Erin Newkirk, Red Stamp, Modern Correspondence Expert
I am a huge fan of Erin Newkirk. In complete transparency, I am also involved in her business. I have truly enjoyed the process of watching Red Stamp grow and getting to know Erin. Considering today is Valentines Day, I thought that featuring Erin as the women entrepreneur of the week would make absolute sense.
Erin started her life in Studio City, California. The bastion of liberalism where the majority of their family friends were Jewish. They actually celebrated Hanukkah even though they weren't Jewish but all their friends were so why celebrate Christmas. Jobs changed and the family moved to Grosse Pointe, Michigan which is uber-Conservative. Erin's mother, always the champion of etiquette, made sure Erin had stationery with her name on it from the time she was born and that she always wrote proper thank you notes, or just a note to say hi. The roots of being a modern correspondent began.
After graduating from Drake University, Erin took a job with Kaplan becoming the youngest marketing directior in the Illinois region for test prep. She decided that going to business school was the next step. She left Kaplan, applied for business school and between the time of applying and getting in she spent six months in Paris. In Paris, Erin took classes at the Sorbonne on the history of Paris and art history. Essentially learning how to speak French while learning about Paris and taking in the culture through eating, drinking and walking. An incredible experience. Off to Indiana University to get an MBA was the next stop.
Like many graduates out of business school interested in marketing, she went to work for a large branding company, Pillsbury. A year after she was there Pillsbury was bought by General Mills. Erin worked on products such as Cheerios and El Paso. The best job she had there was working with the Chief Marketing Officer of GM who was a brilliant marketer and their mission was to internally teach a marketing company how to be better marketers. Although food is the product sold by GM, their core function is how to brand and market their products. She stayed there for 8 years.
I have met many people who have worked in the environment that Erin worked in at GM. Super smart people creating a culture that is like a college world. Lots of relationships are formed and the social life really exists around the people you work with. Everyone is drinking the same Kool-Aid, per se.
Towards the end of the eight years, Erin had a kid. She has known her husband since college days. Her partner, Renee, who she worked with at GM had a three year old and a one year old. Both women were working hard and whenever they would get together they would discuss at least ten different ideas they had to start a business. Erin equates being bit by the entrepreneurial bug when she worked at GM with the CMO. They were creating a business inside a business with the ability to create something new. It was exciting and empowering. She had a passion to do something besides what she was doing and to make something her own.
The ten ideas rattling around their heads started to form into one idea, Red Stamp. Two smart women with MBAs, trying to raise a family while traveling all the time was just not adding up. They were forgetting families birthdays and wanted to create space to make their family lives stronger not weaker. Let's get off the treadmill we are on and jump on another. Both Renee and Erin realize they were on to something with Red Stamp. Remember, this was 2004 and the Internet was in a very different place. At that time birthday alarms were just beginning to happen and eVite was the only card company online. They began Red Stamp with the concept of helping people keep their calendars. Let Red Stamp write a hand written card to someone for you.
Over time the company has changed. Originally based on the calendar and then moving on to personalized products and desk accessories. This was pre-texting, pre-Twitter and pre-Facebook. They began to pick up steam as one of the few correspondence companies on the web. Then Erin met me.
Dan, who is Red Stamps CTO, recommended that Erin start reading my blog. Erin sent me an email and was interested in meeting me when she was in NYC. We had coffee and talked about Red Stamp. I liked Erin immediately but didn't really believe in the business model she was working on. Three months later she came back to NYC and had reinvented the entire business model. Impressive. I signed on.
Today you can send a text from your iPhone app (soon the android) as a great card, you can have a post card sent from Red Stamp by pushing send, you can buy stationery the old fashioned way, you can manage your party invitations for personal or corporate, you can buy the invitations and print that at home the old fashioned way or let Red Stamp do it for you. Soon there will be more to come as ecommerce will link to your correspondence. I also love that everything is personalized which represents you.
Going from a liberal environment to a conservative environment made Erin realize that etiquette is about being comfortable in the environment that you are in. It isn't only about being proper it is about being comfortable and acknowledging the moment be it a dinner party, a birthday or an event. Red Stamp has created that. In many ways, they have returned to the original concept of helping with calendar dates and personalized products. Like today, if you have a bunch of Valentines that you forgot to send, you can send them with one click and they are fun, personalized and better than just words. It is more meaningful, it is modern correspondence at its best. Go download that app.