March 10th was the launching date of a marketing campaign for a new business venture that has a unique history. Glendon grad Sepehr Radjpoust (known to his friends and colleagues as Sep) has come back to Glendon to launch a marketing campaign for his business, Snailmailme.com You could almost call it a family event, given that Sep’s new company was conceived while he was a Teaching Assistant in Glendon’s 4th-year “Marketing and Consumer Economics” course, taught by economics professor Rafael Gomez. The ‘family ties’ have been strengthened by the participation of current students in this year’s class, through a two-pronged project: a promotion and identity campaign, and a survey analyzing user feedback from Glendon ‘clients’.
Sepehr graduated with a Specialized Honours BA in Economics (Glendon 2007) with excellent marks. He was a top student, but also involved on campus in a variety of extracurricular activities. Sep was president of the Glendon Economics Club for 2 years; as president of the Glendon Ski Club (for 3 years), he learned a great deal when he was put in charge of organizing a ski outing to Quebec for 120 Glendon students. “It was an exciting learning opportunity”, says Radjpoust, “where I found out that I liked negotiating, scheduling and team-building.”
So what exactly does Snailmailme.com. do? Ironically, it uses the relatively new technology of the Internet to provide a way for people to stay in touch with friends and loved ones using the old, traditional technology of letter-mail. Born out of a growing sense of nostalgia for more meaningful ways to connect in an era increasingly dominated by impersonal electronic communications , such as e-mail and Facebook, Sep and two of his two best friends, Kian Marandi and Sascha Mojtahedi, came up with the idea of sending “snail mail” through the Internet about two years ago. They are now providing a service accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Users can compose letters, postcards, invitations and announcements on their computers. They can integrate electronic signatures, graphic elements such as photos, and even post-date the day when they want their mail to be sent. Snailmailme.com receives these orders through its website’s turn-key interface and then physically prints and mails the final product to any address in the world, using Canada Post.
“There are still many reasons why people and institutions would prefer to send a postcard or a paper invitation rather than an e-mail”, confirms Radjpoust. “And we act as a virtual distribution centre, delivering these personalized mailings to multiple recipients in the dozens, the hundreds or the thousands…what we have done with Snailmailme.com is to have made it as easy to send a letter as it is to send an e-mail.”
Snailmailme.com provides the printing services, the paper products, and delivery to the post office. They manage mailing lists and confirm receipt. They also welcome advertisers on their products, which include postcards, newsletters and their website. But it is the personal touch of your photo on the postcard or your signature on the bottom of your letter, that make this a different sort of enterprise.
Left to right: Sepehr Radjpoust and Professor Rafael Gomez
How did the new business partners get there? Gomez’ “Marketing and Consumer Economics” class was in many ways the birthplace of the new company. Gomez was aware that Radjpoust wanted to start a small business upon graduation and encouraged him to go ahead. He offered support and market analysis through the participation of this year’s class. “I have always been entrepreneurial”, confides Radjpoust. “Even as a high-school student, in the summers I would drive around town in my old beat-up Toyota selling bottles of water at football games. What Professor Gomez has taught me as my mentor was to take my entrepreneurial energy and apply it more systematically and on a bigger scale.”
Each year, Gomez chooses a real-life project for the students in this unusual course. Of course, they analyze marketing theories in the classroom, but they also have an opportunity to study a real organization, and prepare a marketing plan that might be partially or entirely implemented. The benefits are obvious to both the company and the students. Gomez suggested that Snailmailme.com should set up the project with this year’s class, providing valuable marketing information and a client source to the company, while allowing current students to work on a real-life project. The response from all sides has been hugely enthusiastic.
In fact, the class is working in groups on several such projects, including developing a branding identity for Glendon’s Extended Learning Program, an outreach program to Glendon alumni (going back 40 years), a proposal for resuscitating the now-dormant Glendon student pub, and a project for enhancing Glendon school spirit through the development of a ‘Glendonite brand’.
“I have really enjoyed my student life at Glendon, and I would like to encourage potential Glendon students to take the plunge and decide to become an active part of this wonderful community”, says Elisabeth Martins, a member of the school spirit working group, with aspirations to a future MBA. “I also want to remind current Glendon students of the great environment in which they are studying.” Her team has come up with some fresh new ideas for doing so and is ready to put them into practice.
Kyla Jones and her team, working with Extended Learning, are planning to incorporate Glendon branding features in their proposal, recognizing its usefulness in promoting a Glendon program with clear Glendon identification. These students understand how to market a product.
Snailmailme.com is obviously on the road to success. Radjpoust, who is the managing director of the business, and his partners know how to plan, how to work hard and leave no stone unturned. But Sepehr also wants to give back to the university, which has provided him with the professional skills that have made his company successful. The collaborative project with the “Marketing and Consumer Economics” class will run ‘till the end of this academic year. Participants are encouraged to apply for a summer internship with the company – another win-win for students and the business alike – offering work experience and mentorship, and receiving motivated workers with innovative ideas. Furthermore, Snailmailme Inc. is committing to donate a portion of its profits from all the business it receives from Glendon and York during its special March campaign to CARD, The Community Association for Riding for the Disabled, last year’s marketing project of Professor Gomez’ class (see the report on CARD).
“I would like to give back to my university, where I have spent the best years of my life so far”, says Radjpoust. “I plan to stay involved with Glendon, which taught me so much, in fact, taught me everything I need to know for running this business.” One way that he is giving back is by being a Glendon ambassador and going back to his high school to encourage students to enroll at Glendon. Another way is to offer some free services to York students, staff, and alumni (university-wide) who register on their special website: http://www.snailmailme.com/yorku . They are maintaining a marketing kiosk in Glendon’s dining hall throughout the month of March, enabling the community to take advantage of the many services they offer.
At one point, Radjpoust was heading for a law career. Now he is focusing his analytical mind on running a successful business and producing results for the company’s investors. “Professor Gomez has been a wonderful mentor for me and other students”, says Radjpoust. “He helps with finding jobs, internships, graduate school applications and business decisions. He is that special professor whom students hope to encounter when they come to university. I have been very lucky.”
Submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny