Momentum. It's a precious commodity, especially to a new business trying to reach the ultimate quantifiable measure of success: profitability.
Precious, and not easy to sustain. So from time to time, I'll be providing momentum updates on start-ups I have previously written about. For all of you trying to keep a new business going, consider this inspiration to keep at it.
When I wrote a year ago about this Wilmington-based car-wrapping media company trying to upend the way that businesses market to consumers, it had just surpassed in the first month of 2016 its total revenue of $210,000 for 2015.
The latter was the first year founders Mac Nagaswami and Greg Star, both in their mid-20s and then-recent graduates of the University of Delaware, could devote themselves full time to the business Nagaswami started in 2013, when he was still in school.
While not providing specifics on Carvertise's total revenue for 2016, Nagaswami said it "was five times what it was in 2015." That would put the total over $1 million. The company, recently profitable, projects 2017 revenue to be "at least two to three times what we did in 2016," he said.
He attributed the growth to identifying niche industries that have proved most receptive to an advertising alternative to billboards, radio spots, newspapers, and social media: higher education, health care, and government.
"We're able to target spaces where other mediums can't reach," Nagaswami said of Carvertise's fleet — the private cars of ordinary people, who get paid a flat rate of $100 a month for their normal driving, albeit with their vehicles custom-wrapped.
In addition to having their marketing messages rolling through neighborhood streets and parked in shopping center lots and office complexes, Carvertise clients get technology-based return-on-investment feedback. Global positioning systems installed in each Carvertise driver's vehicle, overlaid with data on traffic counts, the rate of speed of that traffic, and population density in the areas where the drivers are traveling, give clients an idea of how many people actually saw their advertising.
A goal for 2017 is to serve national companies. Carvertise took on its first multimarket campaign last fall, helping Amazon recruit warehouse workers for the holiday season in Harrisburg; Dover, Del.; Cincinnati; Indianapolis; Minneapolis; and Louisville, Ky.
Also this year, Nagaswami wants to add branches of the military to his client base. Ideally, he said, he would be able to recruit veterans to drive cars wrapped with messages promoting employment and other support programs for veterans.
With visions of aluminum-wrapped cars resembling bags of potato chips and chocolate kisses, Nagaswami said Herr's and Hershey Co. also are on his client get list.
Helping Carvertise's bottom line was a decision last year to bring printing in-house, enabling the company to offer a full vehicle wrap for less — $400 to $700 a car a month, depending on the length of a marketing campaign, Nagaswami said. For distant jobs, Carvertise prints all materials and ships them to a partner-installer in a campaign's target market.
The company of nine full-time employees plans to hire four or five more this year, with growth funded through operations.
Nagaswami's biggest disappointment? "How hard it has been to work with ad agencies, to work with media-buying companies. ... They have their relationships with their radio account executives and billboard guy and newspaper guy and digital guy. They don't want to break that status quo."
On Christmas Day, I brought you the story of a student entrepreneur from the prestigious Hill School in Pottstown who was awaiting word Jan. 5 that could be huge for his budding app business, MeetHere.
Manshu Sharma, 17, of Collegeville, didn't hear what he had hoped to. But there's a happy ending, anyway.
To recap: Last year, MeetHere was designated one of the world's 10 "hottest start-ups," the only U.S. finalist in a CNBC pitch contest. It pit Sharma's company (cofounded with three other high school students from Texas, California, and Florida he met at a summer camp at the University of Pennsylvania) against 1,017 businesses from 101 countries. The winner would get an all-expenses-paid trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, in March to make a presentation to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress.
An email arrived saying MeetHere had not won yet was offered "the chance to take the stage at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress ... to help you promote your start-up in front of an international delegation of 5,000 start-up peers, investors and others."
Sharma's parents have agreed to pay for his airfare and hotel, so the Hill School senior will be spending spring break in Johannesburg to, as he put it, "get an experience of a lifetime and learn how to run a business from people who have been doing this a lot longer ... and are not high school students."
The MeetHere app for Android devices is available for free on Google Play. A version for iPhones is expected on the market any day.