Profile of Success: Leapfrogging His Way Straight to the Top
This month we profile Jason Blake, the 31-year-old founder/president of the The Pond Guy, a catalog/multichannel retailer of pond, lake and water garden supplies.
Catalog Success: How did you get started in the business?
Jason Blake: I started the company while I was in high school. I was cleaning and servicing ponds in the neighborhood. I went away to college at Michigan State and thought that I could mail out catalogs to continue the business. So I put a catalog together my first year and sent it out to my existing customers — about 3,000 people, my initial mailing list. I printed about 20,000 catalogs my first run. I didn’t really understand the catalog business at all. I just figured I’d hand them out, and people would buy stuff.
Luckily, the service business was able to support the catalog, because I’m sure I lost money on my first catalog. But as I slowly started growing my list doing trade shows, advertising in magazines, yellow-page ads, word-of-mouth, the catalog started to grow.
A couple of years ago I met consultant Tom Beddows. He’s a circulation manager who understands cataloging. That really changed my business. It went from 6,000 customers to 25,000 customers over 12 months as I dipped into co-ops and obtained lists for the first time.
CS: What’s made The Pond Guy successful?
JB: We don’t sell on price. We obviously try to offer a good value, but having our own brands and exclusive products has really made us profitable and successful.
Our product mix is close to 60 percent our own brand, 40 percent national brand. And it continues to grow larger and larger with our own brand. We’ve started to develop new products and different ways of doing things. And with our guarantee on all our own products, that’s really helped us develop a loyal customer base.