That’s what happened to a young company called Joey Junior.
In my recent column “Ten Must-Have Tech Tools for 2008” one of the tools was purse organizers. These are fabric inserts that you can place in briefcases, carry-on luggage, your car or a woman’s purse. They help us keep track of and organize our gear: phones, iPods, Bluetooth headset, PDAs, keys.
When I wrote the article I was thinking of a company called Joey Junior that manufactures and sells purse organizers. I had researched and found them on the Web, after seeing a friend’s purse organizer. I had zeroed in on Joey Junior because its organizers come in some manly fabrics, including camouflage, black and dark brown, thereby capable of appealing to both genders.
However, my hyperlink to the company URL did not make it past the editor due to a limit on the number of outbound links. So the reference to the company was never published.
In one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction coincidences, I got a call last week from Peter Strauss, the owner of Joey Junior.
He had seen the article and reached out to make me aware of his company, not realizing that I had been thinking of his company all along.
So while I had him on the phone, I asked if I could interview him for an entrepreneurial profile of his company, as I do from time to time of intriguing businesses. Here is the story of Joey Junior LLC:
Peter and his wife started the business in late 2004, but didn’t do much volume until the fall of 2005.
The company is headquartered in Arizona, but interestingly, a video about the purse organizers is done in part with Australian-accented voices. And the company logo pictures a kangaroo.
According to Peter, “Several years ago when my wife and I were vacationing in Australia we saw a product for organizing handbags. It made sense like a mommy kangaroo (we call Matilda) keeps her baby Joey (the Australian name for a baby kangaroo) safely in her “pocket” keeping track of the important stuff.
Years later, as handbags became larger and companies started sewing pockets inside their handbags, this Australian idea came back to us. Particularly since my wife kept “losing” her car keys and cell phone inside some of her handbags.
So the kangaroo connection, along with a somewhat unique logo and tag line (“hops from bag to bag”) just seemed to make marketing sense. Our logo was actually designed by an artist in Australia.”
The business has around 25 people in it, and quarterly sales are in the mid-6 figures range.
The organizers are manufactured in China (“where else?” says Peter), although the company is looking around at other countries.
For consumer goods like the organizers, publicity can give a critical boost. The Joey Junior purse organizers were featured in InStyle magazine earlier this year, and Rachel Ray discussed them on her show. The story points out the value of a good PR firm — just one PR hit can ignite sales.
Peter says, “We used a local Arizona PR firm this summer and one of the respondents was InStyle Magazine. They did an article on us in the October issue and our sales really took off, both domestically and internationally. Also as a result of the article, I received a call from a producer at the Rachel Ray TV Show. They showed our products on the opening segment of the October 5th show with Rachel and Lara Spencer, and we had about 10 – 15 minutes of on air time.” That one article propelled a growth spurt, both in online sales as well as interest from retailers in carrying the products.
Although the primary appeal of the Joey Junior Purse Organizer is to women, the organizers conceivably can be used by men too. Peter said he’s heard of organizers being used “on the floor consoles of pick-up trucks, to keep cigarettes, lighters, toothpicks, small tools, extra keys and glasses from flying around loose.”
The company is expanding its product line to include complementary products targeting a mostly-female audience, such as purse hangers.
Peter Strauss summed up his business philosophy this way: “I have been involved in several entrepreneurial ventures and companies over many years in business. Success really starts in having a great belief in your products. We are trying to make life a little easier and less stressful by keeping people more organized, and in the case of our new Purse Hanger, avoiding leaving a purse on a dirty, germ ridden floor, or having it stolen.”