Erin Newkirk Is Changing How We Communicate
Erin Newkirk is the Co-Founder and CEO of Red Stamp, a company on a mission to make relationships stronger. Always a fan of making people feel good, she believes modern etiquette isn’t about fancy stationery and using the right fork, but kindness and authenticity.
I chatted with Erin recently about her leap from corporate branding to the gentler art of keeping in touch, and how her company has successfully navigated the choppy waters of keeping personal correspondence relevant in a tech-focused world. We also chatted about living in the great "Mini Apple" (Minneapolis for you non-midwesterners).
What is Red Stamp?
Red Stamp is a free app for your iPhone, iPod, and iPads that lets you to email, text, tweet, Facebook, Instagram and paper mail photo cards, notes, invitations, and announcements. Really what we are is a modern-day social secretary.
What was it like to enter the wide world of apps?
Since our launch late last year, we’ve consistently been in the top one percent of lifestyle/all Apple apps, so it’s been a really successful transition for us. I think the value we add is that we know the correspondence space AND we love tech. To us, it’s about elevating that every-day piece of the immediate thank-you, because these days, we live in real time. People want to know and see that, "Hey, I had a great time at your party and here are some of my favorite moments." So, send the flowers or the chocolates the next day, but also make sure you have something waiting for them in their messages folder thanking them for the party as the party winds down.
It’s the same thing with birthdays. Everyone gets excited and relies on Facebook as a way to say “happy birthday” in the moment. You may send a card or give a phone call as well, but it’s also nice to post something on their Facebook wall, so they know you’re thinking about them and you’ve gone that extra mile. So we do that as well. Today there’s an art to the mix of “long lead” and real time, and we’re really focused on helping our clients master the mix of both worlds.
Red Stamp started as RedStampCards.com before the world was ruled by social media and online communities -- how did the rise of these new media shape the evolution of the company?
The bigger question is not only how social media has impacted Red Stamp, but how it’s impacted correspondence, and that’s really what we’re about. It’s changed everything, but it’s changed everything in a good way [in terms of] how our company helps our clients. There are a lot more touchpoints, which can sometimes feel overwhelming. But the truth is, with social media, you have this ongoing, everyday dialogue with people who may be far away, but close at heart. We’ve evolved our platform for that mission over time, as these new ways of communicating and corresponding have come into play. But really our vision and our values are still the same: making relationships stronger.
So you’ve got the “i’s” (iPad, iPhone, etc) options covered. What about other platforms, like Blackberry?
Yes, one of the things we’re working really hard at is being on more platforms. Being a small start-up, we have limited resources and our first priority is to make sure that we’re servicing people that are using us right now the best way we possibly can, so we’ve been really focused on scaling -- demand has been incredible for our app. We’re getting there, we’re working really hard. And in the meantime, we actually work with a lot of people who have Android phones or Blackberrys, but they use us on their iPad.
You were a successful businesswoman in the traditional sense, with an MBA and a career which included brand management for General Mills –- so what precipitated your move into the business of helping people keep in touch?
General Mills is an amazing company, but my passion is correspondence, socializing -- and, most important, my relationship with friends and family. I reached a tipping point in my life, where these relationships felt at odds with my career when I was caregiving for my son and my terminally ill father.
I talked to people who had the same sorts of commitments, caregiving for the young and the old, and it became clear the issue of feeling really distant was universal. There had to be a better way. So I felt like I had this passion and this idea for how I could not only help myself solve this problem, but help others too, and that’s what led me to Red Stamp. The technology piece is something that really just happened over time; as a society we’ve become more tech-focused.
You have said yourself that transitioning from the fine art of paper and pen to technology was something of a philosophical struggle. Many people look forward to things like postcards from friends. Does Red Stamp replace that?
It’s interesting you mention postcards, because I think we make the postcard process even more personal than what is common today. For example, a lot of people who are traveling use Red Stamp to personalize their trip, because it’s not just a stock postcard -- it can be a picture of you in front of that fun, meaningful, favorite place. You can take the picture in an app, you can pull it in from Facebook or Instagram, take it from your camera roll, so there are lots of options. Once it’s in the app, you can personalize the photo with text. We will then print it and send it directly to your recipient for you. Much more personal than a stock photo from a corner store.
In correspondence, personalization is the piece that’s meaningful. As I mentioned, my family and friends are pretty much the center of my universe. But they are scattered all over the world -- in fact, my brother and his family are in Istanbul right now. So, one of the reasons I felt compelled to create this product was very personal. My brother would send his nephew/my son a sweet gift, and I wanted to be able to transport that image of Will holding whatever it was, with the inevitable huge, joyful smile stamped on his face. That smile was something my brother and sister-in-law couldn’t see via old-fashioned pen and paper.
People say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s true, right? Mixing photos and words takes it to another level altogether. Photos are an amazing way of bridging any kind of distance, so we have a lot of photo cards in our app that are widely used.
What’s next for Red Stamp?
I know I sound like a broken record [laughs], but we are downright passionate about helping people elevate each and every correspondence. Our goal is to be the modern-day social secretary, so we’re just going to keep evolving our offerings, tying into new platforms and offering new features that do just that.
For more thoughts on women, technology and business, please follow Kathryn on Twitter at @KathrynFinney