A Hallmark for the farmer’s market crowd – that's the business Robert Green is building. The seed was planted in 2013 when Green moved to San Francisco and became drawn to the cornucopia of local farmers' markets. A digital data analyst during the week, he would regularly spend his weekends photographing dazzling displays of fruits, vegetables and flowers.
“I just gravitated towards the colors and how they display product and was fascinated with it,” Green says. “I started taking a ton of pictures because there are farmers markets every day of the week in the Bay Area.”
Over a two-year period, the amateur photographer amassed a massive collection of colorful images that he wanted to turn into a tangible product. While his career at a tech startup was satisfying, the numbers-driven nature of his 9-to-5 left Green wondering if he could apply his newfound creativity toward something more tangible.
“I'm in a fantastic part of the country for tech,” he says. “But I feel like we're missing the whole human experience with tangible products. I wanted to be a part of bringing that back.”
Green’s solution: print his photographs onto cards. While still working full-time, he began selling greeting cards and postcards featuring his farmer’s market photographs. His extracurricular pursuit found a niche, yet engaged, audience, which inspired a side business. He named it Note.Cards.
The 37-year-old recently left his tech job to plunge full-time into the hobby-turned-business venture. He spoke to Name.Kitchen about making the transition -- and why his domain name is also his company name.
What’s it like jumping into this business with both feet?
It's scary. I tried to do this once before when I first moved to San Francisco. I tried to start my own business. What's different between last time and this time is that I'm much more laser focused in building a product – one that I'm actually selling right now that I enjoy and love.
How did you maintain a laser focus while also working full-time in tech?
I decided to invest one Saturday a month, and I got accepted to sell my cards at the Jack of All Traders Market at Jack London Square. It's a market that happens once a month, the second Saturday. I bought the whole year in advance so it forced me to be consistent and committed.
Some would argue that we’ve evolved, or perhaps devolved, from a handwritten note sort of society to one that’s all about emailing and texting. Who is buying your cards?
Although nowadays many people don’t send cards the old-fashioned way by snail mail, there’s still a niche of market of customers who value this "traditional" method -- people who still enjoy the extra effort of picking out a fun card and sending to a dear friend or relative. If that type of customer walks by and picks up one of the cards, it’s an easy sale. I believe many people out there are tired of the same style cards being displayed at major retailers.
When you realized that you had a business idea on your hands, what factors went into choosing a name for it?
I struggled with how I would be able to build a business out of cards and people searching online. They might buy a card in person, but I think it will be easier for people to remember my domain name if they're looking to buy more cards. I wanted a brand name on the back [of the card], if they wanted to buy more cards online.
The business name on the back of your cards mirrors the domain, ‘Note.Cards.’ Did ‘dot-cards’ [.cards] drive your business name?
I felt that the best way to stand out was getting a domain name in the new TLD [top-level domain] space that fits with exactly what I do. So when 'dot-cards' [.cards] came out, I thought it fit perfectly. So I started searching for options.
How did you decide on ‘Note.Cards’?
I took notes on my iPhone -- when I was on the go on the bus or grabbing lunch, I just started typing ideas around 'dot-cards' and had a long list of different names. Over about a three- or four-month period I wrote on my phone a variety of different names for ‘dot-cards.’ I had probably 200 or 300 different names that I was experimenting with.
What were some of the rejects?
They're very odd. I had 'Bizi.Cards,' 'Pix.Cards,' 'Blank.Cards' … I actually was experimenting with ‘FarmersMarket.Cards,’ but it's just too long. ‘Note.Cards’ is an easy way for people to understand what you do without having to explain it. There's no additional 'dot-com' [.com] at the end. It's exactly what I sell.
I suppose it also opens the door to photographing subjects beyond farmer’s markets in the future?
As you springboard into entrepreneurship, where do you hope to take this business?
I foresee Note.Cards as a small business venture that will take years to grow into a big business. More than likely my career in analytics will continue and help support overhead costs of Note.Cards -- I just needed a solid gap of time to get Note.Cards off the ground, and it was too difficult with a full-time job to build a solid foundation. I’m a strong believer in picking a business you’re passionate about, which in turn could help your product stand out from the rest.
Learn more about this business by visiting the website www.Note.Cards.