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An Inside Look Into Camden’s Newest Startup: Penji

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Penji

Within the developing City of Camden, there are gems popping up in their business district. We sat down with Penji’s co-founder, Johnathan Grzybowski. In this conversation, we learned about the problem with design and what Penji is doing to resolve it.

Penji is a dependable on-demand design service that helps marketing teams receive custom design at an affordable monthly cost.

How did you come up with the idea of Penji?

It’s the culmination of our journey as a design agency and our desire provide jobs for students in Camden. Penji is a product we built from the ground up to give our customers a better experience working with a designer, meanwhile we focus on training and hiring students in Camden.

We believe our platform can give customers high quality design at a set monthly cost while giving internships, jobs, and opportunities to students within our community.

 

What does Penji mean?

Let’s just say that there are a lot of hints out there in the digital universe and we will leave it up to you to decide what you think Penji means.

 

What is the problem with design today?

The main problem with design is that “pick two” stigma in business. Typically, clients want affordability, quality, and speed, but never have all three.

For example, if you’re a startup looking to expand your marketing strategies, you’re stuck scouring the internet to find a high quality and affordable designer. So then you hire that designer, but you get your affordable and quality design delivered…late. The problem here is speed.

If you’re an established company, you’ll likely hire an expensive agency to deliver high quality design on time, however you’ll be paying an arm and a leg for it. The problem here is cost.

We believe that we are in an age where we can build just about anything we put our minds to, but the greatest differentiator we have in business is design. We shatter the pick two stigma by helping marketing teams to obtain cost-effective, quality design, on time – every time.

 

What is your mission?

We strive to be a community conscious design platform that delivers an exceptional service while providing learning and job opportunities for students in underprivileged communities.

We’ve been in Camden for almost three years and have seen a complete transformation throughout the city. New businesses are coming into the city and are now opening their headquarters here in Camden. We want to set the precedent as one of the first community conscious tech startups to relocate to the city and pave the way for others to follow.

We also believe greatly in the entrepreneurship and business community as a whole. We set out to develop a product that entrepreneurs, business professionals, and marketing teams want to use.

Finding a quality designer is hard, but at Penji, we believe there are great designers hidden within our community. That’s why we provide design internships, workshops, and learning opportunities to help students learn about design and further hone their design skills.

We are allocating our resources by focusing on the future of design and it begins here in Camden. By giving resources to educate students and professionals about design, it will allow for a smarter workforce, paid internship opportunities, and help grow the local economy.

 

Can you describe your team?

One of the hardest things to do in a business is to find a reliable team that sees our vision and believes in our mission.

It starts with our core team:

Jie is the glue that brings everyone together. She’s that fiery outgoing personality that is an absolute joy to be around. She’s the person you first want to meet at a networking event, because she will set the tone of incredible people you’ll meet during the rest of your event.

Then there’s Liam, we call him our “Damn Good Designer.” Well, actually, he calls himself that, but that’s a different story. Liam first started as a young and talented designer, now he’s head of design, and sets the tone for everything that’s delivered to our clients. Liam has thorough process and focus on our quality control to make sure that when we design an item for a client, it’s met with the highest quality.

Our dark horse is Steven. The quietest person in the room and the individual with the biggest brain. He’s our problem solver and is dedicated to providing a memorable experience to our customers. What makes Steven so amazing is his ability to do all of his tasks, with little involvement from the founders.

One of the hardest workers on our team is our sales manager, Andria. If you’ve received a phone call, a cold email, or an ask for a guest post or podcast interview, it more than likely came from the focused mind of Andria. With her efforts, we’ve had the opportunity to grow as quickly as we have.

I would be remissed if I didn’t mention the efforts of our outreach specialists, Thomas. He’s the slider of all sliders of DM’s. He’s handling an exceptional campaign for cold outreach and has the ability to execute the most difficulty of tasks. Our interns are also a major asset to our success. The willingness of our team to take these individuals in as our own, and have the ability to constantly teach, is the foundation to who we are today, and the community conscious platform Penji is.

Lastly, my cofounder is the ying to my yang. We are the perfect balance and level each other out. During the entire process of creating Penji, we stuck to each other’s strengths and maintained focus. I couldn’t have done it without him.

I am grateful and honored to have such an inspiring team.

 

Who is your ideal customer?

Our ideal customers are marketing teams seeking to improve the overall quality of their marketing materials, having designs done on time – every time, and to lower their overhead.

Our clients consist of Rutgers University here in Camden, Camden County College, Cooper’s Ferry, Hardenbergh Insurance Group, Boomerang Office Furniture, just to name a few. These are organizations with large marketing/sales teams that have integrated Penji into their business with ease to better their digital products.

Then you have startups and other small businesses like Only Good Things that just started their business and need help to brand their digital imprint. Level5Wealth that has been in business for years. They are absolutely killing it, but their previous designer left a lot to be desired. Waterfront Lab that’s doing incredibly awesome things for the city of Camden. They have an event every week that needs a graphic for promotion on their social and email channels. These organizations are using Penji to help get their time back, so they can spend more time on their business.

Finally you have non-profits and other economic development organizations like Cathedral Kitchen, Kingsway Learning Center, and Waterfront Ventures. We are so proud to have these organizations as clients because we are artistically telling their story through our digital design efforts.

 

What differentiates Penji from your competitors?

We’re a monthly subscription service that starts at $349/m for 15 hours of design. Penji is a project management service that allows you and your entire marketing team to work seamlessly and efficiently with our designers and project managers. Gone are the days of going back and forth with emails and poorly marked revisions.

We wanted to make a product that is so simple and easy for our customers to use. Every piece to our backend was done with purpose. Khai, our internal design team, and our development team did a brilliant job.

As soon as you sign up you are met with a screen that allows us to understand your brand. It takes less than five minutes to complete. As soon as you’re complete with that task, you’re set to begin submitting your projects.

Once projects are submitted, your project manager and design team begins working. In under 24-48 hours you will receive the first draft of your design.  If a revision is needed, Penji’s project management service is intuitive enough for you to easily communicate your changes. A simple click of the mouse will unlock an edit section on that design for you to submit your request.

We also transparent to our clients. We bill on recurring monthly basis, which makes using Penji predictable. You’ll never have to wonder if a design is going to go over your budget. Our clients will always know the status of their project, which team member approved what, or who on their team submitted which revisions. Penji provides both transparency and control for marketing teams of all sizes.

 

What are some challenges that you faced with Penji?

Well, our first challenge was to prove that we have a viable product with a good product/market fit. We introduced the idea to our closest friends, networking groups, and cold called close to 400 local businesses to see if what we were building is a product that marketing teams want. We received a ton of feedback making it difficult at first to understand what each person wanted from the product. We continued this process for about three to four months before designing a single aspect of Penji.

Although this challenge was rather tedious, it did two things for our business:

  1. It allowed us to get feedback to create a better product.
  2. It allowed us the opportunity to get initial interest and beta users before the product launched.

Having general interests in our product was a huge lifesaver because we didn’t have to go far to get our first initial customers. We brought our contacts into our sales process. We told them what we were doing, how we were doing it, and what they needed to know about the product itself. We used things like email newsletter, blogging techniques, and even vlogging to document our process and the production of what Penji is today.

 

How do you plan on scaling?

In the beginning we needed to solve two huge issues within our business; sales and delivering design in a cost efficient and timely manner. To scale design, i’ll leave that up to my cofounder to discuss in more detail. What has made us so successful is sticking to our roles and not straying away or butting into one another’s process.

 

So then, how were you able to scale sales and get your first 100 customers?

We’re not at 100 yet, but we’re getting there! It started with documenting every single process, number, and interaction that we had with a prospect (Cold lead). We became a numbers and analytics company. Salesforce and other CRM were not cutting it for us, so we developed an internal CRM that allowed our sales team to be more efficient while allowing us to see the data in real time.

Our cold call and cold email strategies are not revolutionary by any means. We did the work that others didn’t want to do and continued to refine the process over time. If you’re curious how we are doing it, we’ve documented every single strategy and step on my personal vlog/blog. All of our scripts, templates, and internal processes are all there for the taking.

Once we had our process down, we then created a workflow and then hired accordingly. We knew who to hire and how to hire based off of our numbers. We knew that if we wanted to grow by 25% we needed to increase our efforts by hiring two additional people doing x. Because of the numbers we knew what they needed to do, how they needed to do it, and were plugged into the process.

Along the same lines of documenting, we also put an emphasis on content marketing. The vlog did an incredible job bringing more people together. It’s funny, sometimes you may not get the comments or the “likes” directly within a social media post, but people are always watching. Get your information and message out to your audience, whatever way that works best for you. Stop thinking, stop waiting, stop believing that you need this huge and expensive set up, because you don’t. I recorded every vlog on my iPhone 7 Plus. I edited on my Macbook Pro using Final Cut and occasionally used my DJI Mavic Pro for b-roll. Other than that, that’s about it. I focused all of my energy on the story.

 

Where do you see Penji five 5 years from now?

I’ll revert back to our mission, we strive to be a community conscious design platform that delivers while providing learning and job opportunities for students in underprivileged communities.

It starts right here in Camden. In five years, as our organization grows, we will expand our efforts to other cities. For us, success means that we are able to give back to our community, provide learning opportunities for others to succeed, and allow businesses  to differentiate themselves through quality design from Penji.

Business

15 Ugly Truths About Entrepreneurship Everyone Should Know Before Starting a Business

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Entrepreneurship

Becoming an entrepreneur is like taking the road less travelled. There is no map and you will always feel uncertain about your decision. If you decide to take an entrepreneurial journey, it’s going to be a bumpy one. However, nothing worth having comes without a degree of risk. Therefore you need to arm yourself by avoiding common “beginner” mistakes. You have to understand that entrepreneurship is not all sunshine and roses. There are some ugly truths that you need to know about before setting off.

1. You Can Lose Everything

A business is a financial risk. You can start a business with a small capital but eventually you need lines of credit for inventory and operations. In some cases, you might also need to take on loans to help the business grow. This means you will be taking on debt.

2. Extreme Stress

With everything riding on the line, prepare yourself to experience extreme stress. If you think exam stress is hard enough, it is nothing compared to taking the entrepreneurial path. When you start a business, everything is on your shoulders and there is nobody to pass the buck to.

3. Forget About Hanging Out

Expect to lose touch with family and friends. Becoming an entrepreneur is very demanding on your personal time especially in the beginning. There will be people in your life you will lose touch with because you will not be able to give them enough time.

4. It’s Going To Take Long

Don’t expect your business to take off overnight. Prepare yourself for sleepless nights and to work double time to achieve the results you want. In this event, you need to plan accordingly no matter how small or big the venture.

5. Regrets

Over time you will regret taking this path. This is normal especially if you see friends connecting on weekends while you work later into the night. This will make you regret leaving the comfort of your 9-5 job. But don’t worry because some of your friends will also regret taking risks.

6. Anxiety Competition

It is normal to think and worry that somebody out there is executing the same idea in a better way. Having anxiety over the competition is part and parcel of becoming an entrepreneur. Don’t let this drag you down but inspire you to work harder and become better than your competitor.

7. Other People Depend On You

You are now the employer. People now depend on you so that they can provide for their families. You will need to endure this even though you are sick, have personal things going on in your life because the business and your people are depending on you.

8. Success and Failure Will Impact Your Relationships

When you’re successful, everybody will want to work with you and be your friend. When you’re failing, it’s going to be the opposite. There will be many moments of celebration and frustration. For every friend you make, somebody will turn their back to you.

9. You’re It

Everybody is going to be dependent on you. Essentially, you are it; every responsibility will fall back on you. Being a leader means that you take this entrepreneurship responsibility and when there are problems you take the helm of the ship.

10. No Guarantee

Going to business is not a guarantee of anything. No matter how great the idea, product or team behind it; it’s still going to be the market that decides. In other words, your hard work is not a guarantee of success.

11. No Appreciation

Hard work is not only a guarantee of success it does not also guarantee appreciation. You have to remember not to expect it.

12. Success is Not Measured In Weeks

As you go along your journey, you will learn that success is not measured in weeks, months, quarters or years. While business is small, success can be measured easily. However as you go along you will realize that measuring success will take longer periods of time.

13. Your Stomach Will Twist

Entrepreneurship will make your stomach twist during unexpected situations like when you’re operating at a loss or when a supplier bails on you in the middle of a project.

14. You Will Have To Learn To Move On

Over time you will become attached to the business and cutting ties with people will be difficult. However, entrepreneurship is about adjusting and you will need to learn when you need to move on.

15. When You Fail, It Will Have Your Name On It

If you fail, people will know about it. Family and friends will know that you drove a ship and crashed. Many don’t follow the entrepreneurial road because of this thought.

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Business

Guess Measures Carbon Footprint And Energy

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Guess Measures Carbon

Climate change is one of society’s biggest threats and the American clothing brand Guess is battling this issue by performing their first carbon footprint analysis for North America. In series of analyzation, Guess measures carbon footprint in hopes of reducing harmful manufacturing. A carbon footprint amounts to the total sum of carbon dioxide and its equivalents emitted through harmful anthropogenic labor. The main source of carbon emissions are through electricity generation, transportation, domestic energy consumption, industries and agriculture.

Guess begins calculating their first carbon footprint and greenhouse gases by referencing the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Accounting Standard published by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Resources Institute. By combating humanity’s current challenges that we are facing, Guess reported their ambition to go green by cutting back scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions per square foot. Guess measures carbon in the analysis covering Scope 1 and Scope 2 by referencing the different emissions generated. Where Scope 1, their direct emission are generated from actions like chemical processing in result of building and space heaters. Meanwhile, their indirect emission, Scope 2 emissions refer to emissions generated as an outcome of purchased electricity from utilities and other energy provider, like electricity or heat.

“Through my experience leading this truly global company, I see one constant across borders: people, particularly the younger generation, are deeply concerned about the future of this planet,” Victor Herrero, Chief Executive Officer of Guess said. In embracing his concern through his work, CEO Victor Herrero continues to say that, “We aim to embrace existing solutions as well as to try new ones to address the social and environmental challenges of our time.”

The consequences that we experience is observable on the environment. Climate change strikes without notice, with harmful effects that are now in action as predicted by past scientists. Loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves are the cost of climate change. Upon this data, Guess measures carbon footprint and their energy to encourage more companies in stepping up to go green.

Guess reported the total carbon footprint in 2014 for North America to be 34,461 metric tons CO2e. With electricity consumption being the highest overall impact on carbon footprint and is heavily reliable for 97% of total emissions. By changing their ways, Guess reported its overall carbon dioxide equivalent from all types of greenhouse gas emissions, declined by 2 percent between its fiscal year ended in January 2016 and the 12 months ended in January 2017.

Predominantly due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities, scientists have shared their predictions that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades. We have a long way to come to fix the problem that we have caused, but companies like Guess are a step closer to changing that.

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Business

Tips On How To Manage An Online Business

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Business Online

Having the right e-commerce site can make shipping and tracking your inventory easier. IT is constantly changing and it is important to have a secured site to make sure your customer’s data is safe. Following these steps will seem daunting at first, but remember that success will come if you keep pushing towards your goals. America was built by small business owners and with faith, you can have a profitable online business.

Determining your target audience.

The first step in opening an online business is determining who will be your target audience.  It is important to research your competition online and find out who will be buying your products. There is a lot of competition online, so you have to find a way to stand out. I suggest coming up with a unique business name or signature product. Separating yourself from the rest of other online businesses is important to succeed long term.

You also have to decide if you want to sell a product or provide a service. Once you have identified your business model, you will need to come up with the terms of your business. I suggest seeking legal advice, so you can protect your company. It will need to be clear to your customers who you are as a business and what service you provide. It is also important to outline how you will provide customer service and solve any problems that arise.

Selecting the products you want to sell or determining which services you want to offer.

Before you start selling products or offering services, it is important to get registered with the state you are in. There are many advantages of becoming an LLC or incorporating your company. I recommend researching the options that are available in your state. It is important to protect your brand and make your customers trust you as a business owner.

In order to succeed as an online business, you need to have a strong vendor list. Being a licensed company makes more vendors’ want to work with you. Once you have added companies to your vendor list, you need to decide how you want to market your business. You can either hire a SEO company, marketing firm, or you can learn how to do it yourself. There are hundreds of free online tutorials on how to market your company for free on social media sites and YouTube. You can also use Google AdWords and Adsense to help promote your business. There are also several apps that can help you manage your social media sites as well.

Making sure your e-commerce site is effective.

I suggest hiring a website developer or technology company to build your site. There are several user friendly e-commerce sites that are very easy to set-up yourself. Having the right IT support to very important, because they can quickly resolve any issues that may arise.

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