Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
Shopping in CVS for an anniversary card for his wife, Homan couldn’t find anything to his satisfaction and found the whole experience “unpleasant.” With some time on his hands and motivation to try something new, he launched PaperCardShop.com in December 2011 with the hope of helping people avoid the same experience.
Since the site launched, Homan said he’s “having trouble finding traction” in the market. He hopes to soon raise money from investors to launch a marketing campaign, putting his company on sites like Angel.co. Eventually, he said, he believes his site has the ability to dominate the market.
“The greeting card market is about $7.5 billion,” Homan said. Most card sellers “have chosen not to sell their cards online. We’re the only general purpose online greeting card store. That’s pretty odd.”
PaperCardShop’s key is a patent for Homan’s browsing platform, InstaView. The website displays each card’s front and inside as a user’s cursor drags over the card. Each image is of the actual hard copy of the card, photographed by Yorktown High School graduate J.P. Tribby.
“People have been selling greeting cards the same way for 100 years,” Homan said. “With innovation, you generally think of new products like an iPhone, but there’s also innovation in product presentation. With InstaView, people could save millions of hours shopping for cards.”
Homan worked in advertising in Chicago before moving to Virginia and starting Flar Graphics, a print and poster store that once had three locations around the D.C. area. Homan sold Flar Graphics about 20 years ago, he said, and hadn’t started a new venture since.
“I was itching to do something instead of just trading stocks,” he said. “It just sort of bothered me that such an inefficient market existed for greeting cards.”
In 2010, he made the decision to try to solve the online card market. He set about looking for web developers, which is what he called the hardest part of the process. Developers “are kind of like prima donnas,” he said, and many of them weren’t open to changes he suggested.
While he was looking for developers, he was contacting artists across the country, buying cards for the site. Homan said he “cherry picks” the best cards from independent publishers, trying to find a wide range and variety. He relied on his own judgment for many of the cards, but was sure to ask the artists which ones sold best, and ask friends and family members their thoughts.
He eventually found a web developer, with whom he created the InstaView system. Homan works largely out of his home and has piles of boxes of greeting cards in his basement, which he ships himself.
Because the greeting card business has low overhead, Homan said he “can hang on indefinitely” until traffic on the website — and with it, sales — picks up.
“It’s an untapped e-commerce opportunity,” he said. “It’s one of the most profitable e-commerce niches, and there’s no competition. The challenge is to change consumer buying behavior in a low-involvement product.”
If Homan can get enough people to think about buying greeting cards online, instead of sifting through the racks in stores, he thinks PaperCardShop can “become the dominant player in the market.”
“We have a great proposition for consumers,” he said. “The market needs to move online. Eventually, that’s the way the market is going to go, it’s just a question of when.”
Photo (bottom) courtesy Glen Homan
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The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village