Jared bootstrapped his company with his Barmitzvah money. Read his wonderful story!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Jared Shusterman: I was born in Miami, Florida. I’m one of the few South Florida natives. I grew up in a middle class family that had a very heavy focus on education. After I graduated high school, I went to the University of Virginia. I got a Bachelors degree with a Finance and Marketing concentration. Shortly after that, I moved out to San Francisco and worked for an investment bank in the online media practice. That’s the quick summary of my initial upbringing.
Sramana Mitra: How long did that stint with the investment bank last?
Jared Shusterman: It was a little over a year or thereabouts. I actually started, what was then, TargetMailers. Now it’s SproutLoud. When you’re a financial analyst, you’re putting in very long hours. I had a family emergency where I wanted to get back to South Florida. That prompted me to figure out what it is that I was going to do. I had the opportunity to speak to a person who’s now a partner in the business.
He was talking about these small business marketing tools that were coming up to help small businesses with limited budget, know-how, and resources do advertising. There was an idea early on to create a product for jewelry retailers to do small business direct mail marketing. It was a very small program with 200 pieces around specific lifetime events or occasions, whether it be a birthday or anniversary.
Shortly after leaving Thomas Weisel and trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I had the opportunity to go out to the JCK show in Las Vegas. It’s one of the largest jewelry retailer and manufacturer conventions in the world. We created some marketing pieces and we tested the idea and validated whether jewelry retailers would buy into these programs. You’d sign up for a few months and you commit to a specific amount of budget and we just do the marketing for them.
What we learned coming out of that was, there was a real appetite and a lot of these small businesses needed help. It was then and there that I committed to coming back and starting this venture mainly because I was 23 or 24 years old at that time. I didn’t have a family of my own. I didn’t have a mortgage. I felt like if I ever wanted to do something, now is the time to do it because my risk profile is probably the lowest it will ever be. I figured that if I’d go into it and I’d fail, it’d be a really good education.