Blog #8

I just read of the Brazilian plane loss over the Atlantic. 228 loved ones taking life’s final bow. I wonder if those left grieving realize how many  of us share their sorrow. (Originally posted 6/3/09)

Now, that we were somewhat recognized as beginners in the bike trade, we hired teenagers to build some kits.  Prior to this, I answered the phone, sent out a little, now press printed, brochure and if an order came back, wrote it up and handed it to JP who built what was requested. Both of us packed it, I typed a label, called UPS and put our few packages on the back porch for pick up. We knew everyone we shipped to as we included a little note telling them to call us if they had any problems or suggestions on how to improve the kit.  With the advent of sending to dealers, we stopped note sending. It took quite a while to build a dealer base.  Meanwhile, we were doing some paid advertising.  Individual orders were trickling in.

One in particular comes to mind.  We offered two motors when we first started. One was the Deluxe and one, the Executive.  The little silver Deluxe fit most needs as Florida was our biggest order state.  Not many hills there. An order came in from a man who wanted an Executive motor kit.  We always questioned purchaser as to their needs.  If they had limited mobility or were completely dependent on the motor for all their local travel, the heavier, more expensive Executive fit their needs. If they could pedal, had mild hills, or just wanted to motor half the time, the lighter Deluxe model fit the bill.  This guy, had no physical limitations and didn’t need an assist for biking. In fact he had no bike or trike.  Jose was going to strap it on his back and fly.

This order taker thought that was the funniest thing I’d heard since the business started.  And we had already sold motors for Giant Roller skates for Roller rinks, powered a Turtle on TV; (I think of that “Palmer Turtle Power”) and sold a few to Circus clowns, big guys on baby trikes. JP, always the inventor, chastised me for laughing at someone’s dream. You never know.  A year and a half later, Jose ordered another motor.  That shut me up.

A real secretary, high school students, Jack II and girlfriend Barb, working on stock and 10,000 envelopes.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Blog #7

This was the early seventies and the gas shortage hit our nation.  Those I had previously sent press releases to used some of them. I sent more press releases to bike trade publications.  At that time we were only selling our attachable kits, and a small magazine called Bicycle Journal was the favorite publication of the bicycle dealers. The reason for this was the awesome editor, Bill Quinn.

Bill was an intelligent, honest, down to earth fellow who printed comments, hints, how to fix it suggestions sent in by bike dealers all across the country which most shops appreciated.  He also printed negative comments he received about his articles or those of others in his Journal.  He commented on everything new and published most press releases related to biking.  He threw in a few unusual ones that were an interesting spin on ancillary bike products.  At every trade show, Bill was there, usually with wife or son or both.  His camera was always hanging from back of his neck. I never met a man who loved what he did as much as this guy.  And the dealers thought of him as a close friend.  JP and I often visited bike shops no matter where we were and in many, you saw a picture of owner standing, sitting or eating with Bill. This was a guy who was in many photographs hob-nobbing with CEOs of Schwinn, Raleigh, Bell, Huffy, Alco and many celebrities.  Our first bicycle industry press release was in Bicycle Journal. Bill called us and personally thanked us.  Very unusual.  Thanks to this gentleman, bike dealers started handling our product.

Our business began to grow.  We hired someone who could type.  This was BC (before computers) and BS (before shredders).  She was the fastest typist I had ever seen.  She had worked for the CIA previous to moving to this area and all paperwork that was discarded was torn to itsy-bitsy shreds.  I could wait two weeks to dump the trash. I am always digging through my wastebaskets to find, confirm or check something. NO MORE.  Space became a problem.

Jack had me order 10,000 envelopes.  One of many business “discussions” began with, “What in H are we going to do with 10,000 envelopes?”

Lost that one.  They arrived at our back door and filled my tiny kitchen.

Blog #6

Purchasing letterheads was another enlightening experience.  I went to large local print shop and insisted on giving my important order to President of Company. When I told him what I wanted, he graciously directed me outside to a stairwell which led up to a small print-shop that rented space from him. “They will do a fine job for you,” he assured me.  And they did.  My 1000 sheets with gold lettering we very impressive.

Mr. Gracious gave me his business card before escorting me to the door.  I wrote down my name and number with his LaBlanc Fountain Pen.  Me thinks now that he was going to write his memoirs.

Vendors have a way of finding you before the public does. We began to get more mail in our little PO Box and more phone calls wasting our time about how much money they cold save us or how much better their nuts, bolts and washers were than what we were buying already.  They’d save us a bundle if we purchased $5000.00 worth. Somehow they found us and started cold calls to our little shop.  The funniest were the callers from investment firms who knew how to make us money investing our profits. Everyone had “a story to tell or a gimmick to sell.”

Blog #5

If anyone is reading this, sorry for delay.  I took a super ski vacation to Colorado. 12 days. Completely exhausted me.  Well worth it and I’m so old, I ski for only the $35 tax fee. Used to be free, but hey, they gotta survive in these tough times. I am an Expert Faller and take brown bag lunch in my ski jacket.  My BLT looks like a pizza by the time I eat it with my purchased lunch, which is a beer.  The top of Vail, 11,547 feet, is as close to heaven as this old bird will get.

Back to business.

Hello-the money that the “book” said was supposed to be flowing in was not lining our pocket.  The fact is, the incoming small change was wearing out the lining.  A few comments from our little crew of purchasers justifiably put me to shame. “It’s a great and useful product, but you could use a little advice in the presentation department.” This was the gentlest of comments. The most devastating was from an editor to whom  I sent a little silly, selly story comparing our electric powered bike to a motorcycle.  His rejection was brief and to the point. “Your story is too cutesy wootsey for our national publication.  The attempt to sell wasn’t even hidden.  We thank you for your offer and good luck. Regards, Editor.”

Ouch, ouch, ouch. It took me a while to get over my hurt and anger and start thinking rationally about what was staring me in the eye.  JP was supportive somewhat and added suggestions.  Now I’m really getting mad. Maybe I’m a lousy writer and a slow learner but I like to write and I do learn.  My first sensible move was taking the advertising books back to the library.  Next, we decided to take the gentleman’s advice and pay attention to what we sent out.  No more Xerox copies of a fairly good brochure that was type written.  It went to the printers.  We also decided to start advertising. I goofed on this aspect.  Not knowing of typeset, I labored for hours designing my first 2″ advertisement. The photo was dark, the printing was the very best I could do and not sufficient. But we sent it out.  It didn’t generate many sales.

Cost was $2000.00. The magazines advertising department called next month and said “Would you like to run that ad again in the next issue?” “No,” I said, “It didn’t do as well as we were hoping for.” “Well,” says he, “We could design one for you, typeset it, and give you a proof for your okay before it goes to press.” “What do you mean by typeset?” I asked.  We didn’t go in again that time but went back to the drawing board. Meanwhile word of mouth sales picked up a bit and we had letterheads printed.  I had them printed in gold and they were drop dead gorgeous.  I reluctantly sent them out to most inquiries who just wanted a Free Brochure.

Blog #4

I had read the advertising books on “how to” and according to the powers that be, we would be getting huge amounts of mail from these press releases.  Some releases put in our phone number, but most put in our address.

We live in the small village of Endicott, NY,  population about 12,000.  We have 2 Post Offices.  Ours was the original, early 1900, very small, with a lobby of about 15′ x 20′ feet.  I suggested to JP to warn them that bags of mail would be coming in for our small company.

Every morning I busied our one home and business phone and walked quickly the three blocks to pick up our mail.  In the largest mailbox we could rent, 7″ x 5″ there sat 3 little letters.  Two from potential customers and a sales pitch for aluminizing the Palmer Industries Facility.  Was this the overflow from our bag of mail? I had seen “Miracle on 34th Street” and knew what bags of mail could hold.  Thank heavens JP had forgotten to warn the two elderly fellows that worked there every day.

The mail continued to trickle in and we sold a few attachable kits.  The majority of our sales seemed to come from word of mouth.  Jack had put one on his Mother’s adult trike in Florida where she lived and many people were stopping her on her rides around the park.

The literature we were sending out was not very selly.  JP being an engineer wanted to give all the specs we could fit on one page.  Being a slow learner, I was still reading the advertising books.

Blog #3

Here we are, pumped up for change and expecting new faces and ideas in Washington.

This schmuck was thrilled to get a call from the editor of the then weekly newspaper “Parade” which was tucked inside many Sunday papers every week.  What an exciting few days followed.  He wanted pictures, some proof of our business commitments and Federal Tax ID.  I had a wonderful (I thought) picture of my mom sitting on her used trike with our motor on it.  She was on the grass in front of her mobile home.  Some neighbors looked on.  We also sent a few other Polaroids of people testing our motor kits.  When the press release came out, it was the picture of  mom on her trike and everything else airbrushed out.  What a lot of work they had to do to take the hokeyness out of this Mom and Pop start up.  For a long time, we heard how disappointed her on-lookers were.  Our address was in the paper and we received many calls.  Not just that week, but for a couple of months.

Worked out so well, I mailed some more releases with pictures and Popular Science and Mechanix Illustrated picked it up.  Paul Harvey heard of us and mentioned us on his radio show.  We were the folks that invented electric attachable kits to do the pedaling for cyclists who could use a little help.

Blog #2

And what a journey this up, down, mobility roller coaster business is.  When Jack and I were discussing the adventure, I saw visions of a starched white blouse, covered by flattering tweed suit and practical 2″ patent leather shoes tucked under a swivel upholstered chair.  Sitting at my roll-top desk I speak with the media, vendors and customers on my private office French-Style telephone.

It all began in the cold cellar.  Our enthusiasm kept us warm.  My desk was one half of a 4′ x 8′ plywood sheet supported by paint splattered saw horses.  The remaining half was covered with cardboard boxes which JP dubbed “file cabinets” and a wide assortment of tools, washers, nuts, rolls of wires and junk. The office haute couture was sweat shirt, jeans and Keds for squishing those roly-poly bugs on the concrete floor.

It’s 37 years later.  This byte banger has come up in the world: exactly 12 wooden steps to the kitchen.  A Mac sits on my kitchen table next to the small floppy disc file cabinet, a printer, piles of to-do paperwork, some tools and junk.  We go out to eat now.  Into the front room, get out our TV trays and try balancing our meal on 2 wobbly fiberglass, tin legged trays.

As I pull my flannel shirt closed for warmth, I think of those days downstairs, when an order came in on my black dial up wall phone. Having spent all our savings on supplies to build the first PI product, attachable kits for bikes and trikes, there was nothing left for advertising them. We knew we had a much needed product.  It gave mobility to those unable to pedal.  Maybe a more important benefit, older or disabled people could cycle again.  But no one knew of this spiffy product.

Back we go to the library to learn about advertising.  We had brown bagged it at Cornell University to see if our patent was doable.  Delightedly, we found it was the first electric attachable kit for adult trikes.  It was quite an achievement but never put a penny in our pocket.

Mil-note: if you have interest in the unique, ask me later about the interesting patents I came across when I was supposed to be researching our design.

Sorry for all these digressions, but on this historic day, I keep running into the front room where Mr. Barack Hussein Obama is getting ready to become our 44th President. One of us has an engraved invitation to his inauguration.  Not telling who.

The advertising books weren’t that helpful. Statistics filled their pages with % of  profits to be spent on advertising etc., but one little book lured this novice down the path of freebie advertising.  I mailed 20 press releases to then prominent magazines. They were poorly written, no pictures and rather boring.  Having no letterheads at that time, they landed on the Editor’s desk mistyped on lined school paper.  What a schmuck.

And now forgive me but President Obama is about to speak and this curious American wants to hear his speech.  I’ll be back to continue my inaugural blog. (Originally published January, 2009)

The First Blog

I requested our talented webmaster to put a blog on our Website.  Be careful what you wish for, I can’t think of an original thing to say to anyone of interest or importance; but I had to have it.

I’ve read other business blogs to get a kick-start and if you’re having a technical problem with one of our products, don’t waste valuable time reading this.  All I know electrically is if you reverse the negative and positive wires on our attachable kits for bike or trikes, you’re gonna go down the street backwards.  My mechanical knowledge is more extensive. If you run our large all electric vehicles into something unmovable, you’ve probably bent the front fork, and have to buy another fork.  Been there, done that.  In fact,everyone that’s worked here at Palmer Industries, or the “Pie” as we call it, test rides the products.  It familiarizes us with what the customer on the phone is talking about and in my case makes, each a VIP product (Very Idiot Proof).  Of course the guys and gals that actually build them are quite expert at maneuvering the all electric scooters, especially on the 38% grade where they are tested.  Scary what those fearless pilots do! But I digress.

Another successful blog, according to the critique writers that be, is authored by one who states his qualifications for blog authorship. Degrees, awards, still climbing the corporate ladder; he is impressive.

I am old.  Maybe that’s enough!