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Lesley Mattos' After-The-Show Blog

Background

It was January, 2001. I’d been working for high profile technology companies in Silicon Valley since 1973, and a single mother of four for the preceding 10 years. The last of the kids got squared away in college and I felt like I’d crossed the finish line of a marathon. I walked into my

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boss’s office at Cisco the very next day and quit! I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew it wasn’t going to be that anymore!

Three months after I’d left Cisco, I went to Florence for a friend’s wedding. The bride asked me to take Polaroid photos of the guests at the wedding, scotch tape them into a gorgeous Italian leather bound scrapbook and have the guests write something to she and Michael. As a single guest, it was a great way to mingle with a purpose and it made for a fun activity for the guests as well.

At the end of the evening, the Clare and Michael got to leave on their honeymoon with an instant memory of their wedding – with pictures and heartfelt sentiments of their guests – and I had the seed of a new product, though I didn’t know it that night.

The Ah-Ha Moment

On a train from Florence to Rome a few days later, I reflected on the wedding and the whole experience of putting together an instant memento for my friends. The only problem was that it was time consuming (and ugly) to scotch tape the pictures and when it was finished, it was lumpy and homemade looking. I thought “there has to be a better way” to simplify the process and make the final product more elegant. Then right there in my Italian travel journal, right alongside all the things I’d never want my kids to read, I sketched what would become the Adesso Album.

Time to Execute!

When I got home, I called a business associate whose creativity

Background

It was January, 2001. I’d been working for high profile technology companies in Silicon Valley since 1973, and a single mother of four for the preceding 10 years. The last of the kids got squared away in college and I felt like I’d crossed the finish line of a marathon. I walked into my

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I’d admired over the years. Bill and I had worked with on several corporate design projects and he was generous with his time and his team in brainstorming the project with me. Within a few weeks, I was on my way back to Italy – that’s all in the journal too – and while Bill and his team worked on the design of the album, I worked on my Italian and the initial business plan from Florence. In fact, that’s where I came up with the name for the company – Adesso is the Italian word for “now”, which is what you get with an Adesso Album – not bad for a gal with a degree in accounting, eh?




Bring on the Challenges!

Manufacturing

I knew absolutely NOTHING about manufacturing an album, but did know a lot of people – designers, printers, other business associates – and I talked to anyone that anyone referred me to.

In the end, it was Bill that referred me to a guy that made our first album prototype and he referred me to a guy that brokered book printing in China and we had our source!

Focus

There are SO MANY events the Adesso Album can be used at – weddings, birthdays, babies, showers, anniversaries, retirements, sweet sixteens, bar mitzvahs, graduations – the list goes on

I made the decision very early on that we needed to focus on one market at a time – weddings – it was huge (2.4 million weddings a year in the US alone, and a $100B spend), the channels of distribution and communication were clear AND about 75% of the purchases are made online
The challenge was STAYING focused on this market and letting it seed the other markets virally
Anyone who has a wedding is going to know someone who’s having a birthday, whose parents are celebrating an anniversary, having a baby, etc.

Polaroid

It seemed like such a natural thing – that we should partner with Polaroid, that they would want to partner with us. For four years I was frustrated because I couldn’t get anyone’s attention

What I didn’t know was what was going on behind the scenes – they were about to file Bankruptcy, then were purchased by BankOne, then went public again, then were taken private when Petters purchased them a couple of years ago. Needless to say, they had bigger fish to fry, and once they were, a partnership ensued.

Sales and Marketing

I spent a lot of money and wasted a lot of time on sales and marketing programs and partners that didn’t deliver – too much experience, too little experience, too big a firm, too small a firm – I never got it right! So I stopped hiring out for a couple of years and got creative. Here’s a couple of examples of what I mean:
Kate’s is a retail location in NY that I really wanted to get into. I’d called and left messages, sent emails, even spoken with the buyer and left samples in person. Nothing. So we got creative.
We sent a list of the “Top Ten Reasons for Kate’s to Sell Adesso Albums” and the last four were represented by a picture of my four kids with the caption “Come on Cynthia, we don’t want to support her!” I got an appointment with the buyer!

We also were very successful sending buyers mockups of what their print catalog or website would look like if they featured our product.


The Digital Objection

It was tough to stand up to criticism of such a non-technical product in such a high tech world. Digital pictures are everywhere, but mostly on your compact flash card or your desktop, but don’t give you a tangible output immediately like Polaroids do. We ultimately produced a version of the album that accommodates prints which can be generated at the event or prefill the book.



The Payback

We get cards, letters, emails, pictures from our customers everyday telling us how Adesso Albums have touched their lives – and in so many ways – personally and from a business perspective. From the couple who just got married and looked at the album every day of their honeymoon to the military family who used an album to chronicle what happened while the dad was on tour for a year – it’s all very humbling.

And we’re actually an international company because of three of our customers. Customers from the UK, Canada and Australia used Adesso Albums at their wedding and thought so much of them that they contacted me about becoming an exclusive distributor in their geography. Two of the three have actually quit their full time jobs!

Advice

- Figure out what you don’t know - then find people who do and ask them for help

- Be patient and get creative - people are busy and have different agendas on different days

- Stay focused and value your time – do the most important things yourself, let someone else go to the post office

- Don’t take things personally - not everyone will think your product or service is great; just remember it’s not a reflection on you

- Trust your gut - you know when something or someone is or isn’t right, is or isn’t working, is or isn’t a fit – listen to your intuition and cut your losses or jump on it – not everything can be analyzed

- Plan for success – formalize your processes as you go and build your infrastructure ahead of your growth, so if you get lucky and get a last minute call to get on a GREAT show like the Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, and get asked to write a blog about it, you’re ready!



- Lesley

To contact Lesley, you can email her at thebigidea@adessoalbums.com


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