Friday, October 17, 2008

Making His Golden Greeting: Joyce Hall is Born

Entrepreneurs from West...Joyce Hall Founder Hallmark

Whether it is your birthday, bah mitzvah or anniversary, we all know the feeling we get when someone gives us a greeting card. For Hallmark founder Joyce C. Hall, creating that feeling was his life’s work. A high school dropout from humble origins, Hall worked hard to not only create a business for himself, but to revolutionize an industry. 

Joyce Clyde Hall was born on August 29, 1891 in David City, Nebraska as the youngest of three sons to parents Nancy Houston and George Hall. His father was a Methodist minister who brought his children up in a religious environment. In fact, it was due to his Methodist background that he even got his name. “I was born the day a Methodist bishop name Isaac W. Joyce happened to be in David City,” said Hall. And, while he admitted to always being annoyed by the name “Joyce,” he pointed out, “Clyde wasn’t any great shakes of a name either.” As a result, he would later come to be known only as “J.C.”

Growing up in poverty, Hall began an initial venture selling perfume door-to-door when he was just nine years old in order to help support his family. When he was sixteen years old, he started clerking in his older brothers’ bookstore. He then pooled his savings together with his brothers to launch the Norfolk Post Card Company. They quickly discovered, however, that their market was a limited one.

When Hall turned 18 years old, he ignored the pleas of his family and dropped out of high school. He packed up two shoeboxes crammed full of scenic postcards and boarded a train for Kansas City, Missouri. Once there, he began going door-to-door to drugstores, bookstores, and gift shops selling his cards. This time, he found greater success and Hall began taking the train to every city he could throughout the Midwest, selling his postcards to eager buyers. 

With a small room at the YMCA as his home office, Hall started to manufacture and sell his own line of postcards. He printed invoices and along with them, mailed samples of 100 postcards to dealers throughout the Midwest. As Hall expected, some of the dealers kept his postcards without ever paying. Others were angry at the unsolicited attempt and sent the cards back. But almost one-third of dealers who received Hall’s cards returned nothing but a check. 

In only a few months, the 18 year old had made over $200, and used it to open his first checking account. From there, business only got bigger, and in a few years, Hall was confident enough in his venture to ask his brothers to join him in opening up their own specialty store. 

In little time, the Norfolk Post Card Company store had opened, selling both postcards and stationery. Business was good, but Hall was worried about their losing appeal. With that, Hall decided to shift the focus of his business in a move that would forever change the course of his life. 

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