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How a personal loan helped a company’s young audience go from reader to hero

With a little faith, pixie dust and business card alternatives, Hooray Studios founders turned a sweet gift into a distribution venture of magic and wonder

Summary

Hooray Studios created a world in which the young reader and the protagonist are one – as they get to choose their own adventures. Through the use of credit cards and personal loans, this e-commerce business has delighted little minds in six different countries.

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Hooray Heroes

In 2013, two young Slovenian entrepreneurs, Rado Daradan and Mic Melansek, came up with the idea of creating personalized books for children. Both had just become uncles and wanted to give their nieces an unforgettable gift. They dreamed of a book in which the girls would play the primary character in the story.

With a few hundred dollars in savings, the duo worked with local authors and illustrators to come up with a prototype. After sharing it, they knew they were onto something. The idea involved customers providing the name and physical characteristics of the boy or girl they had in mind, and the company would develop a book featuring that child. The feedback from parents and children was so positive that Hooray Studios officially launched.

Six years later, Hooray Studios, which is headquartered in Salem, Massachusetts, now has a presence in six countries. They sold 500,000 books in 2018 alone. The company’s breakthrough occurred after releasing books written by leading authors – including Adam Wallace, a three-time New York Times best-selling author – and featuring artwork by top illustrators.

To ensure a quality product, Daradan also relies heavily on feedback from customers. “They are our biggest assets, so we engage with them, and listen, taking their suggestions seriously,” he says. “The most common and reasonable suggestions for improvement are always considered, and then we implement those changes.”

Daradan has big plans for Hooray Studios. The goal is to be the leading publisher of personalized books in North America and Central and Western Europe by 2020. Such expansions cost money, however, so when spending upwards of a hundred thousand dollars a day in operations, he says credit cards have become invaluable tools to make the magic happen.

In the beginning, how were you able to get your business off the ground? 

Hooray Books

As a startup company, we weren’t able to get a loan or any other line of credit. Therefore, the first financing of our venture came in the form of a personal loan. We did apply for a credit card, many times, but no one would approve it without a deposit. As we could not give anything for collateral, the banks were not willing to give us a loan or a credit card. Our credit history was therefore irrelevant, and our turnover was insufficient for a larger loan.

We didn’t get into any debt because we were initially very financially conscious and only spent as much as our income allowed. In fact, we still are very careful with money and debt, because we know that only one mistake can have a domino effect.

See related: Does your company need a business credit card?

How are credit cards helping you and your business become successful? 

Credit cards are a very efficient tool for an e-commerce business as they are a safe means of payment for our customers, and the costs for us are low. Marketing platforms only accept PayPal or a credit card as a payment method – at least until you develop a good credit history.

Since we pay for advertising before we create revenue, the only way to cover the costs are with credit cards – which we now have. We are dependent on them to propel our marketing. With a credit card as the main source of payment in a marketing platform, we can start a marketing campaign with no cash in hand. For example, we run an advertising campaign for a month to generate planned income, but we pay for it the following month. Credit cards create business with no seed money.

Right now, all the credit cards we have are from European banks. In the U.S., we have a debit Mastercard from Eastern Bank, our local bank. As the credit limit is extended on this, so too does its utility to us.

The amount that we normally charge varies a lot. It can reach up to $150,000 per day. We could pay for it all in cash, but credit gives us much more time to forecast our cash flow. In general, we don’t borrow money or take long-term loans from banks. Credit cards, however, as short-term loans, work great for us. They free up our cash flow and give us one month’s time to turn around and reinvest the money, and that suits our type of business very well.

How are you handling the accounts, especially when employees use them? 

We have around 100 employees in total, but access to business credit accounts is limited to a small number of people who are mostly in our financial department. We control that spending through daily reporting – sometimes payments need to be confirmed by me (as the CEO) via a text message only I receive.

As far as the account management is concerned, we pay all bills off on the due date. We don’t use specific accounting software for credit cards, but we make weekly reports in Excel.

See related: Should I give more employees company cards?

What is your advice for other business owners? 

Don’t be afraid of anything in business, but do keep track of all your spending and the company financing. Never miss your payment due dates. If we all contribute to being disciplined regarding due dates and being ethical, not only in business but in general as well, the world will be a nicer place for all of us.

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