49er Direct Marketing of Grass Valley sends nearly half a million flyers, brochures and advertisements to its customers each year. Andrea Tarp takes care of each part personally, as she is not only the owner of the company, she is the only employee.
“I don’t advertise so it’s a lot of word of mouth,” she said. “You have to take care of your customers. Every new client I receive is referred by mail or other clients.
Tarp transports hundreds of trays of bulk mail to the post office every week, often working 12 hours a day. She is known to start at 7 a.m. and work until 11 p.m. or midnight.
If it can be posted, Tarp probably posted it. Its bulk mailings consist of requests from non-profit organizations, postcards from companies promoting products or specials, and political campaign mailings.
Tarp’s work ethic, professionalism and honesty keep customers coming back. She is especially careful with political advertising, as candidates would like to know what their opponents are sending.
“I don’t tell anyone about the campaign senders,” she said. “I don’t say anything and I play the idiots. I keep everything locked up in my home office until the campaigns are over and the winners are announced. Then I will recycle any remaining campaign material or return it.
Almost all shipments are urgent, so organizational skills are important. The same goes for supporting family members and friends.
“My husband and two sons are extremely helpful,” Tarp said. “I rely heavily on them. They are all soldiers. If I have a real-time seizure, I will also bring my mom, sister, and friends to help me.
Passing the torch
The forerunner of the company was Marketpro Direct Mail Services, where Tarp started working in 1998 and eventually became the director. In 2010, then owner Paul Houck decided to retire and Tarp took the helm in January 2011.
“She was very skilled and probably knew more about the business than I did,” said Houck, who simply handed the reins over to Tarp and didn’t ask for any kind of payment. “I was 67 at the time and had had it.”
“Paul wanted to retire and I was going to be out of work,” Tarp recalls. “I spoke to my husband and we discussed moving the business to our house. I asked Paul if he thought I could run the business and he said, “Yes. He has done so much for me. He’s like my father.
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 name and offered other helpful advice.
“She makes people happy and she kept most of the clients that we had before,” Houck said. “The hardest thing about the business is being a small business because the industry is designed for a much bigger business. In addition, it is quite physically demanding.
Bulk mail, when properly prepared and sorted by zip code, saves customers a lot of money. Instead of 49 cents for first class mail, pre-sorted bulk mail costs between 24 and 29 cents per piece.
Tarp uses sophisticated mailing software to perform mailings and sometimes prints envelopes with graphics.
“But most of the time, I have parts created in a printing house,” Tarp said. “I have clients all over the United States. Often times they print their mail, send it to me on pallets, and I address and mail it.
Adriana Kelly, KVMR Membership Coordinator, said using 49er’s direct marketing services over the past 13 years has saved the radio station thousands of dollars.
“We used to do our shipments in-house,” Kelly said. “What would take our volunteers a week to do, Andrea does in a day or two. Outsourcing made so much sense.
Kelly said the value of Tarp extends beyond cost savings.
“Our shipments are so much better in color and we couldn’t do color,” Kelly said. “Andrea is committed to making everything perfect. She will come after hours to pick up the documents if I don’t get them to her on time. She is good at putting everything together.
“I have worked directly with Andrea for over 16 years now on countless campaigns,” said Andrew Twidwell, owner of ABT Plumbing, Electric, Heat & Air. “She really helped make our business what it is today. Andrea has always been fair, creative, and ready to do the tough job. I have never hesitated in recommending Andrea and 49er Direct Marketing to my colleagues and friends.
One of Tarp’s out-of-state clients is Baltimore-based Astro Jump, which rents inflatables and other inflatables for special events.
“I love how easy it is to work with Andrea,” said Jessica Brown, owner of Astro Jump, who has relied on 49er Direct Marketing for 16 years. “She has amazing customer service and her prices are very reasonable.”
Another long-time customer who has been using 49er direct marketing for 12 years is BriarPatch Food Co-op.
“Andrea is reliable, thorough and accurate,” said Margaret Campbell, the co-op’s marketing manager. “When I ask her to do a job, I know she will do it right and on time. Direct mail has complexities in the industry, and it’s not something we want to tackle. This is Andrea’s specialty and she has connections with post offices, so her mailings are going out correctly. It is priceless.
Campbell said Tarp had a “romantic” relationship with The Mail.
“She takes a loving approach to taking care of your mail,” Campbell said. “I pick up a stack of mail and it’s just mail. Andrea picks up a stack of mail and sees a stack of customers she wants to please.
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news article, contact her at [email protected].