Larry Peck runs an interesting business out of Dunwoody, Georgia.
We asked him to tell us a little bit about his venture and how it's going.
Larry, thanks for joining us for one of our entrepreneur interviews. Tell us a little about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
YourNameUniversity.com is the country's sole manufacturer of personalized academic apparel and novelty diplomas and certificates with over 165,700 names for sale every day.
It's innovative concept focuses on offering personalized, commemorative gifts with a unique twist. We design and create items that feature the customer's last name, hometown, or favorite edgy idea as an integral component in a variety of settings: Classic Academic wear "XXX University", and personal "Property of XXXX..." items, are only the beginning.
Cool. So I could get a shirt from you that says "Gaebler University"? That's awesome. So, how long have you been at it? When did you start the business?
YourNameUniversity.com was launched in March 2004. We've been at it for over four years now.
What were you doing before this?
Before YourNameUniversity.com, I ran singles events in the Atlanta area and had a singles dating web site. YourNameUniversity.com is my second business.
Sounds like you probably had to invest in creating a great site. Where did you get the startup money?
I paid for the development of the site with my own savings.
Is this a competitive space?
We compete with Alumini Originals, AlumniWare, and a couple other minor sites.
I compete against them by offering more names and products for sale. Our Web site also consistently appears higher in search engines due to our domain name and key words we use throughout the site. We also have a high number of sites linked to us from affiliates and employee discount programs.
Ironically, Alumni Originals seems to be giving us free advertising. They promote their business using customized post cards. A lot of people seem to lose or throw out the post cards and then go looking for the company using phrases such as "your name university shirts" or "personalized university shirts." We come up at the top of those search results and the people buy from us instead.
Sounds like you are making good use of the search engines. So, how has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
The only thing has happened differently is that I expected to be more successful sooner, but some of the marketing channels that I used didn't pan out. But you just keep on plugging away until you find something that works!
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I had come up with the idea to participate in employee discount programs sooner. I also wish I hadn't wasted money on advertising programs that didn't result in any sales.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Sending out press releases and participating in employee discount programs has been very effective for us.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Do your homework. Research your competition and find and exploit their weaknesses. Develop a comprehensive marketing and promotion plan.
Good advice. Knowing and analyzing the competition is so important. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, Larry, and good luck in growing your business.