A one woman operation at 49er Direct Marketing in Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

A one woman operation at 49er Direct Marketing in Grass Valley

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

49er Direct Marketing of Grass Valley mails nearly a half-million of its customers' flyers, pamphlets, and advertisements each year. Andrea Tarp personally handles each piece, because she's not just the owner of the company — she's the only employee.

"I don't advertise, so it's been a lot of word of mouth," she said. "You've got to take care of your customers. Every new client I get is referred from the post office or other customers."

Tarp transports hundreds of trays of bulk mail to the post office each week, often working 12-hour days. She's been known to start at 7 a.m. and work until 11 p.m. or midnight.

If it can be mailed, Tarp has probably mailed it. Her bulk mailings consist of nonprofit organizations' requests, businesses' post cards promoting products or sales specials, and political campaign mailers.

Tarp's work ethic, professionalism, and honesty keep customers coming back. She's especially careful with political advertising, since candidates would love to know what their opponents are mailing.

"I don't tell anyone about any of the campaign mailers," she said. "I don't say anything and I play stupid. I keep everything locked up in my home office until the campaigns are over and winners are announced. Then I'll recycle any leftover campaign materials or give them back."

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Nearly all the mailings are time-sensitive, so organizational skills are important. So are supportive family members and friends.

"My husband and two sons are extremely helpful," said Tarp. "I rely on them immensely. They're all troopers. If I get in a real time crunch, I'll also bring in my mom, sister, and friends to help."

Passing of the torch

The precursor of the company was Marketpro Direct Mail Services, where Tarp started working in 1998 and eventually became the manager. In 2010, then-owner Paul Houck decided to retire, and Tarp took the helm in January of 2011.

"She was very qualified and probably knew more about the business than I did," said Houck, who simply handed the reins to Tarp and didn't ask for any type of payment. "I was 67 then and I'd had it."

"Paul wanted to retire and I was going to be out of a job," recalled Tarp. "I talked to my husband, and we discussed moving the business to our home. I asked Paul if he thought I could manage the business and he said, 'Yes.' He's done so much for me. He's like my dad."

In fact, Tarp was the same age as Houck's daughter when he gave Tarp his blessing to take over the business. Houck advised Tarp to change the company's name and offered other helpful tips.

"She's making people happy and she's kept most of the clients we had before," Houck said. "The toughest thing about the business is being a small company, because the industry is geared for a much larger business. Plus, it's quite physically demanding."

Cost effective

Bulk mail, when properly prepared and sorted by zip code, saves clients a lot of money. Instead of 49 cents for first class mail, presorted bulk mail costs between 24 and 29 cents per piece.

Tarp uses sophisticated direct mail software to do mail merges, and sometimes prints envelopes with graphics.

"But most of the time I'll have pieces created at a print shop," Tarp said. "I have clients all over the United States. Often they get their mailers printed, ship them to me on pallets, and I address and mail them."

Adriana Kelly, KVMR Membership Coordinator, said using 49er Direct Marketing services the past 13 years has saved the radio station thousands of dollars.

"We used to do our mailings in-house," said Kelly. "What would take our volunteers a week to do, Andrea does in a day or two. Outsourcing made so much sense."

Kelly said Tarp's value extends beyond cost-savings.

"Our mailings look so much better in color and we couldn't do color," Kelly said. "Andrea is dedicated to making everything perfect. She'll come after hours to pick up the materials if I don't get them to her in a timely manner. She's great at putting it all together."

"I've worked directly with Andrea for over 16 years now on countless campaigns," said Andrew Twidwell, owner of ABT Plumbing, Electric, Heat & Air. "She has really helped build our business into what it is today. Andrea has always been fair, creative, and willing to get the difficult job done. I've never hesitated to refer Andrea and 49er Direct Marketing to colleagues and friends alike."

One of Tarp's out-of-state customers is Baltimore-based Astro Jump, which leases bounce houses and other inflatables for special events.

"I love how easy Andrea is to work with," said Astro Jump owner Jessica Brown, who has relied on 49er Direct Marketing for 16 years. "She has amazing customer service and her pricing is very reasonable."

BriarPatch Food Co-op is another long-time client that has used 49er Direct Marketing for 12 years.

"Andrea is dependable, thorough, and accurate," praised Margaret Campbell, the co-op's Marketing Manager. "When I ask her to do a job, I know she's going to do it right and on time. There are industry intricacies with direct mail, and it's not something we want to tackle. That's Andrea's specialty and she has relationships with the post offices, so her mailings go out correctly. That's invaluable."

Campbell said Tarp has a "loving" relationship with mail.

"She takes a loving approach to taking care of your mail," said Campbell. "I pick up a pile of mail and it's just mail. Andrea picks up a pile of mail and sees a pile of customers she wants to please."

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.

BUSINESS BASICS

BUSINESS: 49ER Direct Marketing

OWNER: Andrea Tarp

CONTACT: Call 530-210-6440