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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

Increase Business During The Holiday Season

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holiday season

The holidays are quickly approaching and when running a business there is plenty to do to get ready. The holiday season is a busy time for shopping, gift giving, and should be a busy time for sales in your business. This is the time to ramp up with marketing in creative ways because of the influx of sales that will be coming your way. Making sure that your business is prepped for the return of loyal customers and for any new customers that may come your way will be vital. Here are some tips to prepare your business ahead of time for the holiday season.

 

Make sure your information is up-to-date

During the holiday sales rush, especially during Black Friday and Christmas you may see an influx of new customers. In order to prepare for this you must make sure that your information is up-to-date. Your website must have accurate contact information on it and your social media must be customer appropriate. If you have an office or location is the address on the website correct? You do not want to risk losing out on potential business because of careless errors or typos that could quickly make the customer lose interest. If someone is taking time to visit your website, making yourself easily accessible takes the hassle off of the customer.

 

Holiday Promotions

It never hurts to treat your current and new customers to discounts or promotions. In fact, this is an effective way to get customers excited about what is to come and gives incentive to loyal customers to return. Find creative ways to promote the deals through social media, giveaways, or contests so that it keeps people engaged. This will help your sales and also potentially bring a new wave of clients through the doors. If you have loyalty or rewards programs, modifying them during the holidays is a good idea, even if you need to offer bigger rewards or discounts.

 

Update your website

Many people want to avoid going out to stores during the holidays and do the majority of their shopping online. This growing trend can be an advantage for you if you have a functional, optimized, updated website. If you sell products or services online you need to have your website prepared for traffic. There are a number of factors that need to be in place before your website is ready. Your images should be high quality and related to the products, your content should be optimized for SEO, and your inventory should be up to date. You should be paying close attention to what items are available so that you can quickly re-stock what sells out. Having deals for online shopping customers only is another way to present incentives to customers and bring traffic to the website.

 

Create a gift guide

Creating a gift guide is a fun way to get customers excited about your products. The holidays are the time that people are searching extensively for what to buy their loved ones. There are even holiday gift guides for pet owners! In this case, a gift guide is a great way to influence those decisions. Getting a spot in the gift guides of influential websites and blogs can be huge for your brand’s marketing campaign! In some cases you may have to pay for this promotion, but in many cases it can be earned through general interest in your product.

 

Engage on social media

It is great to have a holiday gift guide, an up-to-date website, and marketing campaign but without an audience these things are pointless. If you have a brand that has been running for awhile the rise of social media should be one of the biggest outlets that you use for promotion. Your campaign cannot market itself, and social media is key for expanding your reach in a fast way. A creative visual campaign on social media can go viral and cause your business to blow up in hours. Take advantage of the direct connection to customers and engage your base while humanizing your brand.

 

The holiday season is a festive time and can be a great time for your business if you make sure that all of these things are in order, this holiday season can be a successful one for your business. Some things to remember: reach out on social media even when you are not in promotion mode, create a visual campaign, promotions and loyalty rewards programs go a long way, and make sure your website is updated. If your holiday sales season goes great that can snowball into bigger and better things for the rest of the year and the new year.

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Lo & Sons Introduces The Hanover Deluxe Tech Backpack

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Hanover Deluxe

Every techie entrepreneur needs a backpack equipped to handle a variety of gadgets, devices, and other miscellaneous travel items. Whether you are going on a short business trip or just need something to hold your laptop, the Hanover Deluxe provides the necessary versatility. The tech backpack is lightweight and ideal for traveling.

The Deluxe is an upgrade from the original Hanover and now has more storage space, which is good for fitting in a larger laptop. The original Hanover could fit a 13” laptop, while the deluxe can accommodate up to 15”. The Deluxe can be used by men and women and is perfect for everyday traveling, or even to be used as a spacious carry-on bag during a flight. The original Hanover weighed in at 1.75lbs and the Deluxe weighs in at only 2.2lbs but has a lot more storage space. If you decide to use the Deluxe as a carry-on during a flight the unique minimalist design can not only store all of your travel necessities, but can also fit comfortably under most airline seats.

Hanover Deluxe

Lo & Sons definitely hit the mark with the creation of the Hanover Deluxe. Similar to the original, the deluxe is also eco-friendly. The bag is made from recycled poly which, in a nutshell, is a highly resistant form of polyester made from recycled plastic water bottles. The poly is reinforced in a way that it prevents any unnecessary tears or rips that can occur from excessive travel or commuting. The process to making the bag is simple, yet effective and is part of their greater mission to protect the environment. The plastic bottles are collected, then they are washed and cut into small pieces. The plastic is melted and woven into fabric, and then turned into the Hanover travel backpack. Not only is the bag durable, it is spacious, lightweight, and convenient for commuters and consistent travelers.

Hanover Deluxe

Lo & Sons is dedicated to keeping the environment clean by removing plastic bottles that are clogging up landfills at an alarming rate. Recycled poly is a fairly new fabric which has given new life to plastic bottles. The goal is to take those plastic bottles and turn them into fabric in order to lengthen the lifespan of Polyethylene Terephthalate (often known as PET), and ultimately contribute to cleaning up the Earth. Lo & Sons is using the initiative to not only create products that are eco-friendly but to also purify some of the destinations that their customers will travel to with these backpacks. Recycling plastic makes a long term difference in ways such as producing less greenhouse gas emissions, keeping animals safe by having less plastic in the ocean, and keeping landfills clear.

Though the Hanover Deluxe incorporates some new and useful features, they kept some of the features from the original. The Hanover Deluxe still has padded shoulder straps, easy to use storage pockets for water bottles and such, a key leash to keep track of your keys, and removable inserts for easy storage. The Lo & Sons website even has a new cool feature that lets you look at different heights of people to see how the bag will look according to your particular body frame. Some of the changes include outer pockets that are easy to access using one hand (perfect for people rushing to catch a train, bus, etc). The new insert in the front compartment is now gray and see-through so that you can easily view the things that you’ve packed.

The Hanover Deluxe boasts a more organizational design than the original due to the complexity of the compartments that it has. The tech backpack now has removable pouches for your items, and are easy to remove to pack for the work week. The pouches in the front are more organized than the original and include a zippable compartment for smaller items that you may need but don’t want to forget. The tech backpack is engineered where the zippers can be opened using one hand. So, if you have your hands full you can easily reach and grab your water bottle or umbrella. The zippers were also woven together in a secure fashion so that they will endure constant traveling.

The Hanover Deluxe retails for $148.00 and is available through Lo & Sons official website. If you are looking for an affordable, durable, and eco-friendly tech friendly backpack, the Hanover Deluxe is perfect! Supporting the long term mission that Lo & Sons has to clean up the Earth is not only admirable, but also solves a big problem. Recycling plastic creates less gas emissions which leads to less waste in the environment and conserves natural resources. Not only is this bag convenient for traveling, but is spacious enough to fit all of your tech related equipment and even light clothes and accessories. The backpack is a great gift for the entrepreneurs in your life who are always on the go, and need a lightweight source to transport all of their precious devices.

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Dreampad: Sleep Technology That Calms Anxiety

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Some people can fall asleep anywhere in any situation. Unfortunately for others, that is not the case. Randall Redfield, Co-Founder of Dreampad is trying to solve this problem. He appeared on Shark Tank to pitch Dreampad. Not only did he create a pillow, Randall Redfield is on a mission to create products that uses neurotechnology to improve brain function. Dreampad is a pillow that converts music into vibrations that travels internally to your inner ear at prices starting at $149. It can be set to play your favorite soothing music or even sounds of waves as it guides your mind into relaxation. You can control the volume, music, and timer through an app. They even allow you to test out the music for Dreampad so you’ll know exactly which one is right for you.

What’s fascinating is the technology and science behind the pillow. You’ve heard of devices like the Fitbit measuring your sleep, but Dreampad has a goal to put you to sleep. As stated on their Kickstarter, “The Dreampad plays music through Intrasound Technology™, which converts sound into gentle vibrations that travel directly to your inner ear. This process signals the nervous system to relax, calming your body and mind. It’s safe, comfortable for all ages, supported by research, and it works.” Not only that, but they also make the music in-house for the Dreampad, like their rhythmic breathing breathing program that mimics the sound of a wave.

There may be nights where you’re stressed about your startup, thinking about how to get your next 100 customers or how you will make your employees lives easier. The best thing to do in this situation is usually to relax so you can tackle those business details with an open mind. Startup leaders suffer from multiple levels of anxiety. The technology that Dreampad introduced is trying to cure your sleepless nights. The Dreampad pillow is scientifically proven to reduce stress and engage the nervous system’s relaxation response. So instead of sitting at your desk at home basking in the glow of your computer, take a moment to free your mind.

 

We gave the pillow a try to see if it lives up to the hype. And, IT DOES! The music is very much contained to the pillow itself, and anyone laying next to you will not be able to hear it. It works in any sleeping position, so you don’t have to alter how you sleep. We received the medium Dreampad and it was delightfully fully and comfortable. It was like sinking into a cloud while listening to beach waves. The bluetooth option is fantastic if you don’t want your phone directly next to you. The only concern was having a pillowcase to fit the pillow. Not only is there a fear of getting it dirty, but it always makes your hair staticky. However, the material feels very high-end and soft to the touch. Overall, Dreampad really helped with falling asleep and decreasing anxieties.

It may take a few tries before getting use to the Dreampad pillow, as with any pillow. Knowing your favorite type of pillow is key when choosing one that fits your comfort. Dreampad comes in slim, medium, firm, and memory foam. Because of the technology that’s inside the pillow, it cannot be machine washed, so having a pillow case for it is something to keep in mind. As the hard-working entrepreneur that you are, it’s definitely worth a try. There are many things that you need to think about during the day. Figuring out how to fall asleep should not be one of them.

dreampad

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