Ilena Di Toro has learned a lot starting her own internet based movie poster business. In this interview, she shares her valuable experiences.
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Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
At Just Movie Posters.Com I sell movie posters, both theatrical and video/DVD release posters, mini posters and movie poster postcards on my own web site and on auction web sites
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
A lot of things: I did temp work. I worked for the IRS. I've done PR for non-profit organizations in the Philadelphia area. I'm also a freelance writer/PR professional. So, you could say this is my first business, though I did, and continue do, some freelance writing before selling movie posters.
Where did you get the startup money?
Since this is home based business, I was able to use my own money and didn't need to use a lot of it. Also, I sought out things that were either free, such as web hosting, movie posters and publicity or things that were low cost, such as buying a domain name. So, I probably spend under $100 just to get started.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
It can be said that auction sites and other movie poster sellers (both internet and mail order) are my competitors, but I don't think so. There is so much movie memorabilia out there that there is room for lots of players. Of course, as with any business, there will be those who drop out and those who stay on. Not everyone can have every movie poster available, but if you are looking for a particular poster and I happen to have it, then I hope you will purchase from me, as opposed to someone else.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
Since I was selling movie posters, I thought it would be like an ATM that spits out money into my bank account. It didn't happen that way. I still had to put the work in promoting the site, getting the right kind of movie posters, making sure that the web site looked good, submitting to search engines, etc. In others words, even though this a home based Internet business, it is still work.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I advertised in a publication whose readership wasn't Internet savvy and I would have been better off not placing an ad there. I placed an ad in a movie memorabilia magazine in 2001 thinking that it would generate a lot of business. The people who responded weren't users of the Internet and they weren't interested in the posters that I had. They wanted posters from obscure, Late, Late, Late Show type of movies. I was able to find them and sell them to buyers, but doing that didn't help generate profit. It only added to my costs, so I no longer advertise in that publication.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Three things were very helpful:
- Putting PayPal buttons on my web site.
- Submitting to search engines.
- Sending out press releases to reporters, especially those who query on the Help A Reporter Out (HARO) daily email.
Having PayPal buttons makes it very convenient for buyers. They just click on button and a poster purchase done. Of course, I do accept check, money order and cashier's check and there is a form on my site that you can print out and send via snail mail with payment.
Submitting to search engines helps to get my site out there to those looking for movie posters.
Since I'm a PR professional, I send out a lot of press releases to publications and that has gotten me some press. I must mention HARO because it is a great resource for anyone looking to get their client/organization/themselves in front of reporters. It is basically an email list of reporters' queries ranging from wanting to learn more about Wall Street layoffs to wanting an expert to be interviewed about plastic surgery for teens.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
I have three pieces of advice.
First don't quit your day job. There is no guarantee that your idea will work. So, find something that you can do on your off hours and if it is successful enough for you to live off of, then quit your day job.
Second, find something that you like to do. You are going to be spending a lot of time on this, so if you enjoy it or at least find it interesting, then it won't seem like too much like work.
Third, you have to put the time in if you want this to be successful and since you first thought of it, it will be you having to do it or it won't get done. So, take a careful look at your life and if you can put the time in without causing friction with your family, then do it.
That is great advice, Llena. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us at Gaebler.com.