A Chat With March's Profile, Jason Blake, founder/president, The Pond Guy, Inc.
Catalog Success: Where's your company headquartered?
Jason Blake: Marine City, Michigan. It's about 30 miles north of Detroit.
CS: When was the company founded?
JB: The company was founded in 1996.
CS: When did you begin mailing catalogs?
JB: The company started while I was in high school; I was cleaning and servicing ponds in the neighborhood. Then I went away to college at Michigan State and I thought that I could mail out catalogs and continue to do the business while I was here in East Lansing [Mich.]. So I put a catalog together my first year … sent that out to my existing customers. I didn't really understand the catalog business at all. I just figured I would hand them out and people would buy stuff.
Luckily, the service business was able to support the catalog. I probably didn't make a dollar. In fact, I'm sure I lost money on my first catalog. I slowly started growing this list doing trade shows, advertising in magazines, yellow-page ads, word-of-mouth, etc. The catalog started to grow and become more and more dominant. By the time I graduated college in 2000, it really started going. The catalog was happening a little bit. But I still wasn't getting into buying lists.
And I still didn't understand merchandising, really. I just had these products. But I did start to do my own private-label. I started branding a few of the hot products that seemed like we sold a lot of, put my own name on them, and got those out there.
In 2001 I moved basically from my parents’ basement to the location I'm in now, which is in an industrial building. We've added on to it and actually rented more space. We have a retail store, our service business still operates out of it, and then all of our shipping and catalog services are out of this building.