talking and Daniella and I very, very quickly understand that Daniella is that exciting customer because, because she has a really good understanding of what she wants, she just really [00:20:00] doesn’t know what it is.
Hmm. You know what I mean? Like, like she knows she wants something nice. She actually explicitly said she wants the bling on that folder. She described herself as a real estate matchmaker, and her logo was actually heard shooting the arrow from the bow with a little house at the end of the arrow. And, and, and we had these conversations with her back and forth back, back and forth and, and, and, and trying to, to, to understand what, what it is she was looking for.
And, and she kept on saying, bling, right? And I’m like, okay, I, I get the bling. And then at some point during the conversation it hit me and I said, Daniel, it sounds like you’re looking for louisan of focus. She says, [00:21:00] yes. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m like, great, let’s do that. Right. So I asked her to send me the photographs of her, um, office of her marketing materials and like whatever else she has.
And as she sent me those photographs, I noticed her hand was in one of them. Hmm. And I look at her manicure and she has this very extravagant manicure, uh, with designs and stones and, uh, like she had rhinestones and her nails right. Uh, decorated with all sorts of colors and, and intricate designs. And at that point, I really, truly understood what she meant by bling.
Hmm. So now we are talking about creating, um, Louis [00:22:00] of folders with a bling. Mm-hmm. Make sense? Okay. And it took us a little while of going back and forth, and we did create that. And so
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: who, so who, so who, who does that? So you’re the main designer in that aspect, or are you working with, do you have team members who help with those?
That kinda design process? So in, in that aspect,
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: I was the creative director. Okay. And I have a team of designers, uh, that I worked with. And, uh, we work, I, I work with different design based on, uh, what needs to be designed. Right. Because we have a designer that’s really good at, um, uh, creating, uh, animation or, uh, some kind of a cartoon.
Kind of characters, right? Then we have a different designer that’s really [00:23:00] good at more, um, at more, um, uh, like a business, like very strict business design. And then somebody else is really good at image editing, so and so on and so forth. So I, I, I have, because it’s my team, right? I know exactly who to engage for whatever we are doing.
Okay. So, um, so as actually, uh, if you are interested, I don’t know if, if we can do this, but I have a link to that folder I just described for Daniella Jones. Would you like to see that? Uh,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: sure. Tell me the link.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Here. I’ll put it in the chair. Um, if I, if you, if I can share a screen or you can share a screen, we can, uh, click on it so that people who are watching the podcast can also view that.
And, and you will, uh, the moment you look at it, you will truly understand where Louis Vuitton came from or where Louis Vuitton part of it is and [00:24:00] where, uh, the bling part of it is. And at the same time, you’ll see how very professional and very well put together this folder is.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah, please feel free to share your
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: screen.
Uh oh. Okay. Uh, share screen. Uh, it says that it’s disabled. Oh,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: okay. I’m not sure if we can do that because, uh, lemme see.
Cause it’s recording and I’m not sure how that’s gonna affect the video. It’s ok. I can, I can, I can put put it at a later, like during the editing I can.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Yeah. Sounds good. Awesome. So, um, so yeah, that’s how the process goes. That that’s, that’s basically the experience, right. And of course, that’s your one extreme and another extreme.[00:25:00]
And another extreme would be somebody calling, Hey, I just need a blank presentation folder on green paper. Mm-hmm. We get that as well.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. And, but, but in terms of like, so, so you said that you are the one who’s doing, you know, you’re working with the customer to do the, let’s say, paper selection, to design.
Um, are you also, do you print these, uh, these folders yourself? Or are you working with a partner? Um, yeah, yeah. I’m just, I’m just trying to understand like, uh, the cost structure for your
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: business. Yeah. As I mentioned, we start with a blank sheet of paper. And build the dam from there. Um, it goes through printing first or foil stamping and, and then ding and uh, scoring, folding, gluing, packaging, all of that.
And of course, printing process could be very involved because of, uh, uh, if we are looking at, uh, [00:26:00] combined print methods, if we’re looking at different coats that are applied later, right. And, and so on, so forth.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. So, I mean, it’s, it sounds like a big operation. I mean, do you, do you have like a printing house?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: uh, uh, yeah, it’s here in Michigan.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. Okay. That’s, that’s very interesting. So, I mean, uh, that, that brings me to my next question. So when you started, I’m assuming because, you know, starting creating a printer and everything would require a, a significant, um, cost investment. Uh, when you started out, like, did you start out with a different model, like not having your own printer, like.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: from other Yes. Group. From there I started out with creative cards. Okay. Can you share a little bit about that? That’s just slowly build up, right?
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: You can, yeah. Can you share that? Because I think any business would be interested in learning This is how did you, where did you start? What were your first products?
How did you get your first customers? [00:27:00] I mean, you, to start any business you have to know that, you know, of course you wanted, you had a vision for this, that you wanted to, cause you were coming from and you wanted to give people choice. So you had this idea for a business. But of course, you know, you have to validate this idea to know that of course their, their customers are going to buy this.
Can you share that? Those first days in your business where you went through that validation process, maybe, you know, you called on some customers and shared this idea. Um, and, and how did you get your first customer and how did you grow your business over time? Can you share a little bit about that? Yeah.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: I did not call anybody. Okay. Um, I, I liked the idea and I figured out how to help my customer get a folder, and then they actually happened to share that with another company that [00:28:00] I knew those people as well, and they came to me to do their folder. And when the second customer came, I’m like, well, maybe there really is something there.
Right? So, uh, and, and these were a business customers Yeah. Yes. Only business. Okay. So because the, the, the very first guy referred to this as company folders without knowing any better. Registered company folders.com and I figured I’ll build the website. Um, and because I could do it myself, a lot of it.
Right. And actually at the time, I, I, I had this guy who was helping me, um, pretty inexpensively. So he built like the base of the website and then I started, um, uh, playing with it myself, just kind of constant improvements. And, uh, then I started marketing it and we’re talking about 2003. And, um, where you [00:29:00] had forums, you had, uh, Discussion platforms and, and, and so on and so forth, right?
So I just started participating in those conversations and, um, offering all these different options and just to see the reaction and, and, and then slowly, but sure the little by little it started catching on. And, you know, obviously the more interest, the more I sell, the more I make, and all the money would go back into the business to add on this, add on that and, and so on and so forth.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And were you working, like, did you have a job at that same time also while you were building this, or No, I was,
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: I was still repairing computers.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. Okay. So that was your main thing.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Okay. That was my main, that was my business back then. So it was repair computers, two folders, repair com repair computers, two folders, repair computers, do folders.
The folders, the folders, the, and, and then I started dropping the whole computer thing, um mm-hmm. Because it, it, it was [00:30:00] not, As interested. Mm-hmm. And the folder started to take over and that’s where I really wanted to go because I also felt like there’s a purpose there.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah. I think that’s a very interesting point because, um, for, for entrepreneurs to know is that a lot of the times these businesses, like, you know, if you have two options, one option is to, you know, you have an idea, you quit your job and you go hundred percent into, into starting a business.
I mean, that’s one option. And then there’s the other option where these days it’s like, you know what’s called a side hustle where you kind of keep your day job or you have a main thing that you do and you’re starting to, uh, do something smaller. And based on the, the demand that is, that you see at a certain point, as you said, you know, you started seeing your revenue going up for this business.
You know, you basically decide at a certain point, do you want to go hundred percent or not? Um, [00:31:00] Do you have, uh, any advice on this? Like one way or the other? I mean, my, my general, uh, suggestion is to not, like, especially these days when, you know when you can start a business, uh, very cost effectively to keep your day job or do you know, whatever you’re doing, maintain and, and slowly grow your side hustle to the point where at a certain point you can make that decision rather than going percent.
Cause I think that’s a more risky prospect. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Think about it this way. If you get in the fight and you are backed into the corner, you will fight very differently than if you were in an open field and you could run away. Make sense? Yeah. Same exact thing happens here if you, if you quit your job.[00:32:00]
To fully concentrate on your business, you will do different things than if you were to do it on a, on as a side hustle because the side hustle is not important. And very few people have discipline to truly do it professionally as a side hustle, right? It’s usually, yeah, well I sold, it didn’t sell, I lost $500, I bought this inventory, never sold it.
It doesn’t matter, right? It’s not significant. But when it’s the only thing you have going on, you will not stop until it’s all gone and then you’re gonna buy more. And that’s the difference in my opinion.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Uh, I, I think, I think there’s definitely some truth to it, but I think. I think it may also depend from entrepreneur to entrepreneur.
Like if you’re, if an, if a person is really fed up with their job and they want to get outta [00:33:00] it, and then they, they’re looking for, for that freedom, I think they’ll, they’ll still be motivated and putting, you know, um, I, I just think at a certain point, like, it, it may also depend on like, you know, what stage of work is in their life and, and what are the commitments and things like that.
Like, so if someone comes, if uh, somebody has a family and they have to feed them, I think, I think it’ll be a much bigger risk for them to take. Uh, but I think that may also drive them, I think that may also drive them to really, really spend that extra time and, you know, uh, do everything they can to, to, to grow that side.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: So, I agree. I started the business before the family. I coordinated myself in a situation where I did not have an option B. This was the only thing I had and I had to make it work. That, that was it. Okay. If I had an option B, neither of the options would ever work because I wouldn’t be as, you know, like every time you have a escape.[00:34:00]
Yeah. Somebody with my personality would escape as opposed to, okay.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. Yeah. I, I think it really depends on what is driving someone, right? If, if somebody really wants to go get outta the corporate world, I think they’ll, they’ll, they’ll put, uh, they’ll, they’ll, they’ll stay up until like two or 3:00 AM in the, in the morning.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: remember, majority of businesses die in the first year, three years, five years, 10 years. Like the, the businesses we actually make it to a 10 or 20 year mark is we’re talking about a fraction. It’s not fraction of the ones that start. And I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that, you know, when you do it as a side hustle, you’re not taking the risk as much.
Right. Like, there are different things that play into it, uh, but personality does make a lot of difference as
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: well. Definitely. I think, yeah, not, not everybody should start a business because not everybody is, uh, uh, out to, to, to build. It’s, it’s a [00:35:00] very, it’s a long and difficult road for sure. I absolutely agree with that.
So you mentioned that your business, um, you created that website and it was mostly, you did most of the prospecting or, you know, word of mouth online. It wasn’t really you picking up the phone, you know, calling different businesses and pitching your product. Um, was that really the case? So most of your business eventually?
For the folders? Yeah. Organically, yeah. Okay. Okay. Um, I mean, do you do, uh, any of that, uh, phone sales now or is it still completely online? Like, do you think that, that, that can help your business? All inbound. All inbound. Okay. Why, why So, um, do you, do you think if you have like, let’s say a salesperson in your business who can make cold calls and pitch your product, do you think that could be an additional source of revenue?
Absolutely. That could be. Why haven’t you, why haven’t [00:36:00] you pursued that?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Just not there yet. Okay. We have, so, so there are few things, right?
A lot of companies do a lot of things in the mediocre way. Mm-hmm. Right? And it works for a lot of companies. I in at company folders. We only do few things, but what we do, there is no comparison. Nobody does it better. Nobody has a better website. In this specific niche. Hmm. Because the complexity of the product, the complexity of production and the complexity of all the options, there is no out of the box software that can actually handle that.
Hmm. So [00:37:00] everything has to be custom written. Okay. Um, when it comes to online marketing, we don’t do all of it. We only do aspects. Right. But nobody does that better when it comes to, um, having a print blog. Nobody has a better print blog. So we only do a few things, but everything that we do is topnotch. So for me to have a salesperson, well, actually, honestly, I have tried that before and.
It didn’t work out. And of course it’s always easy to say that the person wasn’t good, whatever. But at the end of the day, we weren’t fully ready to take on a salesperson and we’re not quite there yet. We, we will be at one day. Okay. But when we actually do it, it’s gonna be top-notch. Okay. So
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: your value proposition is really the, the [00:38:00] customization and the one-to-one, uh, approach working with the customer to, to understanding their needs and really delivering on that, on that, that that’s what, okay.
That, that makes a lot of sense. Um, I know on your website you have also added, I’m assuming over time because you have created the infrastructure for the, for it, you have added, uh, other products also, like cardholders, support covers, binders, packaging, and so forth. Yes.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Everything that kinda follows the same kind of production, it falls into.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Now in terms of, you know, if we can talk a little bit about, um, so you don’t, you don’t have sales channels, like you don’t have a storefront, like you don’t deal with customers only. Okay. In terms of marketing and, and really driving the customer acquisition, I’m assuming because it’s a B2B business, a lot of your [00:39:00] business comes from repeat, you know, that cycle, an annual cycle of businesses when they start ordering their inventory, like the, the supplies and so forth.
Um, but in terms of new customer acquisition, what are some of the things that you do, uh, that really drives that new customer acquisition for you?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Yeah, we, we have a, a pretty good, um, social media marketing. Okay. We do all sorts of online marketing out there, so people find us that way. Um, A lot of referral, like companies pass us around to each other quite a bit, right?
So for example, um, we have certain folders that are used by travel agents, right? So we do tra job for travel agent, and then the next thing you know, they shared, um, our product with a link to the website in some kind [00:40:00] of, uh, TX group on Facebook or in WhatsApp or whatever they use. Right? And all of a sudden we have another temp travel agent asking us for, for the same thing, right?
Um, we did the job for I think US Army, um, folders that they used to go to some kind of, um, trade show conference for, uh, governmental, um, Entities. And after that show we got like another seven jobs from the Marine Corp, right? From the navy, from, from some other government organizations. So there is a lot of debt going on as well.
Okay. Um, we also work a lot with, uh, resellers. We offer resellers, uh, discount so that they can actually sell the folders for the regular price, but they also make money, right? Mm-hmm. So they bring us a lot [00:41:00] of work that over and over for different customers. Um,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: do you have any sort of a referral program where, you know, you said referral driven, where you, you know, if a business report on other customer, they get,
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: no, I don’t want you to refer business to me because you’re gonna get something back.
Hmm. I want you to refer business to me because you enjoyed working with us and you want somebody else to enjoy that also and. Uh, for, and for regular customers who are not resellers, right? Like, that would not be the source of income anyways. Uh, like they, you know, chances are you wouldn’t refer anybody to me just because you can make extra, you know, 50 or hundred dollars, but you will refer people if, if you think that we’ll treat them good based on your experience.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Uh, just a quick question on your website, can you share, like, is this, [00:42:00] um, uh, because your website definitely has, uh, a lot of functionality in terms of uploading artwork and doing all sorts of customization work, uh, can you share a little bit about, you know, what platform your website is worked, is built on?
Has, has it been the same platform all along or has it evolved over time? Uh, in terms of the e-commerce functionality itself, uh, you know, you accept payments through the website and, and. Are there any challenges or, uh, I mean, your website looks pretty, pretty good to be honest. Uh, but uh, are there any technical things that kind of, you know, what, what role does technology play in your business?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Technology is pretty important. The website that’s out there now is actually, uh, older website. Okay. Uh, we are working on the new version right now. Um, as far as the platform, it’s all PHP based and, um, the new version should be coming out towards the end of this year [00:43:00] and it’s going to be times and times more robust than, than what’s out there now.
Um, and that’s considering that the current website is the best there is in the niche right now. Uh, so the, the, the next version of our website will really blow everybody out of the water. Uh, I’m very, very excited about that. Um, and yes, it, it is very important that the website is capable of managing all the complexity of the product, that the website is capable of really delivering the message of our value proposition, what makes us different.
Um, and that’s, that’s really the bottom line. And the user experience is very, very important as well.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: No, I think your, yeah, I think, I think your, your website is actually, uh, the user experience. Good to me. Yeah.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: We spend a lot of money on, on user [00:44:00] experience design. So
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: you do, you do have, uh, do you have in-house people for this or are you working like a vendor?
Yes, it’s own house. Okay. Yeah, I mean, so to to that point, can you share a little bit about your, your team? How many people work with you and, you know, what are the different roles, uh, that you have, uh,
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: in your team? Yeah, we have, um, we have obviously people who take care of customers. They’re print project managers.
We have developers, we have designers, we have project managers, we have product owners, we have marketers, you know, obviously production and all of that. For sure. It’s a, it’s a whole gamut of things and, um, and things change, right? Sometimes, uh, you have a person doing this and today, but tomorrow it’s more important to do something else.
So, and is it a We’re also trying to, to stay very [00:45:00] agile, very nimble, being able to switch when needed.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Is it a distributor team? Like is it all remote? Uh, is everybody is from the US or like, do you have people from other places also?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: We have people in Ukraine. Okay. Which is, they’re still working. They’re still working.
I, um, I helped, um, so I was able to get majority of them out. So now they’re just dispersed between, uh, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Armenia. Um, and, and we still have few people in Ukraine as well. They couldn’t get out. Um, and uh, yeah, but everybody else is here in Detroit. Okay,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: cool. Now in every entrepreneur’s journey, there’s always mistakes made lessons.
You know, failures and so forth, the [00:46:00] whole process of building the business, you know, you’ve been running your business for, what, 20 years or so now? Mm-hmm. Uh, what has been like a big failure or a big mistake or a big lesson learned that, uh, that sticks out for you? And what can other entrepreneurs learn from your, uh, failure or
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: experience?
Yeah. I never made any mistakes. No, that’s not true.
We make mistakes daily. Um, yeah. But, um, probably the biggest mistake was, uh, back in the day, uh, relied on, um, so I came across this, this company or this group of people who were doing, uh, seo. And of course I didn’t know much about it at the time, and it was very inexpensive, so I figured, sure. Uh, it was a Russia.
And they did an phenomenal job, and they got me to the top of [00:47:00] Google. Uh, and it was great until it wasn’t. And then in 2012, we got Google’s penalty, I think it was March 23. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Thousand 12. Yes. Um, and, uh, we lost 76% of our traffic. Yeah. Overnight. And I, I
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: remember all those tactics
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: and, you know, bankruptcy was, at the time, probably more real than anything else.
Um, so that was definitely big, big failure of putting all the eggs in one basket. And, and, and the basket had a lot of holes that I guess I didn’t. We could say I didn’t know about, but at the same time, probably I chose not to know about [00:48:00] right in, in some shape or form. And, um, that was a good lesson learned.
Another lesson was in the beginning, um, seeing people work was, um, important. Like, you know, just walk around making sure that everybody’s doing what I think they’re supposed to be doing, which is kind of micromanaging people. Um, and the productivity was never as good as it is now when delivering results is way more important than making sure that I see working.
Hmm. Um, because if you want to find something wrong, you will always find something wrong. Right. Because you’re looking for it. Yeah. But of course, if you wanna find something right, you will also find it if you’re looking for it Also. So I just, I just over years learned to, to actually look for something Right.
As opposed to something wrong. [00:49:00]
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I think the word work culture has changed, uh, now where it’s no longer a nine to five thing, it’s now a project based work system where you assign people, projects and things to do and deadlines and timelines, and basically they can do the work anytime they want. It doesn’t matter.
You don’t have to be there, you know, looking over their shoulders on, you know. Yeah. Whether, whether they’re, they’re on the computer, they’re, you know, those kind of things. As long as the, the work gets done to, uh, to, to a good quality. I think that’s what that,
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: that’s, that’s exactly correct, Sohan. Exactly.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So now I’m going to move on to our rapid fire segment. In this segment, I’m going to ask you a few quick questions, and you have to answer them, them in, uh, few words or a few sentences, uh, or one sentence. The first one is, uh, a book recommendation for entrepreneurs
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: and why My time favorite is, um, the [00:50:00] diamond cutter.
Okay. Um, so it’s about this, uh, white guy outta Utah who goes to Nepal and achieves the highest level of entitlement that the white person ever achieved. And then he comes back to New York and he builds a diamond kit in business from nothing to, I think either a hundred or 250 million strictly by applying Buddhist principles.
And through that book, you actually learn how to, uh, not only control yourself better, but also control your environment. By changing yourself. Phenomenal book. Um, so yeah, I would go with that.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. Sounds pretty interesting. I’m gonna check it out. Uh, an innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Uh, you mean how we innovate the product? No, no. Uh, [00:51:00] another,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: another innovative product or idea in e-commerce, retail or technology that you feel excited about? N not, not, not your own product, something else that you’re excited about. I
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: would say it, it’s definitely something related to AI nowadays and, and using artificial intelligence in, um, in e-commerce, definitely.
I’m not sure how yet, um, the
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: change. Change is coming. Change is coming, yes. A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or a productivity tool?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: There definitely are few, but the one I use all the time is Evernote. Um, because I can structure my to-dos, I can structure my notes, I have reference to anything and everything.
Uh, the space is huge and most [00:52:00] importantly, it syncs with my phone, my iPad, my computer, and I always have it with me. So I, I rely on that way. I would be that without my, every now
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I use, I use Evernote also. Um, a startup or business, an e-commerce, retail or tech that you think is currently doing great things.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: business,
I mean, going back to ai, it’s definitely shared. G P T. It’s, uh, it’s in a very startup stage though. It’s so huge now that, uh, it might not be treated as startup, but it definitely is. And I, and I think it’s, it’s definitely revolutionary. Yeah. It,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: it’s beyond revolutionary. Um, a peer entrepreneur business person whom you look up to or someone who inspired you,[00:53:00]
who is an
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: inspiration for you.
You know, it might sound weird, but it’s probably my mom, even though she’s not an entrepreneur, but there are certain nuggets of wisdom she gave me over the years and I applied them in my business. One of them is growing up when they wanted something that. Or poor quality or you know, just a cheap product.
She would always say, we are not rich enough to buy cheap things. Mm-hmm. And I took it to her like, I, I’m not good enough to provide you with a bad quality folder. See what I [00:54:00] mean? Um,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: a a little bit counterintuitive, I think.
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Uh, so I don’t, we are not big enough to treat a customer. Like they don’t matter.
Okay. Makes sense. So we have to make sure that every single customer gets treated as best we could. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, when I purchase things for the company, like anything we purchase, like always follows that like, We wouldn’t buy anything cheap, that, that would be short term. Like, it’s always, always tough.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I think, I think, uh, that’s true for all size businesses.
Like the, the, the day a business thinks they’re big enough to treat their customers poorly, I think that the, their business starts declining. Uh, final question. Best business advice you ever or you would give to other entrepreneurs?
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Uh, just do, the biggest thing is a lot of times people think too much.
Mm-hmm. How, why, what, just start, start doing stuff because whatever you start with is most likely not gonna be what you will end up with. But you can’t pivot unless you start with so,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Very important. Listen. Yeah, I, I hear that, uh, advice, uh, many, many times for entrepreneurs. Yeah. Well, lair, uh, those were all the questions that I had.
I know we are a little bit over time, but, uh, I want thank you so much for your time today, for sharing your story, for sharing about your business, how you got started, and all the tactic that you’re used to, to grow your business. Uh, if anybody watching this interview wants to, uh, look, look into your business, what’s the best way they can do that?
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Well, thank you again, Vladimir. Really, really appreciate your time today, and thank you so much again for joining me at Trep Talks
Vladimir Gendelman of Company Folders: Thank you for having Sushant.
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