With a desire to “do it better”, John Clark ventured out on his own to start Stamp Connection. He believed he could build a successful custom self-inking rubber stamp production business that provided better customer service than was typical for the industry. When looking for a place to start his business he looked around until he found a community he really liked. Since he was going to sell his rubber stamps on the internet, it did not really matter business-wise where he located. It was November when he drove through Historic Downtown Gresham. Main Street was lined with white lights; the community looked so quaint. John said, “This is it. This is where I will open up shop.”
On January 2, 2000, he opened Stamp Connection. Although slow at first, the business quickly took off. John had written a business plan, stuck to it and ended up doing so well so quickly that he was able to pay back his $18,000 start-up loan two years early. Quite a feat! Stamp Connection is now 5 years old, has 6 employees and a revenue of $500,000 per year.
What is the key to John’s success? He says “community”. John believes very strongly in giving back to the community. He believes that businesses and people should invest themselves and their money where they live and work. John stands out as a shining star in this regard. He is involved in a number of local organizations and events to make Gresham the wonderful place it is to live and work. He participates in the Mt. Hood Repatory Theater, the Spirit of Christmas, Art Walk, Historic Downtown Gresham Boosters, Steps to Success, My Sister’s House and the Community Fair and BBQ. Perhaps John’s biggest contribution is to the Alpha High School school-to-work program that takes non-traditional high school students and puts them in local businesses to learn work skills that will be essential to their success. When John was young he was considered a “trouble maker” and finally dropped out of high school. It took him years to realize that he actually was indeed intelligent and had something to offer to the community. He eventually went back to school, got his GED and then an Associates Degree in accounting. He thrives on helping teens see and realize their potential.
John carries his belief in “community” into his business. He takes care of his employees. Stamp Connection pays 100% of medical, dental and life insurance for employees and their families. Employees earn a living wage. John just implemented paid vacations and corporate investment options for the management team, and he is looking into profit sharing and a 401k plan for employees. All of this is extremely rare in small business because the expense is astronomical but John believes you need to take care of your “community”.
John admits his success was built through hard times. Things like not receiving a paycheck the first 6 months he was in business, having a partner who knew little about the industry, and not knowing how to reduce turnover early on in the business. If he had to do it over again, he would have preferred learning about the MHCC Small Business Development Center earlier on in the life of his business. According to John, “The SBDC was most helpful in showing me how to incorporate business ideas into a real world action plan to better my business.” During the first year of the Small Business Management Program, an elite 20 month SBDC program that helps small business owners grow their businesses to the next level, John was able to write a marketing plan, secure a bank loan, develop a way to track and analyze the financial situation of the business, learn key selling techniques, develop new ways to market the business and overall grow as an entrepreneur.”
John loves being an entrepreneur. He loves being “at the top”, being the final decision maker. He enjoys the time he gets to be visionary and plan for the future of the business. He has great dreams. In 5 years he wants Stamp Connection to be a turn key operation and wants to be able to start a new venture. Creating new ventures is what makes John thrive!
Stamp Connection is located at 109 NE Roberts Avenue in Gresham and online at www.stamp-connection.com.