Smart Ideas 02/04
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Think Outside the Box
What: A media
company that puts ads in unconventional places like pizza
boxes, ice bags and coffee cups
Who: Eric Cohen and Joyce Shulman of Jump Media Ltd.
Where: Water Mill, New York
When: Started in 2000
Armed with fast-forward buttons and short attention spans, consumers are becoming harder and harder to reach with conventional advertising methods. Today, marketers have to find innovative ways to interest potential customers. Enter Jump Media Ltd.: Founded by husband-and-wife team Eric Cohen, 40, and Joyce Shulman, 38, the company specializes in placing ads in nontraditional venues.
A simple pizza dinner was the inspiration for their venture. They noticed the box and, says Shulman, "It was 16 inches of available space. Here's the place to start." Realizing pizza box ads would reach a diverse and captive audience, they began the challenge of finding the right partners-and set the distribution in motion before they even approached clients.
"You have to be relentless. You have to knock on thousands of doors," says Shulman, who targets local independent pizzerias. "You have to call the same people over and over [until] they develop a comfort level with you and with your product."
After some of their pizza ad campaigns made waves nationally, the pair branched out into other nontraditional ad venues, including coffee cups, ice bags and even a luxury coach that transports well-to-do New Yorkers to the Hamptons. They've also helmed ads for companies like The Boston Beer Company, Citibank and Warner Bros. Pictures, just to name a few. With sales of about $2 million annually, the pair shows no sign of stopping their advertising revolution. "I really think the ad industry is due to reconsider the way their message is connecting with their audience," says Shulman. "It's exciting to be part of that."
Got It Covered
manufacturer of waterproof protectors for medical casts and IV
Who: David Reynolds and Marty Ceccarelli of Mar-Von LLC
When: Started in 1999
David Reynolds, a contractor by trade, had broken his arm while remodeling a bathroom in 1998. Keeping the cast dry proved to be very difficult, and when he tried looking around for a product to help, he was unable to find anything that was both effective and affordable. That's when the light bulb went on.
After doing a patent search for such a product and finding nothing, Reynolds, 37, an inventor since childhood, designed a plastic covering with an adjustable fastening mechanism on one end to keep arm and leg casts dry. He enlisted the help of his longtime friend and fellow contractor, Marty Ceccarelli, 38, to build Mar-Von LLC and the brand.
But even with their innovative product in hand, it wasn't easy to get it on store shelves. "I just started going to the local drugstores," says Reynolds. "I had a real hard time. Most people don't want to give you the time of day."
Determined to succeed, Reynolds and Ceccarelli continued to develop the Cast Cover and sales strategies for two years, and eventually landed their product on the shelves of Albertson's/Osco Drug and 12 local Walgreens stores. The reaction from consumers spoke volumes-their product was a fast seller.
Today, the pair sells not only Cast Covers, but also the waterproof Shower Sleeve-open on both ends, they are designed for patients with IVs. Today, the products are sold via wholesalers and distributors and on their Web site (www.showersleeve.com). Reynolds, who expects $2 million in annual sales by the end of 2004, has this advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs: "I had a vision of inventing something, [but] it didn't happen overnight. Don't give up, and don't take no for an answer."
Music to His Ears
subscription service for record companies to track how many people
are sharing music in P2P (peer-to-peer) networks
Who: Michael Guy of WebSpins.com
Where: Encino, California
When: Started in 2000
People didn't think it was possible, but Michael Guy wrote a program that can track how many times a song is traded on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks such as Kazaa Media Desktop or Napster. He knew this information would be highly valued by record industry execs and radio program directors, so Guy created a Web subscription service they can use to download information about the most popular content on P2P networks. Not only can WebSpins.com quantify the rampant song-trading, but the service also provides valuable research into what consumers want.
On a recent trip to a radio industry convention, Guy, 42, saw just how popular his service had become. "I was stopped by dozens of radio programmers and artist managers from around the country, and kind of felt a little like a rock star," he recalls. "I knew at that point my message was getting out, and it was well-received." It's been so well-received, in fact, that 2003 sales hit about $2 million.
On a Shoestring
Glamorous makeup line
Who: Galit Strugano of girlactik
Where: Los Angeles
When: Started in 1999
How much: $1,800
Galit Strugano saw stars when she and her mother watched the 1999 Academy Awards show, but it wasn't just the celebrities. "All the stars were wearing sparkle [eye makeup] down the red carpet, and it looked sophisticated and flawless," recalls Strugano, 28. Back then, most women applied the glitter to a makeshift base of ChapStick or Vaseline on the eyelid-often with disastrous results-so Strugano's mother encouraged her to develop something better. Strugano, a makeup artist/food server, started girlactik with tip money she had saved.
Strugano's mother persuaded a chemist they found through the Yellow Pages to not only take a chance on the young entrepreneur, but also to waive the expensive lab fees, charging only what Strugano could afford. Turned away by packaging companies, she bought jelly bean jars from a craft store, and her mother's friend decorated the caps. Working on her own from home, Strugano was able to place her sparkle sets on consignment at several trendy stores in the Los Angeles area to see what kind of clientele would be attracted to the product. Each store sold out of girlactik in the first month.
She's since expanded the redesigned product line to include brushes, mascara, lip gloss, shimmering eye and body powder, and more. Today, celebrities like Ali Landry and Kelly Osborne are glowing with girlactik, which projects 2004 sales of $500,000 to $600,000. Sold in boutiques and beauty stores across the country and online at www.girlactik.com, Strugano has now signed a deal to offer girlactik products in Japan. Even with little start-up capital, she's succeeded in reaching for the stars.