How the Navy Helped Me Start a Greeting Card Company

My military background was instrumental in helping me start a small business. Without the skills and opportunities that the Navy provided me, I may never have been able to start my greeting card company.

Education & Experience

After serving in the Navy during World War II, I used the G.I. bill to attend college, earning a BFA at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, which is now called the University of the Arts. I was then recalled to active duty for the Korean War. After six months in the Pacific, I was assigned to a Naval Air Station for the remaining 18 months of my service. Because of my art skills, my job in the Navy was designing aviation safety posters and drawing a weekly comic strip for the base newspaper. In my spare time I began freelancing cartoons to Hallmark and other greeting card companies. When I got out of the Navy, I knew I was ready to begin my own venture.
Getting Started

When my service time ended, I moved to Los Angeles and decided to start my own greeting card company. With no money for commercial printing, I set up a one-man silk screen project. It required cutting stencils, using various colored inks, and printing each greeting card by hand.

Advantages of Being a Veteran

The military taught me discipline and respect. I worked hard and always tried to serve my customers and honor my word and my commitments. If it meant losing money or working late, I did it to keep my reputation. When serving in the Armed Forces, if you make errors or don't take things seriously, people can die. I brought that same intensity and serious attitude to the business side of the greeting card business, while bringing my sense of humor and creativity to the content side.

When banks and other companies that I did business with found out I was a veteran, they seemed to be more willing to help me. People were also happy to take a chance with me as opposed to competitors, as they knew I had to be responsible to serve.

Knowing When It's Time to Grow

I made contacts with reps in other cities, and with increasing sales, business grew. To ensure that I had enough time to run the business and create new designs, I hired two workers. They did the silk screen work and handled shipping and inventory.

After two years, income had grown enough to quit the labor-intensive silk screen process and instead have the cards printed commercially. By then, I'd hired an artist to produce new designs and two more employees to handle office work, inventory, packaging, and shipping.

Realizing When to Go

Although the business grew steadily over five years, by then I was getting weary of the grind. In addition to working 60 or 70 hours in the shop each week, I traveled monthly to sales meetings and trade shows in major cities.

As satisfying as it was to be my own boss, I decided it was time for a career change. I needed a job where I could do a day's work, and then go home to have time for myself. I told my reps and employees I was closing down the business, and gave each a month's pay.

Setting Up for the Next Career

I sold the business, including the inventory, accounts, and designs, to a large greeting card company and shut down. I later became advertising manager with Prudential Financial. After a 25-year career there, I retired. Through it all, I've continued my artwork. Today I create digital design and art for online use and paint landscapes and portraits.


More from Ted Sherman:

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