Quirky card company sniffs success in scents
Jo and Matt Sandford, who run their card business from their home in Sydney. Picture: Ben Rushton.
Seeking to create a lasting impression in a love letter? Yellow Postie, which sells personalised cards online, has found a way for people to mail their scents.
The smitten can swab their scent, perfume or body odour on a "smell-o-vision" card, which features an "odouriser pad", before posting it to the lucky recipient.
Yellow Postie founder Matt Sandford says, "We've had musical cards, even video cards, so why not body odour cards?"
Smells aside, Yellow Postie has had an equally quirky beginning.
Sandford had forgotten his wedding anniversary two years in a row and had requested his florist call him with a reminder.
The florist did for a while and then stopped. In March 2009, Sandford started his own card-sending service.
He and his wife Jo sold their Snap print business in Eastwood, Sydney and created e-commerce website, Yellow Postie, where people can design their own card, have it printed and posted for as little as $4.50.
People can also use their own handwriting instead of electronic fonts.
"You don't need to go to a newsagent, you can be creative and you can send cards from anywhere in the world," Sandford says.
Yellow Postie is also developing a new iPhone app on which people can take a photo, attach it to an online postcard and send it off to Yellow Postie to be printed and mailed.
"What is great is now, we too can work anywhere," says Sandford.
This has been the sea change the Sandfords wanted.
They ran their Snap print store for 30 years. Jo Sandford says, "We used to work 16 hour days and had to meet many franchise demands."
Using the money from the sale of the business, they downsized to Yellow Postie, which includes a smaller printing studio, also in Eastwood, and a team of 25. But they work mostly from home.
Although more manageable, the business is not without challenges.
Sandford says, "When we first started designing the custom-built website, we used a web-to-print engine, but it didn't work and we wasted nine months. It was very frustrating.
"And we constantly have to update our website so that it is compatible to every browser there is out there."
The business has no direct Australian competitors, but faces competition from companies such as Hallmark.
"We think we are different because we are a smaller and easier website to navigate around and our print quality is also better," Sandford says.
But the small size of the Australian online card market can also be attributable to the idea not catching on as quickly here as it has in Europe and the US.
"It is one of our hardest challenges, educating people about online. When I tell people about our service, I either get a blank look or a comment like 'Oh, it's one of those e-things is it?' ” Sandford says.
Ninety per cent of Yellow Postie's customers are women, mostly stay-home mothers. As for men, Sandford says, "Getting a man to design their own card? No chance."
But it is different in the business arena. Many business owners, male or female, find it useful linking Yellow Postie to their client relationship systems.
"It is six to eight times harder to find a new client than to keep one. When you send a personalised card, the return on investment is about 20 to 25 per cent, whereas an email is only one to three per cent," Sandford says.
"One of our clients, a novelist, sent 375 cards to her clients and sold 220 books," Jo Sandford says.
Real estate agents, in particular, have found Yellow Postie effective.
"In the old days, the receptionist has to go around all the sales managers to get their signatures for a thank you card to a customer.
"Now, the business can match digital signatures to a digital picture of the actual house sold, on a card, all from a computer," Sandford says.
The business has taken off because users are finding the website a convenient platform for sending affections, both positive and negative.
"Cards help people reach out to others because some people have trouble putting into words what they want to say," Sandford says.
She says the company even has cards for people "coming out" as gay, and those which articulate the dark side of Christmas.
The business printed about 5000 cards by the end of their first year and now makes 15,000 to 20,000 cards a month, making a profit margin of 35 per cent.
"People are over emails. They like a sense of something tangible, something they can own. What is old is new again," Sandford says.