Please state your name and a little about your current status.
Hi, my name is Alex Kurkowski. In 2018, I started attending Rice University as an MBA candidate.
What exactly does your company do?
Tellinga (like telling a story) is a Houston, TX-based start-up that creates personalized hand-drawn greeting cards that tell your story through snail mail. Story recipients receive illustrated stories about themselves based on unique preferences. It can be fun, dramatic, thoughtful… anything!
Here’s how it works:
Select your story length (options-one day, one week, two weeks, or one month)
Upload a photo and add a description of your desired story (you can reminisce a memory from your past or create a brand new story
Our team of talented illustrators and artists will start working on your story
A few days later, the designated recipient of the story will start receiving unique hand-drawn greeting card-sized illustrations every other day in their mailbox until the package ends
How did you start your company/business as a startup?
Already equipped with a career, and now maintaining a new MBA workload proved to be a tall task. I noticed that all my free time started to slip away, and so did a lot of my relationships with friends and family. To keep in touch, I started snail mailing them epistolary (literary/artisanal work in the form of letters) style illustrations. I would draw pictures in story form and snail-mail them out to loved ones piece by piece over time. Imagine a comic or any book with images being taken apart page by page and then those pages snail-mailed out one by one throughout weeks or even months! For my friends and family, it was always a way to stay connected and create fun, personalized stories so that they could look forward to checking their mailboxes every day. My family and friends always enjoyed these stories because they were always goofy, consistently sent over time, and they were always drawn as the main characters in their own personalized “mailbox movie.”
After telling a few friends at school that I was sending art stories through snail mail to friends and family, they suggested I turn my hobby into a business, so I decided to start Tellinga.
What struggle did you go through to reach your current status now?
When I reflect starting Tellinga one year ago, I believe I was where naivety, meets stupidity, meets confidence which can be a deadly combination and to be honest there is a big part of me that still feels this way. Equipped with a career in pharmaceuticals, attending grad school at Rice, and trying to maintain a relationship with my girlfriend encouraged me to start Tellinga. I wasn’t developing a cure for cancer or a new driverless car, so I thought it how hard could send hand-drawn art through the mail be? This part of the story can now be titled “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I knew that I had to create a website (which I have never done before) and hire artists (which I also have never done before nor where to start) but lacked complete vision on everything else. I didn’t know where to find artists, if they would want to work with Tellinga, and how I would compensate them, that I would have to form an LLC (where to go and how to get started), create contacts for the artists (where to go and how to get started), create operational polices, pricing strategy, where and how to find the materials from stamps, cardstock, and envelopes, what exactly the product would look like (quality) or what I wouldn’t that to be, social media campaigns with Hootsuite planner for brand new platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr (all new to me), running social media ads on facebook/Instagram, reach out to the press and bloggers (or if this was the right strategy) and what our messaging would be, how to collect and start email campaigns, how to create unique content with Canva or filmora, implement a review system, use QuickBooks (lots of problems here), track orders, customer service, install a 150+ affiliate program, search engine optimization using Ahrefs, use of digital marketing CRMs like Buzz stream, acquire customer feedback and use surveys, and creating/shaping company culture. This is all just to name a few all the while I was maintaining a career in pharmaceuticals, attending grad school, and in a loving relationship. Major shout out for those that have children because I have no idea how you could do it. I have wasted thousands of dollars and hours on what I like to now call dummy taxes. I have gained 25 lbs. from the terrible stress diet (always delivering food due to lack of time with uber eats). I have not slept for more than 5 hours in so long I can remember. The sacrificed time with close friends, family, and my girlfriend have been unreal (I feel like Howard Hughes after locking himself in his room during a challenging time of his life). Constant frustration and irritation with myself for my lack of knowledge or understanding with a new platform, process, or procedure. The scared feeling you get sometimes of waking up early to start the day because you know how hard that day is going to be. The feverish notetaking on my cell phone all day after a new thought enters my mind. The obsession and consistent consuming thoughts. Learning new things in the leadership program at work, new knowledge in grad school and all the things listed above made t challenging to focus on leadership. The past year has easily been the hardest, and in a weird way, I think only other entrepreneurs can understand the most satisfying of my life. I say all of this as if Tellinga has taken off and done extremely well, but we are still struggling and finding out way.
How did you manage to cope up with those struggles?
I never really did. I just decided to keep pushing and work through everything until I improved.
Who inspired you to move forward and influenced you in all your achievements now?
My parents. They have always been there and supported me every step of the way.
What piece of advice will you share with those who would like to follow your footsteps?
1. When you are going through hell, just keep going
2. You have to grind to shine
How can people follow your journey? Please list your social media URLs
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