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Founder Interviews: Justin Powell of Miniature Mail

Miniature Mail is a service that allows you to send tiny letters to friends and family. It has received over 1000 upvotes on Product Hunt.

Davis Baer: What’s your background, and what are you working on?

Justin Powell: I am a self-taught programmer who’s dabbled in a lot of different languages and markets over the years. I’ve done web development, Android apps, hybrid apps, and more. My current day job is building project management software for power utility companies. I started Miniature Mail on the side, and somehow find time to fulfill orders and make enhancements to it around my full-time schedule.

What motivated you to get started with Miniature Mail?

My wife was recovering from a recent surgery and wasn’t having a great day, so I decided to handcraft a little letter to cheer her up. I’d had the idea floating around in my head for a while, and it seemed like a great opportunity to try making one. She loved it so much that I decided to make a business out of it and see who else was interested in sending tiny letters.

What went into building the initial product?

Since I am a programmer, I spent a lot of time setting up my website and creating a live preview module so that customers could see what their letters will look like. I also spent a lot of time developing a command-line tool to help me generate print files and manage orders. It was very important to me that the live preview on my website is accurately reproduced in my print files, so a pretty large percentage of my time went into making sure they render exactly the same.

I also had to find a high-quality print shop with no minimum order quantity, and figure out how to mail letters that are so small.

What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

I offer on-demand printing, assembly, and shipping of miniature letters inside tiny envelopes for $10 each. My material cost is low, but labor cost is high (I assemble each order my hand). I’ve actually been intentionally keeping quiet to lower my order volume until I can resolve some production issues.

How did you get your first 10 customers?

I launched on Product Hunt on a whim, and was surprised when we became the #1 product of the day. We got a lot more than 10 customers!

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome?

The biggest challenge we’re facing is delivery time & reliability. We’ve struggled with USPS mail handling protocol, which has resulted in late deliveries and in some cases lost mail. Our plastic mailing sleeves are not designed to be machine-sorted or processed, so we’re working with a manufacturer to develop a custom solution. Hopefully we can create a mailer that is machine sortable and put these delivery issues behind us.

What does the future of Miniature Mail look like?

We are working hard to make our current product offering better: faster delivery, more useful & delightful packaging, more design options and flexibility for writing the perfect miniature letter. We’re also planning to expand our product line to include small “Hallmark” style greeting cards, miniature parcels or boxes with gifts inside, gift cards, etc. We’re really excited to expand, but we’re tempering our enthusiasm until we’ve resolved more issues with our current product and fully served our current customers.

Another goal for the future is to open a bulk and business-to-business line for larger order volumes. We hope to have a first draft functional before the end of the year.

Check out Miniature Mail and follow them on Twitter

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