Direct Mail And How I Got In The Business

I did not start out to be in the Direct Mail business.  I did not find the Direct Mail business, it found me.  Actually, I started out in life wanting to be a nurse and actually went to nursing school (that is what we called it in the 1960 era).  Oops, I am telling my age but I digress.  You may find this hard to believe but in the 60’s you could not be married and remain in nursing school.  I was in love (still am, working on 47 years of marriage this year) with my high school sweetheart, so we got married and kept it a secret.  We even went to a nearby county so that the announcement would not appear in the paper.  As you can imagine, my living in the dorm and Ken at home was not an ideal situation so I left nursing school and Ken and I moved to Florida where the space program was going strong and jobs were plentiful. I worked for Pan American Airlines for 5 years until our first child came along.  We eventually moved back to Knoxville, had our second child and when she was in school, I decided to go back to work.  My last job before joining Ken in the printing business was Vice President of a local Toyota dealership.  With two daughters in college, I took the plunge to join Ken full time in our own business.  I had a quotation from Fredrick Wilcox that I carried in my billfold (still do). “Progress always involves risk, you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first”. It took me several months to leave that safe job to go into the unknown.  I borrowed $20,000 and put it in the bank, just in case.  To pay for little things such as tuition, mortgage , food etc.,  if I did not make it full time with our business. I never used that money.

So here I am out selling printing, which at the time, I knew nothing about but that did not stop a seasoned salesperson.  I just had to become familar with the product.  An advertising executive,  that I am acquainted with,  told me that I had learned the printing business faster than anyone he had ever seen.  Well, he had never seen anyone with as much motivation as me.  Two kids in college, mortgage, get the picture. 

I am getting to the mailing business part now.  A large aluminum company had moved their marketing and communication business from Pittsburg to Knoxville and I was lucky enough to start doing printing for them.  They knew that I am  from this area (Knoxville, TN) so when they wanted to know where they could purchase a product or service, they would ask me.  One day,  they ask who stores things and mails them out.  That one I did not know.  I would later find out that the terminology is fulfillment, but hey, I wasn’t in the that business so I did not know.  The next thing that they said was what got me in the mailing business. “We have money to spend and no one in town is willing to do it”.  O.K. remember that I am new in the business, two kids in college and hungry.  I almost felt like shouting, I will, I will but I wanted to go to Pittsburg and see what the company who has been doing fulfillment was all about.  I visited  the company in Pittsburg, with their blessings, and found  that they were doing what we do now, which is graphic design, printing, mailing and fulfillment at one location.  I came home, rented a warehouse and moved their literature fulfillment into the warehouse.  After seeing the Pittsburg company, I told Ken we need to be in the mailing business and start a graphic design department.  I thought it would create a niche that would  set us apart from other printers. That was in 1991 and we have been in the mailing business ever since.  We no longer warehouse literature but we continue to handle fulfillment projects. 

Mailing and printing have been a good fit for us as they compliment each other.  Throw in  graphic design and it is a turn key solution for direct mail.  You know, in looking back, had I known how much there is to learn about mailing I probably would have been scared to death but they say that fools rush in where angels dare to tread.  Have you ever taken a look at the United States Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual?  It is about 4 inches thick and lawyers have nothing on them when it comes to writing things that are hard to understand.  Speaking of lawyers, that is what my daughters became.  I think they got tired of the printing business when they were in high school and college. When they learned how to drive, they became the delivery person and other very uninteresting things such as collating booklets etc.

With really good staff, it has been a lot of fun and we have gone from knowing nothing about mailing 18 years ago, to giving seminars about how to do direct mail correctly.  Doing it correctly is what it is all about. Would I go into the mailing business again?  Absolutely, but sooner.

Leave a Reply