Q and A: Personalized Birthday Cards from Paul Leonard

Paul Leonard's BirthdayCards2Go.com paid greeting card service offers convenience when you're rushing to send birthday wishes. While nothing can beat a personalized poem to add that extra touch of thoughtfulness, we can all agree that in this busy world, any connection we can make with each other, even just to say "Thinking of you," is worthwhile.

Plus, when you consider the cost of gas, driving to the store, buying the cards, and buying the stamps, you can't beat the price of $3.16 and up including postage for handmade greeting cards that can be personalized. Poems for You founder Kristin Johnson sat down with Paul Leonard, founder of BirthdayCards2Go.com,for an exclusive interview.

Kristin: Paul, how did you develop this unique service?

Paul Leonard: Well, I guess the idea first came to me a couple of years back while sitting in a traffic jam! I'd just been to the store to get a birthday card for my sister at the last minute -- I always forget people's birthdays -- and was trying to fill in the address with the envelope balanced on the steering wheel. I remember thinking that there must be a better way! A couple of months went by and, on my birthday, I got a birthday card from my sister. It obviously hadn't been sent by her but by a computer via the web -- my name and address was laser printed on the back and it arrived in a window envelope. The message inside was laser printed in rather soulless black monotype. I can only say that I felt a bit offended, considering the trouble I had gone to 2 months earlier, but then I realised how much time and energy I would have saved by using a service like this.

The only thing that put me off was the impersonal 'junk mail' appearance of the card, so I began to search the web for a service that would allow me to send a card that would look like I sent it. After a couple of hours I gave up because I couldn't find what I was looking for. That's when it clicked -- there was a gap in the market that I could fill. As an IT professional specializing in Intranet systems myself, I soon had the website built and my brother-in-law, who is a graphic designer, came on board to help with the creative side. Through his contacts he also helped to source the cards that we use. After that, a lot of fine tuning and acting on feedback from our customers has got us to where we are now..

Kristin: Most of us do leave things to the last minute. That's why there's a proliferation of free e-card businesses out there. Blue Mountain Arts, which published two of my award-winning poems on its Web site, was the pioneer for this model, but changed to a login and fee-based service. You are also doing a fee-based service. But yours is not an e-card business, it's a unique greeting card business. Do you operate on the principle "you get what you pay for?"

Paul Leonard: I think the bottom line here is that you can't put an e-card on your mantelpiece! E-cards are definitely great fun and have their place, but you still can't beat a real card arriving in the post to tell you that someone is thinking of you.

Kristin: True! Can you describe the other benefits of sending a BirthdayCards2Go card?

Paul Leonard: I think our main objective is to make the cards we send out look and feel like the customer has sent them personally. We allow the customer to select a style of handwriting, which is used to complete the address on the envelope and message inside the card, and a normal postage stamp is used for postage. Making the process of sending a card as quick and painless as possible for our customers is also important, and a lot of thought has been put in to ways of reducing the amount of effort needed to do this.

Kristin: The effort and care you have taken show in the cards you see on your Web site! The designs from Paper Avenue look terrific. How did you select Paper Avenue as the designer of your cards?

Paul Leonard: We decided early on that we should offer something different from the rest. After getting samples from what seemed like hundreds of wholesalers we still hadn't found anything worth getting excited about. My brother-in-law knew of Paper Avenue and suggested we give them a try. We were so impressed by their designs that we took the plunge and haven't looked back!

Kristin: Sounds like a perfect partnership. How have customers responded to your cards?

Paul Leonard: As with any web site, a lot of people look before one buys! It can be a challenge trying to show the quality of your product on a web site -- after all your potential customers can't pick things up and touch them, they have to rely purely on images. Many people that have ordered cards from us are absolutely blown away by the look and feel of the cards and envelopes. Most are subconsciously expecting the type of thin, nasty cards that you get at your local 7-11 store, but we prefer to spend a few cents more and have our cards printed on one of the best quality Dutch Ivory boards available. This makes for a much more expensive and upmarket impression, and delighted customers!

Kristin: I would be delighted to receive a card that doesn't look like 99 percent of the cards out there. In addition, you offer value-added services, such as the delivery system in which customers can receive their cards at home to send out later. Talk about that.

Paul Leonard: Some people may want to give their cards in person, or maybe get everyone at work to sign it -- you never know. It's mainly a case of covering all the bases. If someone orders 10 or more cards like this in one go, we pass on the savings in postage and transaction costs by giving the customer a 40% discount on the total.

Kristin: What a deal! Talk about the convenience of selecting the date to send cards for birthdays. It seems that we all have endless to-do lists, and sometimes calendar dates just slip by. It must be a relief for your customers to have their own secretarial service for greeting cards.

Paul Leonard: I have got to be the worst person in the world for forgetting my relative's birthdays and anniversaries, and I'm sure I'm not alone! It's certainly a weight off your mind when you can schedule a card to be sent when you're thinking about it and have the time, instead of having to remember to do it some day in the future. A lot of our customers seem to do all their cards for the whole year in one hit! And no, I don't forget about sending out our customer's cards -- our system (and mailing people) takes care of them for me. I must confess, though, I DO put all the cards I have to send to MY friends and family through the system too!

Kristin: Sounds like a great way to energize/organize your life and help other people in the process! Is there anything else you would like potential clients to know about you?

Paul Leonard: Keep an eye on our site -- we have a shed load of new cards to be added over the coming months, covering many specialist themes that would be hard to find elsewhere. We are also working on some free reminder software to help customers keep track of their friends and family's special occasions -- this will be like nothing ever created before and it will be available for download from our web site when it's finished!

Kristin: Paul, I will definitely recommend your service.

Kristin Johnson is co-author of the "enthusiastically recommended" Midwest Book Review pick, Christmas Cookies Are For Giving: Stories, Recipes and Tips for Making Heartwarming Gifts (ISBN: 0-9723473-9-9). A downloadablemedia kit is available at our Web site, http://www.christmascookiesareforgiving.com, or e-mail the publisher (info@tyrpublishing.com) to receive a printed media kit and sample copy of the book. More articles available at http://www.bakingchristmascookies.com

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