464
9 min 36 sec

College Student Starts Historic Letter Subscription Service

A student cashes in on his love of history by mailing beautifully designed letters to monthly subscribers.
Low Startup Potential Service Subscription Unique Ideas

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What It's About

A letter subscription service for history buffs!

Business Model
Service
Skills Required
Research & Organization
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

Like all good historians, Michael has learned a lot from the past. His experience of running a business selling physical products on subscription has taught him a few lessons that he’ll be taking into the future.

The first is to do a test run of the product before you start selling gifts or subscriptions that lock you in. The second is to pause before you scale, just as Michael did. The third is to choose suppliers who can scale at the same pace as you do. And finally, ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid, from the Start’ (or KISSS)! Simplicity is king.

Fun Fact

Michael previously ran a daily newsletter called Morning Short, for people who wanted to read more. It was pretty successful, with 8000 subscribers. But while his audience raved about the free version, trying to make money from a digital-only product like this was a massive challenge.

It taught him that he definitely wanted to work with selling physical products in the future, which was part of the inspiration for Letterjoy being a snail-mail rather than e-mail service.

Notes from Chris

Episode 464
Michael Sitver is a college student and self-confessed history nerd from Chicago, IL. He’s always loved learning about the past and studying the great historical events and people of times gone by.

While standing at his mailbox one day, an idea struck him that would change the course of his own history. He thought how much he would enjoy receiving a letter written by a legendary figure from the past—like Einstein, Kennedy, Gandhi, or Churchill. He wondered if others would too, and set out to find out in the form of a project that he hoped would make money.

First, he crunched a few numbers—just ballpark calculations of price, profit margin, and estimated market size. Everything added up, so he knew this was an idea worth playing around with. He chose a name—Letterjoy—and bought the domain.

He used a service called Strikingly to quickly build a free landing page, which helped him to visualize the business and think through what the product and pricing would look like. Michael says that he does this with a lot of ideas that he has, as it’s a really quick and easy way to figure out whether an idea comes together. It’s also a good test to see if he still has the “Wow, this is cool” feeling after spending two hours thinking about an idea.

In this case, the feeling endured.

He was then ready to start seeking out customers, he turned to his favorite niche history podcast as a place to advertise. He spent $80 on a month’s worth of ads, and the orders started to trickle in. Within in a month, he had his first 7 to 8 customers and was mailing them weekly letters that he designed and printed himself.

The number of subscribers increases every month and is now at around 300. Growth has been fast, and revenue doubles every couple of months. Letterjoy brought in more than $10,000 last month alone! Is it destined for greatness, to be recorded in history? Even if not, it’s a most notable side hustle success.


MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Letterjoy: See our history in a new light—learn more about Michael's subscription service over on his website

  • Strikingly: The website building platform that Michael used to setup Letterjoy

SEE ALSO:

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

cg-sig-newsletter

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Quote of the Day
"Don’t build your product until you find your market. Know exactly who you’re going to market to, and know why they want your product. If they won’t pay for it, don’t build it."
—Michael Sitver #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau