Jared Shusterman bootstrapped his
company with his bar mitzvah 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
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 concentration in Finance and
Marketing. 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.
Mitra: How long did that stint with the investment bank last?
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.
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, like a birthday or anniversary.
after leaving Thomas Weisel and trying to figure out what I wanted to do next,
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 commit
to a specific amount of budget and we would just do the marketing for them.
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 fail, it’d be a really good education.