A Passion for Pulp
Newkirk says that she felt prepared for her own corporate venture by her classes at Kelley, where she learned success "was more about how to think than how to do it. There's no set track. It was 'here's the experience, now you apply it,'" she adds.
Erin Newkirk, MBA'99, had a Wheaties-fueled rise to a top-notch marketing job at General Mills Inc., where she first rode herd on the company's breakfast brands, then its El Paso products.
But the Minneapolis resident's passion was pulp, as in paper, so with a former co-worker, she founded Red Stamp (redstamp.com), an online card and stationery store, with a soft launch in 2004.
Newkirk and her business partner, Renee Walter, both working mothers, left their corporate jobs in 2007 to devote full-time efforts to growing Red Stamp. The idea for Red Stamp was Walter's, inspired by the cards and notes she'd received from Newkirk.
The unique service and exclusive products have garnered the on-line boutique mention in local media, Money and Parenting magazines and Jean Chatzky's 2005 gift guide on NBC's "Today."
Newkirk says people have tired of cold, coded electronic correspondence and returned to the warm nature of pen and paper missives. Along with invitations and note cards, Red Stamp carries desk accessories, hounds-tooth patterned clipboards, file folders with a collage of Paris images, pens and pencils, stationery and frames. The company also offers a calendar service to help clients keep track of birthdays, anniversaries and other important dates, and a writing service for business executives who think sending a handwritten note is an important part of their communications strategy. The website proclaims the currency of communications is paper.
Leaving the comfort of the corporate world to start her own business "was scary, but we had risks identified and it was really exciting. There are days I miss a big corporation, but this is exciting and more personal. It wasn't a tough decision to make," Newkirk notes. Enabling the venture is a silent partner who provided major financing for inventory and start-up and the recent expansion of products and services.
Newkirk says that she felt prepared for her own corporate venture by her classes at Kelley, where she learned success "was more about how to think than how to do it. There's no set track. It was 'here's the experience, now you apply it,' "she adds. She grew up in Grosse Pointe, Mich., and was living in Chicago when she heard about the Kelley program. One visit and "I fell in love with the school."
The privately owned Red Stamp capitalizes on Newkirk's upbringing in Grosse Pointe, where "social cards, engraved invitations and properly worded thank-you notes" were a part of everyday etiquette. Besides Newkirk and Walter, the company has one fulltime and three part-time employees.
The partners are considering a storewithin-a-store concept, where Red Stamp would have space inside another retailer to sell products. They are exploring Minneapolis and other markets in New York and California. Although Red Stamp will always be an online enterprise, this plan could create a street presence by offering consumers an opportunity to touch and feel quality paper, something Newkirk thinks will ring up even more sales.
"I think having a passion for what you are doing is really important," she explains. "We tested out the market and found we could marry our passion with a need in the marketplace."