For 10 years, Judy Rosenbaum's Judaic stitchery business grew steadily, but its customer base was limited to Southern California. After she purchased a catalog and started a mail-order business, requests poured in from around the world. Rosenbaum was interviewed by Karen Kaplan.
When I wanted to buy needlepoint canvases with a Jewish theme, I couldn't find any, and I figured that other people couldn't find it either. So I started a business and sold needlepoint out of my home for 10 years. Then 11 years ago, I purchased a small mail-order company in Arizona, brought it out here and changed the name to California Stitchery.
At first it was quite small, and the catalog was all black-and-white. Now it has blossomed into a 40-page color catalog.
Color plays a tremendous role to the customer. When we started producing the catalog on computers, the quality of the color was much better and our income increased by 25%. It cost more, but our sales increased so it was worth it. The items looked more attractive so more people wanted to buy them.
It costs between $75,000 and $100,000 to produce the catalog and mail it out. It takes all kinds of ancillary people to produce. There's a printer and an electronic graphics company, for example.
I purchased the catalog for $20,000, and now our annual sales are over a quarter of a million dollars.
The catalog is our face to the public. It goes all over the world. We print 100,000 copies and send them to our customers twice a year. We also advertise in national Jewish magazines. People can call in and request a catalog. We mail out 200 or 300 a week.
We have a toll-free number, and we also take orders by mail and by fax. You have to have an 800 number with a mail-order company. You also need to accept credit cards. Mail order is very, very difficult to run without an 800 number and the ability to take credit cards. We were going to be down the tubes before we started if we didn't get it.
It was really hard to find a bank that would OK me for a credit card because I was doing a mail-order business out of my home in California, where there is probably more mail-order fraud than anywhere else. I had to visit at least half a dozen banks. No one would even come out to my home and check me out to see that I was legitimate.
Finally I got really upset and asked to see a supervisor, then a vice president. They sent someone out to my house and finally gave me a Visa and a MasterCard. Once I got established, I could get any cards I wanted. Now I can also take Discover and American Express.
I got a call from a woman in Montana who could not find something like this in her entire state. She has to go 500 miles to reach the closest synagogue. We are really a lifeline to her and to Judaism.
Before I launched the catalog, the business was just there. It was healthy, but it wasn't giving me the satisfaction that I wanted. I had more energy and more drive and I wanted to do more. We knew that there were a lot of Jewish people all over the country and the world that didn't have access to what we had. Now it really fills a void.
On the essential ingredients for a mail-order business . . .
"Mail order is very, very difficult to run without an 800 number and the ability to take credit cards. We were going to be down the tubes before we started if we didn't get it."
On the value of color pictures . . .
"Color plays a tremendous role to the customer. . . . It cost more, but our sales increased so it was worth it."
On the personal benefits of launching a catalog . . .
"Before I launched the catalog, the business was just there. . . . We knew that there were a lot of Jewish people all over the country and the world that didn't have access to what we had. Now it really fills a void."
AT A GLANCE
Company: California Stitchery
Owner: Judy Rosenbaum
Nature of Business: Mail-order business specializing in Judaic stitchery
Location: Van Nuys