Ingredients for a Catalog Startup
The desire to create something, to invent something, was Eileen Spitalny’s dream since high school. “It was in the back of my mind in college that I wanted to start a business. I worked at the entrepreneur program at USC, reviewing new business plans, and I found the prospect [of starting a business] very exciting.”
Spitalny and childhood friend David Kravetz had an idea for a business since they were kids: to sell David’s mom’s made-from-scratch brownies. They had no idea it would turn into a direct marketing business.
Fairytale Brownies—the business Spitalny and Kravetz started in 1992—celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Spitalny shares what she has learned as a founder of a catalog.
It all started with a list. In the beginning when the two friends first sold their gourmet brownies in farmers’ markets and street fairs, Spitalny says, “We always had a list, though we didn’t realize we’d use it one day to start a catalog. We just knew we wanted to be able to keep in touch with our customers.”
While it was not the original intent, that list gave Fairytale Brownies the jumping-off point for testing direct marketing. In 1994, it mailed a couple of two-color hand-sorted fliers to its list. “That’s when we knew we had something here.”
But Spitalny says she quickly realized that with food, that kind of marketing vehicle doesn’t tell the story. “We knew we needed to do a color catalog.”
Catalog creative: Never satisfied. In 1995, Fairytale Brownies created its first four-color catalog. Spitalny recalls, “A girl we grew up with did the photography. We had a beautiful picture on the front—one photo with everything in it—plus some testimonials and the story about how the business started.” It was a good first shot, but not very effective at showing off the product, Spitalny says.