How I Leveraged 64 Postage Stamps into a Six Figure Business

IN today’s enlightening post of ultimate marketing wisdom… 😉
1399 awesome, zero-calorie words. Take ya about five minutes.
Subject: Effective Marketing on a Shoestring Budget.
Penetrate… and then DOMINATE a market with ridiculously low advertising costs.

The year was 1990. I was 22 years young and had been running a martial arts school for just over four years. But I desperately wanted a “real” studio.

That’s when I met Cyndi.

Cyndi introduced me to the concept of the Marketing Funnel.

Marketing Principles Way Before Internet

Now, back in the summer of 1990 so the internet was not yet a thang… at least not for marketing just yet.

Up to this point the only way I knew of to increase my customer base was to:

  1. Take out ads in the paper (gone too quick), or use the
  2. Yellow pages (too expensive, plus I had to wait half a year before it came out anyway).

Cyndi knew that to reach my Hungry Crowd, I needed to get in front of them both cheaply and massively. She gave me a step-by-step assignment:

  • Buy a hundred 3” X 5” index cards, a box to hold them, and some dividers
  • Buy a hundred envelopes
  • Make a list of day care centers (these were easily found in the aforementioned yellow pages)
  • Write the name, address and phone number of each center on individual 3” X 5” cards

Also, in the 3″X5″ card box I was to label the dividers:

  1. Letter Sent,
  2. Next Season,
  3. Appointment,
  4. Demo,
  5. Interest Sheet

I was curious as to where this was going. At this I time was running a little club… a nighttime karate program that was held two nights a week in an elementary school.

But I needed a REAL “shot in the arm” to enroll new Students if I was going to be able to get a retail space and make it into a full time income.

So, WHAT was I doing messing around with day care centers?

Direct Mail Helps Me Reach My Market

success in B2B direct mailHeh… the day care centers were NOT my Hungry Crowd, but they were a place that my Hungry Crowd (mommies and daddies of 5-11 year old kids) could be reached, en masse ( I think that’s like, French or something for… lots of ’em at a time).

Cyndi’s idea was for me to hold a class on site at each day care center. That would give the teachers a much-needed break and give the kids something special to look forward to. Moms and Dads would pay for the class if there was enough interest, so the day care center didn’t need to pay me anything.

Here’s what went down next:

1)      Cyndi crafted a letter for me to send to the 64 day care centers, introducing me as the owner of a local martial arts organization and teacher of small children. It informed the day care center director to expect a call from me in the next few days to discuss a jointly beneficial idea.

2)      My assignment was to go down the list, call each day care center and ask for the director’s name. When I learned it, I put it on the card and addressed the corresponding envelope.

3)      I sent out 64 letters and gave them a few days to reach their marks.

4)      Then I called 64 day care centers again, this time asking for the director by name…  “did you get my letter?” and, “could I sit with you for a ten-minute appointment?”

5)      Some of those centers were interested, but had already filled their calendar. I moved the index card from “Letter Sent” to “Next Season”.

6)      Some centers were interested to meet. I moved their card to “Appointment Set”.

7)      After setting 18 appointments, I met with day care center directors. At these meetings I presented the idea of doing a Demonstration (“Demo”) and lecture for the kids.

8)      14 Directors agreed to let me come entertain the kids for a half hour. Their card went in “Demo”.

9)   At each of the 14 Demos, I brought flyers for the kids to take home and sign-up sheet in the office.

10) These center’s cards moved to “Interest Sheet

11)   I called the day care center directors to follow up and ask if they got the minimum 6 sign-ups on the Interest Sheet. 10 of ’em did…!

See the Funnel? We began with a target market and narrowed ’em down from 64 centers… to 18 interested right now… to 14 Demos… to 10 actual programs.

Along each step of the way, the index cards guided me as to what day care center was in which stage of the funnel. My job was to move those cards to the next step, file the others or put them in the “Next Season” slot to start the process again later.

Impressive Results from Guerrilla Marketing

Ten day care centers had gotten six or more sign-ups. They even handled the collection of tuition. After following these steps, I had 78 checks for $40 in my hand.

I marveled. For the cost of 64 envelopes, 100 index cards,  printing 64 letters and 14 sign-up sheets (the daycare centers sprung for the flyers, I just provided the copy), I had earned $3,120! Not a bad summer job in 1990. The income and the FUN didn’t stop there, though.

  • After eight weeks of making trips to day care centers to do these classes, we held a massive “graduation” ceremony and tied white belts on each Student.
  • I got dozens of orders for uniforms and tee shirts.
  • A number of new Students joined the evening program, which we charge quite a bit more for…
  • …and every single center asked me back for another eight weeks.

Traveling to daycare centers during the day generated a nice four figure per month side income during daytime hours, but more importantly it filled up my school with Students for virtually no advertising cost.

Shucks, I was being paid  to get my marketing message and proof of the benefits of martial arts training out there.

This turned into a genuine movement. Some of the “Next Season” centers signed on next and I was soon running sixteen classes and funneling them into my full-time studio.

How to Make your Hobby Into a Business that pays more than your job

My Hobby is my Living – Livin’ the DREAM

I quit my “day job” at 22. My hobby, martial arts, became my full-time career thanks to Cyndi’s guidance. The network of day care center Students became the catalyst for moving into a 2,000 square foot facility (that we expanded soon after to 3,000 square feet) with a built-in customer base. We were “in the black“… profitable and without any debt… from day one.

Cyndi’s Secrets:
Use a Marketing Funnel to direct your Hungry Crowd’s movement.
Increase levels of commitment by moving them from one level of the Marketing Funnel to the next.

Marketing Principles: What’s New is Old

My “sticks and bricks” martial arts studio is just one of three 6-figure businesses that I founded with less than a hundred dollar investment, but grew into a full-time income.

The other two businesses were totally unrelated to it or to each other for that matter;

  • one is an information product about trading the stock market,
  • and the other is a service business I started with my teenage son to teach him about entrepreneurship.

My reason for doing this blog is not to brag about my marketing exploits. It’s to bring the ideas that worked before the internet, after internet, and even now that social media is a big thang… into the lives of my kids and anyone else that’s willing to listen. So LISTEN! You can penetrate and dominate your market without a lot of expense if you know how to use the right channels.

Be your own boss and get paid what you're worth.

Be your own boss and get paid what you’re worth.

You CAN:

be your own boss,

make your own hours,

and get paid what you decide you’re worth…

…not what this guy decides.

Okay Steppers! There’s another installment of Shoestring101 for ya. If you appreciated this story (and more importantly, the principles it’s intended to communicate in an entertaining but useful way) then consider picking up my newest book, Get Paid TODAY! Structure Your Small Business Startup to be Profitable from DAY ONE  on Amazon. There’s about a dozen stories like Cyndi’s in there, designed to help you from conception of your Shoestring startup all the way to full time income replacement.

Get Paid TODAY! book by Kurt Frankenberg

Get Paid TODAY! book by Kurt Frankenberg

You can pick up Get Paid TODAY! by
<== clicking on this here book cover.


  1. Thanks for sharing an awesome case study Kurt!

    And you accomplish so much, starting with so little!

    You definitely deserve the Macgyver award for creative
    marketing genius!LOL!

    Of course the younger eyeballs, probably don’t make the connection!LOL!

    Thanks for sharing, an incredibly do able and straight forward, text book example, of what a simple, yet highly effective marketing funnel looks like.

    I really love how coordinated and structured it is. And now with the advantages of automation, your proven system can be put on steroids!LOL!

    I’ve got to study this a few more times, because there is so much here!Thanks!
    Mark recently posted…Why Extremely Savvy Entrepreneurs Rely Heavily On Marketing Leverage Not Cash!My Profile

  2. Regina says:

    Holding a class at the day care center was stroke of freakin’ genius. Serious kudos to Cindy on that one. I am so going to use this idea, tailored to my own purposes of course.

    I’ve been selling jewelry and crowns that kids seem to love but I haven’t had much luck selling online. I thought about offering a service for kids birthday parties to come dressed as a princess and teach them to make their own crowns and jewelry but I haven’t had any bites yet. Maybe local day care centers are the way to go!

    Of course the index cards idea can be updated and adapted to a spreadsheet, and snail mail can be changed to email. Then again, I love the idea of sending out an acutal, physical letter that will be less likely to go straight into a spam folder.

    I love that the principles you write about are so timeless, and the way you lay them out for us so transparently is just so refreshing and easy to follow. And It honestly doesn’t matter that you started the business you are talking about in 1990, the principle you present are just as applicable today as they were then. And trust me, I will definitely be using that to my advantage!

  3. Absolutely fantastic Kurt!

    The story itself is an incredible story of success, and the way you put it down in this article, then shared with everyone exactly how you did it is priceless.

    Probably one of the best articles I’ve promoted this year.
    Extreme John recently posted…One Rock Solid Way to Increase Your Twitter InteractionMy Profile

    • kurtf

      Awww shucks. THANK you, John!

      Y’know, my success stories aren’t the only ones that make it on here. For a more impressive piece you oughtta check out My Take on the Sumo 24-Hour Challenge “Sumo Jerky”

      In it, I talk about Noah Kagan’s boast to start a business and take it from concept to $1,000 profit in just 24 hours. It wasn’t an internet launch, it was simply a subscription service to get beef jerky in the mail.


      That is, Noah Kagan of Appsumo actually was able to take as mundane a concept as Sumo Jerky and make $1035 profit in a single day WITHOUT using his massive mailing lists or high-rolling contacts.

      You HAVE to read this insane jealousy rant glowing review of Noah Kagan’s “How to Make Your First Dollar” course.

      Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…Why Should I Advertise When Word of Mouth is Working So Well?My Profile

  4. Of all the blogs I’ve been on so far since August (this year), I think yours is one of the most useful. I love lists and hang onto them in folders, but your blogs are more than just “lists.” You actually give me how-to-do the baby steps.

    Example: I’d heard the words “marketing funnel” but never quite got the concept of how to do it. After your explanation today, I realized that yes, I knew the concept BUT hadn’t connected the dots properly.

    Thank you for that.
    D Kendra Francesco recently posted…What Are Your Core Values?My Profile

    • kurtf

      Awww Shucks Kendra! Thank you.

      If you think that part about identifying your marketing funnel was cool, just wait until you begin learning how to optimize it. Hands-down the most dramatic of the Steps.. turns a break-even biz into a profitable one, takes a profitable biz into the stratosphere. I never broke five figures per month until learning how to optimize a marketing funnel. After that it becomes ALMOST “cake”.

      I think you might appreciate my recent book, Get Paid TODAY! Structure Your Small Business Startup to be Profitable from DAY ONE available on Amazon.

      Not to just put up a blatant “plug”, the book really has a boatload of Step-by-Steps that I think you will find refreshing. Inside secret: Get Paid TODAY! goes on sale for .99 cents on New Year’s Day.

      Thanks again for the kudos. Love to have ya anytime. Heading over to your blog tomorrow, but (yawn) it is LATE here in Colorado (11:53pm).

      Talk soon. Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…How I Leveraged 64 Postage Stamps into a Six Figure BusinessMy Profile

      • I bought your book before you answered here (and before you visited my site; thank you for doing that). I’ve already dug into it! 😀
        I can usually figure things out, beginning with the “what”, “when” and “where” lists. They give me a direction to strive. Sometimes, however, I feel like I’m re-inventing the wheel.
        I like your plain-talking approach:
        ** This is what I figured out I needed for my business to grow
        ** What I did to get the business
        ** How it worked out
        You supply the missing “how-to” that’s lacking in many “how to” books.
        Thank you again.
        D Kendra Francesco recently posted…Merry Christmas, My Friends!My Profile

  5. Hi Kurt,

    I love the sending mail idea and use it all the time. I find that in this day and age people like to feel special and so I send an hand written thank you to my new clients to let them know I appreciate their business.

    Thank you for all you do!
    Tina Lynn
    Tina Lynn recently posted…Christmas SpecialsMy Profile

    • kurtf

      Cool! Yes, it’s interesting… I saw a “meme” the other day where in 1996, a guy pulls stuff out of his mailbox with a long face. But when his computer goes “You’ve Got Mail!” he lights up. In the next frame, he’s deleting emails with a long face, gets something in “snail mail” and lights up.

      Sending a handwritten postcard to your customers with an unmistakably personal message Creates Value and sets up the universe to pour abundance back to you.

      If you’re into seeing a waay cool way that I do this, check out SendOutCards. It’s still personal, still has my handwriting, but I send it from my laptop or mobile device and they get it in the mail. Kinda cool.

      Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…How I Leveraged 64 Postage Stamps into a Six Figure BusinessMy Profile

  6. Why didn’t I think of that? You’re right. SendOutCards is another great solution you should put in your Small Business Grower’s kit. I need to add that to the Blogger Resources board. Do you know that threaded comments is built into WordPress? You just check the box and decide how many levels you want. Most of us use 5 or 4.
    Gail Gardner recently posted…How NOT to Do Blog Outreach to Avoid Unnatural Link Profile PenaltiesMy Profile

    • kurtf

      I have to say that I’m not too savvy with threaded comments. MAYBE I could get smarter though. I know it’s probably kid stuff for gals like you, but I get lost trying to figure out who is saying what to whom. Ah well, it’s not about me, int’s about my readers. Gotta figure it out. Know any cool posts to help me make sense of threaded comments?

      Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…How I Leveraged 64 Postage Stamps into a Six Figure BusinessMy Profile

  7. I hope you rewarded Cyndi well for her wisdom and kudos to you for listening. If people I give ideas to would act on them faster they would have great stories like this to tell.

    Today we could do your index card thing on – way more fun and portable, too. And it’s free!
    Gail Gardner recently posted…STOP! We Are Doing Social Media Marketing All Wrong. Fix in #JJJRHMy Profile

    • kurtf

      OH! Great idea. Trello to keep track of where someone is in a marketing funnel. Smashing idea, actually. I’ll have to get more adept at navigating Trello but that looks like a killer way to go. and FREE.

      Gail, I’m putting together a Small Business Grower’s Kit and wonder if you’d like to contribute? Any free giveaway that you think would benefit a startup small biz owner. Trello is going in there right next to MailChimp and SurveyMonkey. Any other ideas youse gots would be greatly appreciated.

      Thanks again for the input and your comments, which always add value here. Come anytime!

      Keep Stepping,

      kurtf recently posted…How I Leveraged 64 Postage Stamps into a Six Figure BusinessMy Profile

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge