Are You Ready to Start Your Own Business?

August 29th, 2017 //

Have you recently bought a greeting card at a store and noticed someone looking over your shoulder, observing your behaviors, and jotting down notes? If so, that someone might have been Fox School alum Ali Moore.

Moore, MBA ’16, is the founder of Groundswell Greetings, an online greeting card company that makes artistic, hip, forward-thinking cards with millennial consumers in mind. One of the ways Moore conducted research before launching her company was by lurking around card aisles to see what people were buying.

“I stood in the card aisle at drug and grocery stores a few times every week and watched people. It was creepy, but very anthropologic,” recalls Moore, who studied anthropology as an undergraduate. “I tried to figure out what cards people were attracted to, how they responded to different types of card, whether they flipped them over to look at the back, what price points they were attracted to, and on and on. I did a lot of research in the wild.”

If you’re looking for a birthday card with Beyoncé or Frida Kahlo on it, or a wedding card for a same-sex couple, Groundswell has what you’re looking for. Plus, they’re all designed by Philadelphia-based artists: One of Moore’s goals is to harness the creative economy and energy in Philly, and she plans to slowly increase the brand’s radius by launching in other cities.

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5. You’ve Done Your Research

“I tried to learn as much as possible about the industry and my competitors. There are a lot of designers that create gorgeous cards, but I wasn’t seeing people capitalize on that by pairing it with a super-modern, user-friendly e-commerce experience. I did a lot of research on other direct-to-consumer brands and what those experiences are like. For instance, Dollar Shave Club is one that everyone knows about. Millennials love door-to-door brands that disrupt traditional industries, and I wanted to harness that. I had read a case study in business school about American Greetings—which, along with Hallmark, is the other big card company—and it was about transitioning the industry to the digital era and how it would survive. I thought it was fascinating because I love cards, and most people I know love cards, yet there was this consumer niche that hadn’t been capitalized.”

4. You’ve Found Your Consumer

“The way we still buy greeting cards at physical stores and that they take up floor space at CVS is astonishing to me. I wanted to come up with an idea that connected fresh content that spoke more to millennials—let’s get rid of the sparkly butterflies and the cheesy poems—and make things that are more relevant to how people communicate in 2017. Everything from the look and words in the cards, to also considering, for example, how there aren’t many gay wedding cards or Ramadan cards. I wanted to attract a more diverse audience, and create a place where you could get a greeting card no matter who you are. And to this day, it blows my mind in greeting card aisles the amount of sophomoric, fart joke cards that make so much money. Who wants that? Who loves these cards? No one I know wants that card on their birthday. I’m honing in on a specific niche: people who care about recycled paper and care about a locally made product that’s really artful and playful.”

3. You’re Willing to Fail

“I was nervous about failure. I had a lot of support from friends and family, but I was nervous about risking my professional reputation. I had a great thing going with Comcast and I walked away from it, so I was worried about how this would look on a resume if I failed. I know many small businesses don’t work out, so I’m aware of all the obstacles I’m facing. I tried to weigh general advice, like that you should stay in a job for at least a few years, with the impulse of wanting to do my own thing. I was insecure about falling into these millennial stereotypes about how the grass is always greener, and that we can’t sit still, and that we’re always looking for something more exciting. Right now, I don’t have any regrets. But it’s good to talk to a lot of people and get a lot of opinions before you do it. Definitely calculate your risks. Even if I fail, I won’t regret it. Even if I go back to working for someone else, I’ve gained some really valuable knowledge.”

2. You’re Prepared to Break Rules

“In business school, everyone told us not to try to change people’s behavior, but here I am trying to do exactly that. I’m trying to get people to stop going to CVS and Walgreens to buy cards they’re disappointed in. Instead I am moving that purchase process online. I need to get people used to ordering their cards online, and that’s a big challenge. There are so many great competitors out there, so I have to constantly be thinking about how I can get people’s attention and get people excited about the brand in a new way.”

1. You’re Ready to Be Your Own Boss

“One thing that’s been really hard for me is knowing what to do every day. All of a sudden, you’re the master of your domain and you don’t have someone telling you what to do. It’s a bit paralyzing. Now that the company is operational and legally sound and I have a product and all the supply chains are in place, I wake up every day and think about how I can get a new customer. I think about how I can raise brand awareness and how I can sell a card, and there are millions of ways to answer those questions. I created a massive list of things to do—like have coffee with a new collaborator, learn more about digital advertising, talk to local press, attend an industry event—and there are literally a billion things. I try to knock five to 10 of them out every single day.”

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