Breaking Into Entrepreneurship: An Interview With Tasha Rifkin of Mighty Grams
Creating custom invitations and thank you cards can be time consuming. There are so many companies out there specializing in this service, users become overwhelmed by the choices. Plus, after a while, they all start to look the same.
Enter MightyGrams.com, a custom invitation and thank you card site that places your face (or the face of a loved one) into a fun, illustrated scene. This website features creations from children’s’ book illustrators like Laura Huliska-Beith to caricature artists such as Sheena Hisiro. But most importantly, it’s unique.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Tasha Rifkin, founder of Mighty Grams, to learn more about the company, her entrepreneurship adventure, and their interest in paper airplanes.
1. How did you come up with the idea for Mighty Grams?
After our son was born, I created a calendar of his photos using a standard calendar creation site online. My step-father said, “Wouldn’t it be funny to see the baby’s face in fun scenes, like as a surfer? That would make a great calendar!”. I thought it was a great idea, and then I let it marinate for a while. Party invitations and thank you cards seemed well-suited for the concept (especially kids’ parties), since it allows customers to share with a greater number of family and friends. This also lets us reach out to that additional audience. After doing some research on competitors, we realized there wasn’t anything out there that would match our idea, nor our unique designs.
2. Who are your competitors?
Companies such as Minted and Tiny Prints offer printed invitations that are high quality, and they have a similar crowdsourced design concept. We will be holding design contests in the future, similar to what these sites do.
3. What makes you stand out from the competition?
While our competitors offer lovely invitations, our custom printed invitations are less formal and more fun. Reminiscent of the wooden ‘face in the hole’ carnival board, our products are inherently lighthearted and fun because you’re placing your face (or that of a loved one) in a humorous illustrated scene. Plus, we include a paper airplane with every order! It further emphasizes our brand’s fun-loving focus.
4. Mighty Grams is pretty new. What marketing platforms are you using to spread the word?
We have a big SEO focus right now. I think the majority of our customers will find us at the point in time when they are looking for party invitations, with search engines being the first thought in their minds.
That doesn’t mean that we’re ignoring other marketing avenues. We are offering free digital postcards on our site for people to post to Facebook because it’s fun for them and their friends, and it’s free marketing for us! We have also created short videos showcasing products and designers, which can be viewed on our website, YouTube, and other social media sites.
5. Are you involved in social media?
Yes! This is a really important marketing tool for us. You can find us on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Yelp, YouTube, Vimeo and Instagram. We plan on expanding our social reach as users migrate to and from various platforms.
6. How involved were you in the creation of your website?
I created all of the initial site requirements, and proposed user workflows and design themes for the site. We hired other folks to execute the actual screen designs, card designs and development work. My husband, Stephen, has been running the show for the last few months of development. He will be running the site, which makes complete sense since he comes with previous experience producing video, marketing websites and iPhone apps alike.
7. What were your “Top 5″ must-haves for your website?
1. Simple user experience
2. Bright, fresh design theme
3. Card designs that are humorous and unique
4. Tools where users can see what they are ordering in real time without having to wait for proofs
5. Free digital postcards, so users can test out our designs and share with friends.
8. Looking back, is there anything you would change about the entrepreneur process?
Selecting the right vendors is one of the keys to success, and I feel lucky that when I needed to hire others to complete tasks, it happened to work out well. If I were to change anything, it would be to use resources I had previous relationships with. It would have lessened the uncertainty I felt when dealing with a brand new business partner.
9. Where do you see Mighty Grams in five years?
I see us offering mobile apps and a wider variety of printed products that cover more occasions. We will begin to ship internationally when the time is right. Beyond the next year, I don’t think we can have a strict plan. As we receive consumer feedback and examine growth opportunities, we’ll need to be open to growing in different ways.
10. If you could give one piece of advice to anyone looking to branch into entrepreneurship, what would it be?
Before you start major work on your project, lay ground rules for what you must have for the initial launch versus what can wait for future enhancements. Be honest with yourself. Not every idea has to be there on Day 1 in order for you to be a success. You’re going to be asked to make compromises along the way, and laying down these rules will make it easier to concede (or push back).
Tasha Rifkin is co-founder of MightyGrams.com. She has over 14 years of experience in the IT field designing software for various financial companies. This is her first collaboration with her husband and fellow co-founder, Stephen Connolly. When she is not dreaming up new web ventures, she is dreaming up adventures with her husband, son and 15-year-old shelter dog.