Mr. President, I Built This Business
Armed with a $300.00 bank deposit in November 1976, I started Venmark, doing business as Sales Development Associates with a distinctive business model for marketing and producing product publicity for small companies. I always wanted to be self-employed. I began running the business from a spare room at my parents’ home in Newton, Massachusetts. Initially, the Sales Development Associates Publicity Order was $395.00 which was the same price as a single small black & white print advertisement.
Product publicity, however, provided a 10 times better return-on-investment than advertising. I invested $125.00 on a logo, stationery, and business cards, hired a salesman, and made my first sales call at a company I previously interviewed with for a sales management position. That was Friday, December 10, 1976. In fact, I asked my wife, then my secretary, to call me during that meeting. I figured the interruption would make me appear busy and in demand.
Accompanied by my first salesman, I visited Gordon Cameron, president of American Career Planning Services, Inc. I closed the sale and with a contract and a check for $395.00 in hand, we left Mr. Cameron’s 40th floor office at the Prudential Center in Boston, entered the elevator, hugged and were so excited that we needed a bathroom and hit the button to get off on the 38th floor.
After we stepped off the elevator and found the men’s room, we left the room to see a door with the sign “Associated Industries of Massachusetts.” We entered their office and bought a directory of manufacturers for $15.75. The next order of business was to get on the telephone and start cold-calling! Back then LinkedIn and the internet weren’t even a dream!
The following day, I deposited the $395.00 and purchased a typewriter for $299.95 and Sales Development Associates was ready to do business. Within six months I incorporated our new company as The Venmark Corporation (SteVEN MARK Stroum), hired five salespeople and a head writer. Then I added another writer, enjoyed a lot of repeat business, and Venmark took off like a rocket ship!
After gaining a reputation for innovation, service, and producing excellent results, I was invited to become a member of The Massachusetts Small Business Task Force, was later appointed one of 18 Small Business Advisors to the Governor of Massachusetts, and was selected by The International Rotary Foundation to tour South Korea as a member of a five-person group study exchange team, and was later appointed to the Norbert Weiner Forum at Tufts University to study the impact of technology on society. During that period I was also invited to speak at MIT, Boston College, Babson College, the American Marketing Association, IEEE, and many other business and civic groups. It was an exciting time for a man in his early thirties who came from a working-class background and bootstrapped a business from a spare bedroom.
Today, Venmark International has been acknowledged by leading technical and industrial editors as the “best product publicity firm in the nation.” In fact, we’ve had several new editors of technical publications introduce themselves to us when they arrived on the scene. That is a great source of price because they recognized the contribution we make to their readership. Consistency is important to me. We’re even located in the same office building since April, 1977. Based upon my successful business model and news release writing formula which produces broader news coverage than the conventional inverted pyramid writing style of press releases, plus an agreement with a major international internet news distribution service, today we are getting greater exposure and first page Google search results than ever before.
Venmark International’s website features an impressive presentation of our published results for clients in many categories of industry and technology. With thousands of published press clips, terrific testimonials from clients and editors, and an informative blog, prospective clients are assured that Venmark International is positioned as a thought and market leader in today’s competitive in-print and online marketing environment.
The Venmark process and business model is highly efficient and what I’m most proud of is that we’ve been serving many of our clients since the late 1970s and early 1980s. Wow, that’s 35 years of working together! How many service businesses can say that?
© 2012 Steven M. Stroum [All rights reserved]