Jason Weisenthal started wall decal printing company, WallMonkeys, in 2009. The company that allows users to print decals from a collection of 20 million images reached $1.2 million in sales last year.
Jason Weisenthal's decision to start WallMonkeys in 2009 proved to be a good one for a number of reasons. Not only has Weisenthal been able to reach projected sales of $2 million this year, but he has been able to grow the business while maintaining full ownership and taking on no outside investors. That freedom allowed Weisenthal to grow his business as he wants, when he wants. BusinessNewsDaily spoke with Weisenthal about his start in business, the company's big pivot and how to run a business without incurring debt.
BusinessNewsDaily: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Jason Weisenthal: A professional tennis player or an entrepreneur. I grew up playing tennis watching and wanting to be John McEnroe. I was a very good tennis player, but not great. Around 12 years old, I realized tennis wasn't going to be it and being an entrepreneur was the thing to start thinking about. Plan B won.
BND: What did your parents do for a living?
JW: My father owned a shoe store in Newark, NJ. I learned a lot working in the store every Saturday during the school year, and a bunch of summers. The work ethic involved in being there every day, providing a quality product, service, and dealing with all the challenges and competition small businesses face. I also got to see firsthand how to deal with all types of customers and manage inventory and all aspects of the day to day operation.
BND: Can you talk a little about your businesses and how you got your start?
JW: WallMonkeys started as a second business, almost a hobby. Fathead was starting to get noticed selling graphics of all the major sports players. No one was offering custom images of their own kids playing sports. I thought it was an untapped niche that no one thought of. Why put Derek Jeter on your wall when you can have your own child playing baseball? I did plenty of research on the printers, materials, inks, etc and I had zero background in the print industry or e-commerce. Everything I did was learned on the fly.
BND: What's the best part of owning your own business?
JW: Controlling the direction of the business. I love that we can add a new product, make a new content deal, spend on advertising, implement site changes, add a sales channel, or anything else, on a moment's notice. I can take risks that some of my competitors cannot. We have no investors and no one to answer to. I sleep well at night knowing that I control my own destiny.
BND: What's the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?
JW: I invested in another start up a few years ago with a partner that was a poor fit. Disagreements and arguments about nearly every decision is a recipe for disaster. I got out of the deal as soon as possible. I took a loss, but my mental health and overall happiness were more important. Bad deals also suck time from you, aside from all the negative energy created. It taught me a great lesson about only working with people you like. If you wouldn't invite a potential business partner over your house to sleep in the guest room, don't choose them as a partner.
BND: What was your main motivation in starting this business?
JW: I felt I had identified a product that did not yet exist and one that people would be excited to pay for. WallMonkeys was completely different from my previous business experiences also. I wanted to prove to myself that I could be successful in something so different from what I had done up to this point in life.
BND: What previous experiences helped you in that journey?
JW: My previous experience in retail helped. I was very comfortable with managing a business; cash flow, inventory, employees, taxes, etc. I was also experienced dealing with and explaining this new product to people who didn't fully understand what we were offering.
BND: What was the biggest challenge you encountered and how did you overcome it?
JW: I thought everyone would just go online and upload a picture of their child. That did not happen and the business struggled for two full years. I tried different angles to attract customers and nothing worked. It would have been very easy to quit, but I felt something was going to work soon. The lightbulb moment came when I added some content to the site. Clip art of cute animals, street signs, etc. The content started to sell almost immediately. That's when I thought make deals with stock photo companies and gain access to millions of images, versus building a collection slowly.
BND: What is the best bit of advice you have for other entrepreneurs?
JW: Follow your instincts (gut) and network. Run your problems and plans by your trusted group, but make the final decision yourself. It is your business, your money and your peace of mind. The second bit is to network. Join local entrepreneur groups, attend conferences and conventions. It is amazing what a powerful network of friends can help you accomplish.