Joe Fischer founded Greetabl not just to disrupt the multi-billion dollar greeting card industry, but also to push the industry itself toward the future. His company offers modern solutions to the old problem of recycling and sending out greeting cards the recipients hardly ever read. Since more people are also turning toward virtual greetings, he realized the industry badly needed an injection of fresh ideas.
At Greetabl, buyers can “upload personal photos and craft a special message” for a personalized box “so loved ones can unfold and proudly display it at work, home, or anywhere happiness is welcome.” Joe Fischer’s innovation practically reinvented the greeting card industry. Who displays greeting cards around, anyway? But with Greetabl, now you can. The Greetabl box measures 3×3 inches, with enough space for you to write a greeting message, and which also comes with items “like bath bombs, mini flasks, gift cards.”
With his company, Joe Fischer wanted “to make cards cool again.” Now that Greetabl has sent out a million gifts, Joe and co-founder Zoê Scharf may have accomplished exactly that. They have surely made a buzz in an industry that needed a shock.
So far, Joe Fischer and Greetabl have been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, Buzzfeed, and The Oprah Magazine. If you’re running out of gift ideas for your loved ones, you’ll never go wrong with a Greetabl box.
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Joe Fischer: There are a lot of ways someone can send a gift these days, so standing apart from the crowd is very important. For one, we have a very differentiated product — there’s nothing like it on the market, and our patented design creates a very memorable experience, and has delighted customers all across North America.
Secondly, we make the process of giving personalized gifts both easy and fun! We have just the right amount of personalization — three photos and a message — and our mix and match gift and design options allow you to build the perfect gift for your recipient and the occasion.
Thirdly, we focus on what we call the Gifting Gap — those times when a greeting card isn’t enough, but other options are too expensive, too time consuming, and not very personal. Rather than focus on how much we can get you to spend on a gift like most retailers, we’ve created an outstanding product that helps you feel closer to the people who matter in your life that starts at less than $20.
Finally, we are obsessed with customer experience. We ship our photo-customized gifts at an industry-leading 1–2 business day turnaround, and we invest heavily in our Customer Happiness team. Our first response time to customer inquiries is three times faster than the industry average. You will not find better customer service than what you experience with Greetabl.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Joe Fischer: First, surround yourself with a team you can trust. Investing in the right people will empower you to focus on the things you are uniquely suited for and to let go of the things you aren’t. I’ve found that having the right team can make a huge difference for my own balance and clarity.
Second, you have to be able to move on quickly when things don’t work out to plan. It’s important to understand what went wrong and learn from mistakes, of course, but if you spend too much time dwelling on the past you’ll miss opportunities to improve and you’ll get burned out a lot faster. Not everything is going to work; quickly let go of the things that don’t and start trying the next thing.
Finally, make time for the things that matter outside of your business. I’m a husband and a father now, and making time for my family is absolutely critical to avoiding burnout. When I prioritize stepping away from work, I always come back with more clarity and creativity.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Joe Fischer: There’s not one particular person; there are many, many people for whom I am exceptionally grateful — and without whom, Greetabl would not exist. My co-founder, Zoë, is an obvious one. We’ve been through a lot together from the very beginning. My wife, Sara, has been so incredibly supportive on this journey — and it’s not easy being the spouse of a founder. Of course, our investors have made so much of this possible as well as the incredible partners we work with on a daily basis. And there have been countless mentors and advisors who have spent time with me when I needed it, including the amazing folks in the Pipeline Entrepreneurs family.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
Joe Fischer: We have been so focused on taking care of our customers and our team members that I’m probably not the best person to opine on what other companies are doing outside the obvious things like making and selling COVID-related products.
For us, outside of the extra-long days (especially for our amazing Customer Happiness team) one big initiative we accelerated due to the pandemic was launching our Platform Partner program. This program enables small businesses and local makers who are a good fit for the Greetabl platform to get their approved gift products online and in front of millions of potential new customers in record time and at absolutely no cost to them. This program has helped so many amazing makers across the country, and we are really proud to be partnering with such creative and hard-working people business owners.
Jerome Knyszewski: Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Joe Fischer: This question has a very simple answer that is extraordinarily difficult to execute: don’t compete on price.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Joe Fischer: It’s been an interesting year or so in the DTC e-commerce space with so many high flying brands coming undone in one way or another. I think it’s really easy to look at the companies who are lionized in the media and think “let’s do what they’re doing here” or “they just tried this tactic, it must be working for them” whereas the reality of what’s going on behind the scenes could be very, very different.
The challenge is to be laser-focused on your customer and not let other things distract you. There are really only a handful of questions you need to consistently ask yourself and most of them revolve around your customer: acquisition, retention, qualitative factors, lifetime value, etc.
But, in reality, first-time CEO’s are first-time CEO’s, and some mistakes need to be made for oneself. Just be sure to learn from them and move on.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Joe Fischer: It’s 100% building the team. There’s so much “sizzle” in product, marketing, and technology, but what really matters is the people who are actually making things happen. Human beings are complex and dynamic, and finding (and recognizing!) the right people who are aligned with your mission and can help get you there is incredibly difficult.
I am so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by an amazing team, and it is, without a doubt, the most important part of running a successful company.
Jerome Knyszewski: One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?
Joe Fischer: Most importantly, respond to every review! I know it sounds tedious, but our team responds to every single review we get — whether it’s good or bad. This gives us one extra touchpoint between the brand and the consumer, and we also believe it’s just the right thing to do. When someone has taken the time and energy to give you feedback on your business they deserve some response to thank them for helping you grow. One other benefit of replying to reviews publicly is other potential customers will see your responses and will be able to tell how far you went to try to take care of the person who left the negative feedback.
The other thing we do is try to make things right for the customer. Our policy is “Love it or the next one’s on us,” and we really mean it! Even if we believe we did everything we possibly could for the customer, we will still give them their next order free if they aren’t completely satisfied.
Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Joe Fischer: One thing I’m very passionate about outside of Greetabl is our food system. In many ways, we have lost touch with the wisdom of prior generations in favor of a concentrated, industrial system where producers’ and consumers’ interests are not aligned. There is tremendous value in the high quality, locally-raised food that goes beyond nutrition alone. The pandemic exposed major flaws in the U.S. food system, and there are some incredibly smart and dedicated people working to generate awareness and help solve this very serious problem. Unfortunately, there is also a lack of understanding and a lot of misinformation out there as well.
Since these topics have become almost like religion, the movement I wish I could start would simply be one of mutual respect, openness, and dialogue…because it will take this to solve these issues, and every single person in our country would benefit from a more reliable and nutritious food system.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Joe Fischer: Follow @greetabl on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or find us on LinkedIn.
If you’re excited about what we’re doing, check our open positions here.
If you want to connect with me personally, tweet me @thejoefischer.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!