By Rob Hedelt The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Snail Mail For Kids" is a subscription service that delivers kids a letter each week through the mail. Yes a real letter!
A Spotsylvania County woman with an idea she thinks is on the verge of hitting it big is about to get help in the transition to that next level.
Just under two years ago, Wendy Lattimore--who's been daydreaming about great business ideas since her youth--came up with the notion of providing a subscription service that delivers kids a letter each week through the mail.
It's called Snail Mail For Kids, and it's been growing steadily since Lattimore got the idea from letters she mailed to her own son as a way to help get him excited about reading.
A subscription, which starts at $14 a month, buys a youngster a weekly letter covering Sunny the Snail's adventures as he delivers mail around the globe.
With his friend Bluebird flying him where he needs to go, Sunny has all manner of exciting journeys that are filled with references to animals, geography, and. The target audience is kids ages 4-8.
Lattimore was excited to make it into the top 100 finalists in the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. Out of more than 13,000 companies that shared their stories, fans who cast more than 1.3 million votes put Snail Mail For Kids into the top 100 finalists.
The business owner was thrilled by the finish, though she'd have been happier to rank in the top 12 finishers, who each received grants ranging from $50,000 to $15,000.
Taking a moment from her day job as an executive assistant at Quarles Petroleum, Lattimore said the number of subscriptions has grown to the point where she and her main helper, her mother, can't handle the work that goes into this snail's mail: printing the letters, stuffing them with stickers, pictures and trading cards and getting them all mailed.
So Lattimore will soon begin outsourcing the production and distribution of the letters, as well as the boxes that arrive at the start of a child's subscription. Those boxes come with a poster on which children can follow's Sunny's deliveries, as well as a stuffed animal of Sunny that Lattimore worked with a manufacturer to create.
Lattimore said she looked at a dozen or so printing and fulfillment companies before choosing one in Forest.
"They are willing to take on the production right now, when it's cumbersome and labor intensive for the number of subscriptions we have at this point," she said, "but they also have the capacity to be cranking out several thousand a week when we hopefully reach that point before long," she said.
Lattimore said she's also found someone to help her with the writing of the letters, something that until now she's done all by herself. That person is local and has experience with design and writing for children's books.
For now, the entrepreneur is putting off one other step many small start-ups look for: an infusion of money from one or more investors.
She looked at taking on an investor, but had second thoughts when she saw the agreement outlining the investment called for her giving away more power and control than she wanted to at this point.
"This is my idea and my work so far, and I don't want to give away any of the ability to keep moving in the direction I see for it," said Lattimore.
She noted that if the company grows as it has been, she thinks it will be critical to soon begin putting most of her time into marketing and growing the brand, though she'll always review and have final say on what goes out to the kids.
Some of her marketing efforts so far: being involved in the Shark Week competitions and the FedEx grant contest, joining an association of subscription box services and getting her Snail Mail For Kids named one of the "Best New Products of 2019" at the National Stationary Show in New York, where she had a booth.
"What I really need right now it to get that big piece of publicity, a mention on The Today Show or something else that can go viral," she said. "I feel like this is a product that can work for children and classrooms all over the country and the world. I just need that big spark to reach that potential."