My Story: Tom Bross

My Story: Tom Bross

by Tom Bross, December 2009

Inspiration (and Doubt)

When I told my father in law that I was quitting my job to start an Internet business he looked at me as if I were a side dish he hadn't ordered. I don't blame him. I had a job that paid well and the recession was just underway. Every business has a story. This is ours in a nutshell; what motivated us to make a change and take a chance, what led us to our big idea and we came to launch

About six months after moving my family up to Spokane, Washington from California, I began to wonder if I had made a terrible mistake. The job that started out so good had turned into another grind. Was I going to be one of those dads that supports his family but misses out on everything else? I found myself stuck in a very narrow category of direct response advertising. Directing daytime TV commercials for various career colleges may sound exciting (then again, it may not) but thanks to strict accrediting regulations, they're all pretty much the same. . .

"If you're like me, and you like helping people, then you'd love being a Medical Assistant. In just nine months XYZ College can prepare you for a rewarding career." Yes, that was one of mine. After about a thousand of these spots, the thrill was gone. Let's just say there's a reason why these type of low-budget commercials get spoofed on Saturday Night Live.

Fortunately my wife and I had cashed out of California at an opportune time, which left us with some capital. We began dreaming of having our own business. We wanted to reap the benefits of our hard work. We wanted to be in control of our schedules. We wanted something that made people happy and that was eco-friendly. We evaluated our talents and experience. We brainstormed outrageous ideas and then POW! In a lightning bolt of clarity we both instantaneously knew we had a winner and took the plunge.

My Perfect Business Partner: My Wife

Rene studied graphic design at San Jose State University and during her career she worked on everything from websites to boat brochures. She became a well-known digital scrapbook artist. Her work appeared in several magazines and Rene appeared in infomercials as an "industry expert" for a digital scrapbook products. Then along came our two sons and that naturally changed everything. She still managed to juggle a few freelance projects but she was a full-time Mom first.

I studied graphic design and marketing at Chico State University and worked in-house for a couple of national jewelry chains, Jelly Belly and for advertising agencies in Sacramento, Oakland and San Francisco. Along the way I established some excellent contacts in the print industry. With Rene's design background and my marketing experience, a custom photo greeting card business was the perfect match.

The other family inspiration: my mother. She was a hippie. In fact, I was this close to being named Jupiter. The point: it's one of the reasons we pursued a green business. When you grow up in an environment of bean sprouts, composting, recycling and organic gardening, you can't help but want do what's right for the planet. Rene and I really wanted to offer people a green choice when it came to custom cards. And it just so happened that this niche was unoccupied within the category.
The Big Launch

We launched in September of 2008. We sell personalized photo greeting cards for life's big events, like birth announcements, party invitations, holiday cards, save the date, wedding, and more. All of our cards are printed on 100 percent recycled FSC-certified matte card stock, and no plastics are used in our packaging.

We were determined to have a great site that made it easy to upload photos, personalize the copy and preview the finished card for customers to see. We made customer service the cornerstone of our business. We priced the cards at about the same or even less than the competition's and we committed to being as green as possible every step of the way.
According to the EPA, printing on recycled paper vs. paper manufactured with virgin fiber, produces 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution. We chose a 100% recycled paper from New Leaf Paper. Environment is a matte card stock made with 68% post consumer recovered fiber that prints beautifully. Americans will mail 2.7 billion holiday cards this year. The percentage of those cards that are recycled will continue to grow as people see the quality and learn the environmental benefits.

Our Dreams Realized

One of my wife's wishes was to have a "happy" business. Now as she personally prepares and proofs every order, she has it. We get to share some of life's most exciting moments with our customers. We see the baby boy and girl announcements, the family holiday cards, baby shower and children's birthday party invitations, the just engaged and the just moved cards. The best part is hearing back from our customers on how much they loved their cards and good it made them feel to make an eco-friendly choice.

My father in law still gives me funny looks now and then - but never when we're talking business. Now he's a big fan of

Tom submitted his story to our Share your Story contest. The contest may be ending soon, but we always want to hear your story. Email us today at

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FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)