Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?
J-Dig: The decision to be an entrepreneur came secondary to us having an idea we liked. We all had years of experience working for big corporations, and we were intimately aware of how that grind hits your mind and your belly (too many treats in the break room it’s someone’s birthday every other day!). Those experiences made entrepreneurship look ever more enticing. We also didn’t want to be hustling just to make a check – we wanted to create something.
Did you write a business plan? Do you have business training?
J-Dig: Not really – we made business notes, but I’m not sure it would all add up to a plan. At first, all of our efforts were task-oriented to lift the company off the ground (filing paperwork, figuring out all the odd-and-ends to having a sellable product, and preparing for the NSS in 2008). We’re still in the process of officially fleshing out a bonafide plan, but we now pull back from the day-to-day operation to look at the big picture with much more regularity. We all have limited to no business training. Peter saw a Jim Cramer interview once if that counts.
Why did you decide on a family business? What are the positives and negatives of owning a family run business?
J-Dig: The brothers of the company grew up sharing a room and a pair of trundle beds. This training ground of close-quarters and minimal conflict provided the perfect primer for life in an office. The decision to start the business relied more heavily on the fact that our skills all complemented one another, as opposed to choosing to start because we were simply related. One positive is our ability to be brutally honest with each other when it’s needed (you’re being lazy OR you look fat in that, etc). The main negative is that it is difficult to separate work from the family relationship. Sometimes it’d be nice to just be brothers or husband and wife or brother and sister-in-law, but we’re intrinsically J-Diggers all the time.
Do you exhibit at the Stationery Show? Why?
J-Dig: Yes, but we missed this last year because of the poorly timed arrival of Josh’s first child (sweet Isabel). We looked for a union doctor to do a live birth at the Javits during the show, but… The previous year’s living room themed booth proved to be pretty memorable. The NSS is great for marketing and visibility.
What impact did winning a Louie award have on your business?
J-Dig: Legitimacy and moderate fame. When we won our first Louie, we were still small in regards to how many cards we had (somewhere around 40), so the familiarity of most retailers to the award was a nice opening bit. As for the fame, we had a story run in our hometown paper about the award, and Cathy got recognized at the grocery store!
How long did it take before you could pay yourself a salary (100% J-Dig)?
J-Dig: J-Dig Cards refers to any payment doled out to employees as a stipend, not a salary. Salary insinuates payment at regular intervals. Luckily, our stipends have become more frequent. That took probably 3 years, which aligned with how long it took before any of us could go full-time with J-Dig. We started the company on the weekends while employed elsewhere, so that increased the length of time it took to reap rewards.
What do you enjoy most about business? (No arty stuff.)
J-Dig: Drinking coffee. Aging reports. Rap Mondays. Shirtless Fridays. Making so many people happy. Moving Paper!
If you could change something about the greeting card industry, what would it be?
J-Dig: Some retailers (and consumers) have a tendency to cast blanket judgments on an entire line based on a couple racy designs. Our cards are probably 85% mild and 15% saucy. We used to hear that our line was too risqué, but the actual offerings don’t match the preconception. We will concede though that “Balls to the Wall” probably leaves a stronger mental imprint than “Thank You for Being a Friend”.
Do you have a mentor in the industry?
J-Dig: There are certain people that have pulled us along, but not a true mentor. A mentor suggests consistent shepherding. We have, however, benefited from the occasional adviser making sure the wolves don’t eat us, and we’re thankful for that.
Who are the people in the industry that have given you the best advice?
J-Dig: Reps primarily and a handful of retailers. The reps get to see a bigger swath of the industry, so they are generally a good barometer for what will do well. We’ve had some retailers make suggestions about our product, and we have happily acquiesced to those requests.
Who are your favorite people in the stationery world? (Friends, buddies that you met because you are in this business.)
J-Dig: We feel fortunate to have come up in the industry with a small peer group – Stacey (and Steve) from Hard Cards, Sean & Ian from Bald Guy, and Joel & Lauren from Old Tom Foolery. We look forward to reunionizing with them each May in New York and look to them for occasional support. You also never forget your firsts – Bev at PULP was our first retailer and Meryl Hooker was our first rep – and they’re still on our list of favorites.
What is your current best seller?
J-Dig: The card moving the fastest right now is from our newest release. The cover shows a myriad of S&M accessories (whips, cuffs, gag ball, restraints, laced up boots with long-ass heels), and the inside reads: You dominate. Happy birthday! People tell us, “It’s on the chain!”
If you owned a shop that exclusively stocked humorous greeting cards, which lines would you carry?
J-Dig: Bald Guy Greetings, Hard Cards, Old Tom Foolery, MikWright, Kiwi Tree (RIP) and of course, J-Dig Cards. :)