Name: Katie Pietrak
Business: Vintage Vinyl Journals, a maker of handmade gifts from recycled vinyl records
Location: Telford, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Reason for starting: I launched Vintage Vinyl Journals in the spring of 2011. I have a Bachelor’s of Science from LaSalle University and an MBA from St. Joseph’s University and spent the majority of my working life in the corporate world. After organizing my vinyl collection one day, I realized the black vinyl, colorful labels, and great artwork on the sleeves would make fantastic book covers and came upon the idea to make notebooks out of them. The unique journals gained interest among friends and family who encouraged me to fully devote my time to making journals and creating a business. As owner of the company I am now able to merge my creative, organizational, and business skills into a unique and eco-friendly project as well as showcase my passion for music.
How do you define success? To me, success is neither a destination nor an achievement, it is a constant journey where we have to work hard and continue to move forward. When we are faced with obstacles we embrace them with passion and enthusiasm. This helps us to attain and accomplish milestones in our life.
Biggest Success: I started off doing a lot of social media marketing, giveaways, I sent journals to celebrities, entered contests when I saw them, asked companies to review my journals, and would blog weekly. I got a lot of exposure without having to spend anything more than my time. I’d say our first big exposure online was on HelloGiggles.com (Zooey Deschanel’s site) where I was a featured as Item of the Day. Zooey loved the journals and asked us to send along another one of her favorite artists for her to keep. I always kept my eyes and ears open to see which outlets would be a good fit. I read a story about Ty Pennington in Reader’s Digest and how he loved vinyl and Johnny Cash was his favorite. The next day I wrote to his publicist asking if I could send him a journal and she wrote back. I was so excited, I sent him a Cash journal and he wrote a blog post about me and the journals and took photos of his atop his coffee table.
Related: How to Market a Business on Facebook
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? When I started I targeted writers and journalists and was challenged with expanding to other audiences. Our journals are used for more than just writing and I market to people looking for unique Made in America items as well as eco-friendly gifts. People use them for wedding guest sign-in books, scrapbooks, drawing, books to store concert ticket stubs and photos — stuff I never thought of. I get bulk orders from companies who give the journals as client gifts and employee gifts. I now have small independent labels who have us make journals out of their bands’ vinyl. I haven’t cracked the big time with a huge artist yet but I do love the indie bands so it’s pretty cool for us to be a part of their marketing efforts. I also would love to break into doing private label journals for other businesses, like Hard Rock Cafe to sell in their stores.
Who is your most important role model? Watching my father work really hard growing up really inspired me to work hard and show me that starting a business was obtainable. He worked a full-time job as a Firefighter in Philadelphia and on the side studied to be an electrician and start his own Electrical business, which he still owns and runs. The entrepreneurial spirit is definitely around me and my hard-working Father continues to be my role model.
Edited by The Story Exchange