New Business Ideas Gone Awry

New business ideas have always fascinated me, especially when the concept for the business has been with us all along.

I am not referring to the Internet companies that have come and gone. I am talking about real meat-and-potatoes businesses such as ice cream and coffee — things we always had around us but did not brand or position for real profit.

One of these businesses is Mail Boxes Etc., San Diego, and all of its competitors. When these businesses came about, my reaction was “That’s terrific. Why didn’t I think of that?” Kinko’s, Ventura, CA, is another one of these ideas that sort of predates the Internet.

Mail Boxes Etc. was unique, and coming from an entrepreneur’s background (anyone who started a direct marketing company qualifies), I wished that those places existed when my business was starting. In those days you had one choice: If you started the business at the kitchen table, you had to get a post office box.

There was nothing wrong with a post office box, except it told the world, “Hey, we’re little and just starting out.”

Now, according to a recent article in DM News, the great idea will have a worse connotation than the humbling “We’re little guys.” The new moniker for anyone using a Mail Boxes Etc. will be “We may be fraudulent,” and that is unfair.

The article stated, “A U.S. Postal Service regulation requiring that special addressing designations be placed on mail from individuals or small companies that get their mail at commercial mail receiving agencies takes effect Aug. 1.

“Under the rule, the USPS will require CMRA private mailbox holders to include a ‘PMB’ designation or the pound sign on their mailing address to designate it as a mailbox at a CMRA, such as Mail Boxes Etc., and not an apartment or suite.”

The rationale is that many of the companies or individuals using these commercial mail receiving agencies are deceiving consumers into believing that they are established commercial enterprises and engaging through these facilities activities harmful to consumers.

How much fraud has been taking place in these facilities?

And how many lawful entrepreneurs and small businesses have opted for these CMRAs instead of the old post office box? The U.S. Postal Service is not throwing this monkey wrench because of competition.

The CMRAs offer many services that the Kinko’s business offers. These places are the original incubators for small business.

The USPS has a responsibility to the consumer, but small, really small, business is important as well.

As a list professional I see new select possibilities.

A PMB or pound-sign designation on the address will now signal a small office/home office — or SOHO — or “really small” CMRA-type business. That is a whole new marketing segment. Think of the business-to-business, real estate, insurance and credit card offers going to this select group of entrepreneurs.

New magazines can start: CMRA Professional, a perfect controlled-circulation publication for any number of publishers.

Sadly, that great idea of Mail Boxes Etc. and all the others now will carry an unfair stigma.

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