We love a good story, and PosePrints is a great one to share with you. A mother-daughter team has combined creativity and business acumen to transform a popular traditional pastime into an online business.
There is a significant niche in the stationery business – people who don’t want something “off the shelf” where customization means a few foil-stamped words. PosePrints has applied the concept of “paper dolls” into an online service where we can create lookalike caricatures of ourselves that can then be printed on stationery, business cards, wedding invitations and a variety of other merchandise.
PosePrints was launched five years ago by a mother-daughter team, Denise Foster and Jen Harland Moss. The duo has bootstrapped their company to profitability and is now planning for significant growth into international markets and expansion to new services such as enabling customers to customize their lookalike images for their social media pages and smart phones.
Innovative companies like PosePrints continue to help the internet evolve as a creative outlet to complement popular offline pastimes like scrapbooking and paper dolls. Below is a brief Q&A with Jen and Denise where they share their entrepreneurial journey with us. They have achieved the oft-elusive five year milestone for a startup, but their journey is just beginning.
Q. Describe your “Eureka Moment”. What was the market opportunity that drove your decision to form PosePrints?
A. Jen and I had discussed starting a stationery company for years, but it was when Jen mentioned offering her look-alike caricature drawings that we had our “Eureka Moment.” We had sent off her drawings to large card companies when she was in high school, but years later realized we could create our own niche in the e-Commerce world. Once we pinpointed our business concept — offering unique, look-alike caricature products that customers can design on their own — we were set.
Q. How did you fund the company to its current state?
A. Jen and I have funded the company to its current state, and we both have other jobs which have allowed us to do this. In 2009, we entered the wholesale market with the idea of selling packaged cards. After an expensive lesson, we returned our focus to doing what PosePrints did best – allowing our online customers to create their caricatures and design personalized products.
Q. How important is planning and preparation to your company’s success?
A. PosePrints’ planning took years from conception to launch. There was no former track record we had to follow, and, so we spent many long hours planning with our webmaster exactly how the company would operate from beginning to end.
Forming relationships with valuable strategic partners was part of the plan from the beginning because we knew where our strengths and weaknesses were. So that Jen was not locked in a cage drawing 24/7, we knew a major part of the plan involved automation of the design process.
Q. How long did it take to get your idea into the market from initial concept to first customer?
A. The idea of bringing Jen’s fun and unique drawing style to the public had been a topic we had discussed for years. Once we found our first partner in 2006, a web expert to write the code that would transform our ideas into a website, it was another year before PosePrints formally launched. We were highly selective on who we would take on as our printing partner. Quality and customer service were at the top of our list of priorities. Forming a partnership with a local printing partner who would print and ship the orders took months. Sales were made within a couple days of PosePrints’ July, 2007 launch.
Q. What influence have the internet and social media had on the way you are marketing, selling and supporting your business?
A. The internet and social marketing are two of the driving forces behind the success and growth of PosePrints. The company is solely internet-based. All orders are placed through the website after the customer has co-created their own product. PosePrints has a Facebook following along with Twitter and LinkedIn. Customer support is both online and via a toll-free line.
Growing the business exponentially will heavily involve the internet and social media tools.
Q. Describe the challenges you faced as you built your customer base, including defining the customer target, establishing the right price and pricing strategy and of course, closing the first few deals.
A. The challenge to build a customer base for an e-commerce company is not easy, especially for a small, self-funded, start-up stationery company. In the beginning, we were able to define our target market fairly easily because almost all of our products were sold to women between the ages of 22 and 50. Five years later, we continue to face the challenge of spreading the PosePrints word on a national basis, and are planning the process of branching out internationally.
Establishing our price took thought and analysis because there was only one other online company that offered the kind of personalization similar to PosePrints. Because of the uniqueness of the company, PosePrints has received a fair amount of editorial coverage.
Q. What techniques have you used to establish credibility in the eyes of customers, investors, partners, personnel and the general public?
A. Our customer service is excellent and, in the five years since launch, we have received rave reviews for our products and our assistance. Jen and I are easy to reach via email.
Q. What is the most important thing people never tell you about building an early-stage company?
A. If you have a vision, and are willing to put in a lot of time without pay, great things can happen! PosePrints has survived through the downslide of the economy, when sales did drop, but we did not give up on our vision and have kept moving forward. We have proven that we are a sustainable business, and, in July, 2012, we celebrated our 5 year anniversary as a going concern.
Learn more about PosePrints at www.poseprints.com.