Teja Edara, entrepreneur and UBC MBA student, sits down to talk with us about the foundation of Just Greet in Vancouver, BC. We follow his journey from concept to creation and explore challenges and lessons along the way.
Tell us about your business
Just Greet is an online platform that offers premium greeting cards designed by local artists. Our cards, and even our envelopes, are made of recycled paper. We basically follow a crowd-sourced model where designers get royalties on each card sold. Our value proposition goes beyond sending out a physical greeting card. For example, if you want to send a birthday card to a friend:
- You come to our site
- You pick a card
- You add the message and specify the address
- At checkout we give you the option to send a gift from one of our brand partners, such as a free yoga session or free driving minutes.
Most of these gifts are completely free, but in some cases it could be a discount such as get $20 off when purchasing $100. Adding a gift is completely optional and free of charge. You only pay for the card that is $5 plus postage, a price at least 20% cheaper than that of other recycled-paper cards.
Once you have selected everything, we print out the card and a real person will handwrite your message. We hire calligraphy artists to actually write these messages. In this way, Just Greet brings together the three sides of the market: designers, brands, and users.
For our brand partners, we provide a much better alternative to direct marketing. Instead of a brand directly reaching out to you, a friend or family member who knows that you like or might like a certain brand sends you a greeting card with a gift voucher inside. It’s a totally different scenario.
With Just Greet you can send a card anywhere in the world just paying for the additional postage charges. We are only working with Canadian artists with 80% of them being from Vancouver. At the moment, we have signed up 10 to 12 artists and we offer about 100 designs. We add artists and brand partners on a rolling basis. So far, we have 7 brand partners.
Last August, we did a pre-seed financing round for $150,000 from prominent angel investors in town such as Varshney Capital Corp and VancityBuzz. Our goal is to get some traction and do another financing round in March so we can add some cool features. We want to develop a mobile app so users can send a card from their phone and designers and brands can have a login to submit their offers online. Even our gift vouchers would be digital. We want Just Greet to be as tech advanced as possible.
We are launching the platform in a couple of weeks, definitely before the end of November. We want to be ready for Christmas as that is the biggest market for greeting cards.
How did you come up with this business idea?
This is actually my third startup. I am always looking into ideas that are pretty unique, more disruptive like Blue Ocean startup ideas. Greeting cards is a huge market and a really good one if you can differentiate your product enough.
We have a mandate of sharing love and spreading joy. There are certain moments in everyone’s life when sending a greeting card is a great choice. People still like physical cards and recycled ones are less than 1% of the greeting card market even today. Our goal is to push this market in the next three years and get people to buy more recycled cards.
I initially wanted to make physical greeting cards free of cost. Later, after doing some market research, I understood better what could resonate with customers. We did a soft launch in February and we got a lot of feedback from users. In this way, I understood that the original idea was not the best for this market and we adjusted the service to what it is today.
How did you go about understanding the potential and market for your business idea? Which were/are your most useful market research tools?
We started with secondary market research using Google. There are many reports on the greeting card market, but we mainly used two resources: the US Greeting Cards Association and IBIS report for the Canadian market. It’s actually surprising how big the market is. People don’t really talk about it, but it’s double the global music industry market, about USD 30 billion globally. In the US, 3.5 billion cards were sold last year and 6 billion cards if we consider as well the B2B segment.
We also did market research in Vancouver with a professional agency- Lux Insights and understood then that people still like physical greeting cards –60 to 70% of people said they would like to use Just Greet. This was a very aggressive decision for us since startups don’t usually spend money in market research.
As MBAs we can always do our own research, but I wanted to be 100% sure in terms of the quality of the data. The dilemma for me was to either save some money and take the risk, or spend them and use the remaining money for an effective strategy. With market research you know who your customers are, what they are looking for and how much they are willing to pay.
Teja is a serial entrepreneur with more than four years of experience in marketing, sales and management consulting. He has worked with multiple stakeholders extensively in India and the United Kingdom. Having created and operated successful ventures in outdoor advertising and e-commerce in the Indian market, he has developed great expertise in sales, strategy and customer experience in a start up environment.