Breaking Into Prisons…as a New Market: Pelipost

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Summary of Episode

#67. On this episode of the Startup Savant podcast, Ethan interviews Joe Calderon, founder, and CEO of Pelipost. Joe’s mother’s incarceration ignited the idea for Pelipost, a print-on-demand photo company that serves families of incarcerated individuals across the US. Joe discusses the challenges of starting Pelipost while being self-funded and facing competition. The episode also delves into the importance of effective communication with facilities and the power of a solid social media strategy.

About the Guest:

Joe Calderon is the founder and CEO of Pelipost, a company that allows people to quickly and easily send photos to inmates in correctional facilities. His experience of having a mother incarcerated sparked the idea for the company while he was busy as a college intern and full-time student. Joe’s passion for innovation and helping people in difficult circumstances led him to develop a solution that makes staying in touch with loved ones behind bars easier.

Podcast Episode Notes

[00:05:21] Joe validated the idea for Pelipost by sending stationery with a logo to incarcerated individuals to test demand, received 20 users, and felt encouraged to keep going. 

[00:07:43] Pelipost has a production press and fulfillment center in Tampa to control the printing of photos for correctional facilities.

[00:13:27] Joe shares the transition from trial and error to managing a large database of facility requirements; providing a resource through displaying rules and photo limits for facilities. 

[00:14:41] The Pelipost team receives, screens, and communicates with facilities for the seamless delivery of photos to prisons.

[00:19:10] Joe talks about the power of utilizing print ads for incarcerated individuals.

[00:24:07] How Pelipost uses Facebook & TikTok to accelerate marketing. The founder also shares the difficulty behind targeting their audience with paid advertising on social media.

[00:25:14] Profitable content requires authentic, genuine, and organic material that connects with the audience. 

[00:31:15] Taking charge and making decisions for the benefit of others is important.

[00:32:31] What’s next for Pelipost? Printing press expands products to cards, photo books, and letter writing. The startup is aiming to become a resource for the community during challenging times via podcasts and forums.

[00:37:01] Future plans include a Pelly Post podcast and collaborations with correctional facilities for better communication with customers.

Ethan Peyton: Hey everybody and welcome to the Startup Savant podcast. I’m your host, Ethan, and this show is about the stories, challenges, and triumphs of fast-scaling startups and the founders who run them. Our guest on the show today is Joe Calderon, founder, and CEO of Pelipost. A print-on-demand photo company focused on serving families of incarcerated individuals across the US. Joe and his mother, Becky, started Pelipost in 2016 after a situation that made them both painfully aware of the problems that disconnected families face. 

And there’s quite a bit more to this story but I’m gonna let Joe tell it because he’s gonna do a lot better than I am. Before we get started, I want to remind you that we are in a challenge to get 100 reviews by episode 100. And folks out there, you are basically our OB1 because you are our only hope. So if you wanna help us out, head over to Apple Podcasts or Spotify and leave us a rating or a review. All right, let’s jump into this episode with Joe Calderon of Pelipost. Joe, welcome to the show.

Joe Calderon: How’s it going, Ethan? Feels good to be here.

Ethan Peyton: Hey. I’m doing great, I’m excited you’re here, I’m excited to have this chat. And I know that this story is such a good story and I’m super excited to have you on to tell it. But before we jump into the actual story of how this business started, can you give us a little bit of a primer on what Pelipost is and the problem that it’s solving?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, absolutely. So Pelipost is a mobile app that lets friends and family send printed photos to their incarcerated loved ones. So essentially you could think of us as kind of a Shutterfly-esque, but for those that are incarcerated and serving their families on the outside.

Ethan Peyton: That is a pretty buttoned-up response, I love that. All right, so let’s not tease anybody anymore. Let’s just jump into the story. Can you give us the background, the inception of Pelipost?

Joe Calderon: Absolutely. So back when I was in college my mom, she was actually incarcerated in a prison in California. So while she was inside, your world changes when you’re inside. It’s different things you have to navigate. So on our phone calls, she would always tell me, Joe, send me pictures, send me pictures. That was her link to the outside. But being a full-time student, I was an intern, life gets in the way, so you have to make time to go to Walgreens or CVS, wherever you get your photos these days. 

So one day, you know, she was like, I want pictures. I got a new car. She wants all of that. So I looked down at my phone. I was like, man, wouldn’t it be awesome if I could just, you know, tap all these pictures? I have thousands of pictures on my phone. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just tap and they would go directly to the correctional facility? So then started thinking and that’s essentially how Pelipost was born.

Ethan Peyton: It’s a pretty good story. I think that it’s really important that a founder be connected with the issue that they’re solving. It doesn’t always necessarily have to be their own issue that they have had their entire life that they’re solving, or something like that. But it’s important to have that connection that’s going to give you the drive to solve the problem. Do you know, is this the only company or at the time that you started this, and I think it was in 2016, was this the only company that was offering any sort of service like this?

Joe Calderon: There was another company out there, you know, so it’s a little discouraging. I’m like, man, somebody’s already doing this. And I’m sure a lot of people out there looking to start up are like, oh, I have this great idea, but chances are somebody is already doing it. It’s a matter of I looked at the company and was like man, they’re doing this, but I can almost do it better. I think we can do it better. We can improve on that. So there was one company out there and then we just took that and we’re able to make changes and make it better and grow it to what it is today. 

Ethan Peyton: So it was a little discouraging to you when you saw that there was some sort of competition out there.

Joe Calderon: Mm-hmm.

Ethan Peyton: I think that there’s kind of this idea that if you look out there and there is competition, that kind of helps to validate the idea that it’s there, somebody else is making it work. But yeah, it can definitely be intimidating to say, like, hey, there’s already this company. They’re entrenched, they have the relationships, they have a head start, they’re gonna make it work. But I think that seeing one other company really kind of doesn’t, it doesn’t spell doom for your company, it really kind of shows that there is an opportunity, but it’s not supersaturated. So I like that you went ahead and got started. What were some of the things, I know that you’re completely bootstrapped. So what were some of the things that you, like what was the first step? Once you had this idea and said, I’m gonna do this, I see this other company, we can make it better, what were the first steps that you took to move in the direction of building this business?

Joe Calderon: So yeah, the first step definitely, I needed to validate. I needed to make sure like, okay, there’s something here. You know, I saw the competitors out there, they had been funded, I think, a million dollars at the time. So I’m like, you know, I need to try this, see what works. So before there was a mobile app, before there was what there is today, I launched a really… you know, a really clunky website to test it out there and just put it out there on the web. And what I actually did was I donated or I gave pieces of paper like stationary. I sent that in to some people that were incarcerated, but it had our logo on the bottom. And I said, go to to get photos, this and that. And then, you know, I waited and then one day a user popped up and then another user popped up. So that month, I think, I think we added probably like 20 users, which is not huge, but it was like for an entrepreneur, when you see that first user come in, let alone pay for a service, you’re like, wow, this is great. So much motivation, such encouragement there. So that’s kind of the early stages of how we started to really feel out and test to see, hey, we got something here.

Ethan Peyton: Yeah, no, that’s awesome. And you preempted a question that I had of how you were acquiring your first customers. And that is probably, you know, it probably feels like a long time ago, because at this point, I mean, what have you delivered more than like 20 million photos to folks on the inside?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, it’s 20 million photos so far and counting. So every day we’re printing about, I wanna say 20,000 photos a day are coming off our printing press here at our Tampa location.

Ethan Peyton: That’s amazing.

Joe Calderon: Yeah.

Ethan Peyton: That’s awesome.

Joe Calderon: Yeah, so it’s been, yeah, it’s been a journey, definitely.

Ethan Peyton: Yeah, so actually you mentioned something else that I wanna talk about. We spoke just a little bit before this call a couple of days ago. And this was something interesting to me. I would have thought that you guys would have been using kind of like a third-party service to print the photos and then maybe taking care of the fulfillment or vice versa or something like that. But you guys really take care of this entire process from beginning to end, is that correct?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, absolutely. We have a full production press here at our fulfillment center like I said in Tampa, Florida. But yeah, like because we started out. We started out that way. When we were in the early days, I got that first order and I’m like, great, what do I do now? Like, I need to print these photos so I would go to Walgreens, print them out. But as time goes on, you have to know the dynamics of your industry. And so you start to realize in our industry, every correctional facility has their own rules, regulations, limits on photos. So you have to be able to control that as a company. in our printing capabilities and having control of that ensured that our customers photos were actually getting delivered not being returned or rejected by the correctional facility.

Ethan Peyton: So is this a case of like, I don’t know where it was printed, therefore I don’t know what is on or in this piece of paper, this envelope, is that kind of the kind of red tape issue that you had to deal with there?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, definitely. I mean… You know, you have to understand that people use photos and mail as a way to smuggle in contraband to correctional facilities. So you know, sending in photos from another third party or whatnot, you lose that control versus building up that credibility of, hey, these came from Pelipost, we know they’re good. That was ultimately our long-term vision was to build that credibility amongst our customers and amongst those that are incarcerated and the correctional facilities. themselves. So that was one of the big decisions there to pursue strategies.

Ethan Peyton: Was this something that you ran into personally? I mean, did you have a facility kick out a set of photos or was there another issue that you ran into that kind of like highlighted this problem?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, definitely. So I believe at the time the limit for photos was you could only receive 10 photos. An incarcerated individual could only receive 10 photos at once. So one day I remember trying to send like 20, you know, and they got kicked back. They’re like, no, you can only send 10. So then you would try again. Oh, no, you can’t send a picture like of just my face, you know, because people can do different things with the headshot, you know…

Ethan Peyton: Mmm.

Joe Calderon: …make an ID card and so on. So All these different nuances that you have to navigate, and it’s different for every single facility, and there’s about 4,000 in our database, 4,000 correctional facilities across the United States that we have to navigate around.

Ethan Peyton: Yeah, it’s really amazing to me that it doesn’t sound like there’s a ton of standardization between facilities, even at the different levels at which they’re operated.

Joe Calderon: Mm-hmm.

Ethan Peyton: And I wanna talk more about that database here in a little while, but it sounds to me like, I was thinking that there was going to be logistics issues of communicating with folks in the inside. communicating through the facilities or through their approved channels. I was figuring that you were gonna run into issues at that level, but it sounds to me like you’re also running into issues at the subject matter level. Are these images, I guess it obviously depends on the facility, but are they being viewed by folks at the facility before they can go to the incarcerated individual?

Joe Calderon: Oh yeah, 100%. So. That’s another thing you have to learn within this, you know, new world of being inside. You realize that there is no expectation of privacy when mail gets sent in, except if it’s like legal mail from like an attorney or something like that’s privileged communication. But anyone sending photos inside letters, it’s all viewed, open, inspected content is, you know, viewed by correctional staff in the mail room. So that. is like if a photo is rejected, they could kick back the entire order, they could kick back one photo. It really depends on the facility. So that’s why we really do our best to ensure that all the photos are in compliance, you know, on our end before we send them off to ensure that they’re delivered because we know how important it is to, you know, stay connected with those on the outside and the inside. So, you know, it’s, yeah.

Ethan Peyton: Right. And I think some people out there might be listening and saying, hey, what does this really have to do with me and my business? And I think that if they’re not printing photos if they’re not sending photos or other items to folks in the system, they’re not maybe running into these types of issues. But I think that. if you run a business, if you start a business, you are going to run into problems and you are going to, you’re just going to have issues. And being…

Joe Calderon: Oh yeah.

Ethan Peyton: …able to get creative and to solve those issues is, that is what business is.

Joe Calderon: Mm-hmm.

Ethan Peyton: And so I’m wondering now, you know, you’ve been doing this for several years, how, what’s the rate at which you, at which you end up getting, you know, things rejected based on either, you know, someone doing something incorrectly or working with a new facility where you all don’t know the process yet.

Joe Calderon: Yeah, so I mean, I could I can kind of walk you through the transition from when we first started, you know, first starting, we didn’t have any information, you know, websites, things of that sort. So it was a lot of, you know, trial and error, you know, people sending getting kicked back and adjusting, adapting. But as time went on, we’re like, you know what, we have to really manage this database, because we can become that resource for people that it’s a new world for everyone. limits for every single facility. That’s pretty much our bread and butter is that we can definitely deliver, ensure photos get there without, you know, violating any facility rules and whatnot. But yeah, I mean, it is definitely trial and error, but as long as you’re taking those errors or those setbacks and you’re learning from them, that’s, that’s ultimately what decides personally for me, success or being able to grow the business through those hard startup years.

Ethan Peyton: So what percentage of your internal staff is focused on navigating these logistics or communicating with the databases, or not the databases, the facilities to fill the database?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, absolutely. So we have an awesome fulfillment team here. So they are in charge of, they essentially receive the photos or get the photos from our production department. And they’re actually seeing, you know, then they’re comparing like, okay, these are the photos that are being inserted to be shipped. And then they see on their screen, okay, these are the rules, making sure they kind of line up. So we’re kind of doing a screening before we actually send them off. 

And then any issues or anything that we see that might be popping up, that’s communicated to what we call a facility relations director. So he is in charge, his name’s Randy. He’s awesome by the way. And he is in charge of actually reaching out to facilities and streamlining that communication to feed our database, to really build off that because, you know, rules change. 

Obviously, there’s everything changes, new people come into administrations and facilities. So it’s his job to really stay on top of that and keep that dialogue open because ultimately if we have communication with the facilities, they know who we are, they’re going to allow our photos to get delivered, you know, more times than not.

Ethan Peyton: All right, let’s talk about this database. So you are building a database of, I’m sure, tons of information. You’ve got the facilities and you’ve got the logistics and the photo requirements. Are you putting any other data that doesn’t necessarily pertain to what you are, to delivering photos, what you’re doing right now, but are you putting any other data that might be helpful for you? in the future into that database as well?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, so right now, I mean, mostly it’s high level, but then we’re also putting key contacts for different facilities. So who’s the administrator? What’s their number? In case we have to reach out and try and get a hold of someone, it’s about implementing, it’s essentially is a CRM just for our facility relations. So we know, hey, I talked to so-and-so, I talked to this person. Kind of getting that. We know in case I take a call or Randy takes a call, we know who we’re talking with and what to talk about essentially.

Ethan Peyton: Right, so when I think of business, when I think of the core of what business is, I think of creating value. I mean, it’s as simple as that, and yet it’s as difficult as that, because what the heck does that mean? I think this is a really, really good example where you are creating something of value. Obviously, you are building this database of information because it doesn’t exist anywhere else. 

And since it doesn’t exist anywhere else, and you need the information, there’s a pretty good chance that someone else down the line might also need similar information or would make their life easier if they had access to this database. Do you, I mean, do you have any plans to like monetize or leverage the information within your database at any point?

Joe Calderon: You know, I don’t think the question is about monetization. I don’t think that’s the core strategy because ultimately what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to become a resource at this point. So what I envision for the future is Pelipost becoming that go-to resource. So not just a matter of us using it for operationally. It’s a, it’s, I can see it becoming the aspect of, Hey, let me, my loved one just got incarcerated, let me search information and we come up providing all address, physical address, things that we use that others can use too. So I think that’s more valuable to our users and to the community, but also helping us ensure that we keep that line of communication open because that’s I think our priority at the moment. So

Ethan Peyton: Gotcha, all right. So let’s jump back to customer acquisition. And I know you gave the story of printing out some paper and sending it or donating it to the facilities themselves with your number and website or whatever it requires for folks to find you. Do you still do that? Is that still a tactic that works for y’all?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, definitely. I mean, now it’s, you know, it’s evolved much more than back then. I was just kind of copying and pasting some clip art. But now we have a wonderful graphics design team. But the same concept still applies. You know, a lot of the traction that we gain is from the inside to those on the outside. So, you know, we’ll send in with every order, we’re sending a print advertising advertisement, just saying, hey, this order was printed with Pelipost. And every time that order lands in the hands of the incarcerated individual, they’re going to take that brochure and be like, wow, like this is who I used. You need to use them too. So that’s pretty much the same drive. You know, those on the inside, they don’t have cell phones. They don’t have, well, they’re not supposed to, um, they don’t have laptops. You can’t market Facebook ads or things like that. So we utilize print ads within the inside because that’s all they can pretty much receive at this point. 

Ethan Peyton: So, I mean, that’s obviously amazing because if you were to ask me like, hey, how do I get some sort of advertisement for a service into a prison or a facility or whatever, I would be like, I don’t know.

Joe Calderon: Yeah.

Ethan Peyton: That’s not something that I think of, but there’s, so you’ve kind of got two sides of this market though, you’ve got the folks on the inside, but you’ve got the folks on the outside. And so my initial thought is, hey, go to the folks on the outside because they actually have the ability to see things and take action on stuff like that. 

Joe Calderon: Yeah.

Ethan Peyton: But you going to the inside, I think that’s pretty genius.

Joe Calderon: Yeah, and you know, it’s all about knowing the dynamics. You know, this is the experience that I had personally with my mom being inside. So that kind of gives me that advantage. You know, she by the way, she actually is our chief operating officer now. So she actually oversees all of our production, which she’s amazing. But it’s all about knowing your market and the dynamics of it, because if you really look at it, those on the inside decisions for people on the outside when it comes to sending in you know photos, letters, things of that sort. So if you can you know win over those on the inside and they’re telling friends and family you’re just reinforcing it with traditional marketing on the outside. So you’re kind of getting both sides of it.

Ethan Peyton: Yeah, and translate again this to a business that isn’t dealing with this clientele. Find the decision maker. I drove, I was out on the bike the other day and I drove by a Harley dealership and I wasn’t gonna stop in because I don’t have anything to do there, but on their little…

Joe Calderon: Hahaha.

Ethan Peyton: …sign they said, don’t worry, your wife called and said it’s okay. And it’s like… man, they figured it out.

Joe Calderon: They know.

Ethan Peyton: That’s probably their number one, you know, their number one reason that people don’t buy or that they say they don’t is, you know what, I gotta run this by the wife. And so this is the same thing. You’re putting it into the hands of the people that are making the decisions.

Joe Calderon: Mm-hmm, absolutely.

Ethan Peyton: That’s absolutely genius. And I know that you all also do quite a bit of social media stuff, and I’m assuming that that is focused for people on the outside, is that correct?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, correct. So we like to showcase, you know, our company culture. We like to show that we’re real people here. Like we’re not just random, you know, in a closet or a garage printing photos. We’re an actual team here. So that’s what we like to showcase on social media, as well as the fact, you know, how we get involved with different causes, you know, philanthropy, things of that sort. So yeah, we like to show all that off on social media.

Ethan Peyton: Gotcha. So it doesn’t sound like it’s direct ads of send photos to the people you’ve got. It sounds like it’s more indirect in just kind of brand building. Is that accurate?

Joe Calderon: Oh absolutely, yeah. You know, we have motivational Mondays, so it’s like just sending a motivational quote to our users on a Monday. It’s not, hey send photos, like send with us, like it’s none of that. It’s, you know, content that they can actually use or appreciate. That’s the goal of our social media, absolutely.

Ethan Peyton: How has that social media market, excuse me, how has that social media strategy changed over the past couple of years? Obviously, your business is changing, but the kind of rules and way things that, or ways that the social media platforms operate have also changed quite a bit over the past couple of years. How have you specifically had to keep your strategy up to date?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, I mean, obviously with I’ll use, you know, Facebook or Meta, you know, they went through some changes with respect to privacy and all that. We all know what happened. So it’s a matter of just taking their rules and kind of playing by it, unfortunately. But it’s also being able to identify. other platforms and the big one is obviously TikTok. So TikTok is a big one that we’re really building on. 

I have to shout out Caitlin. She’s our social media coordinator. She does amazing on there. But yeah, so it’s just a matter of navigating those different rules, algorithms, playing by their rules, unfortunately. So as far as a marketing standpoint, too, paying for those types, it’s becoming more and more difficult to really target your audience. So, unfortunately, it’s just the name of the game with social media.

Ethan Peyton: Are you finding those actual paid advertisements to still be profitable?

Joe Calderon: Um, they are profitable. Definitely, it takes a lot more work to get it to that point though. You know, just trying to find that audience, trying to find, you know, how to target. Ultimately, it comes back to just organic, genuine content. You know, just a video of us working or, you know, just a happy birthday. 

I know we did a TikTok where they used M&Ms, you know, because those on the inside if you don’t have makeup, women, they don’t have makeup. They use M&M coloring to actually do makeup. So yeah, go check out our TikTok. You could see it, it came out really great. So things like that is what really connects with our audience. I mean you can pay ads things like that sort but I’m finding that people are becoming a little more weary of those paid ads It’s all about being genuine. It’s all about putting out content that people actually want to watch some

Ethan Peyton: How are you measuring success on these different, either the ads, or the posts, or the campaigns?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, I mean definitely just looking at… Is it producing engagement? Are they liking the post? How many people are seeing the post? And that’s becoming another challenge, is trying to get more people to see your content without having to boost it, because ultimately social media companies are out there to make money. So you’ll get X amount of people to see it, but if you want more people to see it, you’ll have to boost it. So we try and find that fine balance, but overall, I think it’s going well.

Ethan Peyton: Well, I’m glad to hear that things are continuing to work, because I know this is obviously a changing landscape, and I don’t see it stopping. The change…

Joe Calderon: Yeah.

Ethan Peyton: …will probably all just accelerate faster and faster.

Joe Calderon: Mm-hmm, absolutely.

Ethan Peyton: All right, let’s talk about family. And I know you mentioned, Becky, we know you’re the CEO, Becky’s the COO, your wife, Natalie, is the CMO. And I wanna ask this question as openly as possible, how is it running a business at this scale with your family?

Joe Calderon: I knew this question was coming, Ethan.

Ethan Peyton: Oh yeah, I have to ask.

Joe Calderon: No, it is, you know, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It gets challenging at times to separate personal and professional. You know, we have to ensure, when we come in the office, it’s ensuring that we’re professional. You know, we all have our opinions. We all have different ways, but ultimately we need to, you know, I’m the CEO, she’s the CMO, Becky’s the COO. So it’s all about ensuring that there’s boundaries within personal and professional. So, but it does get challenging, you know, Natalie and I, we work together, then we go home, and trying to just, you know, almost like decompress and become husband and wife, you know, it’s challenging, but you know, a lot of credit to Natalie for it’s not easy being married to dating, you know we dated, married, to an entrepreneur. So yeah, I give a lot of credit to her. She has definitely helped me become the CEO that I am today.

Ethan Peyton: Yes, we all, entrepreneurs can be handfuls. That’s for sure.

Joe Calderon: Yeah, that’s a nice way to put it for sure.

Ethan Peyton: Do you all have any specific written or unwritten rules that you absolutely follow to keep the family from imploding?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, I mean, nothing really written in stone or anything, but we kind of understand that when we leave this building, things could get heated, especially when it’s strategy. And we may not all agree at once, but when we walk out of this building, we hug each other. We’re family. We’re son, mother, wife. We’re all a family. And then when we go home, we’re doing family things. Me and my wife, me and Natalie, we’re just there. watching TV, trying not to interact with our phones or whatnot. It’s kind of just making that our time, which is crucial. You have to do that because if not you can’t let the business consume that personal relationship. Definitely not.

Ethan Peyton: So have you all ever run into any issues with non-family member staff that have stemmed from the family dynamic in the business?

Joe Calderon: You know what? No, I haven’t come across that. because for the fact that we keep it professional in this office, you know, we, it’s not like me and Natalie are over there, you know, hugging each other or anything like that. It’s like, nope, she’s a CMO and I treat everyone the same. They’re an employee at this company. So I hold everyone accountable to, you know, our goals and whatnot. So, you know, that’s how it has to be. And I like it that way personally. So, yeah.

Ethan Peyton: Equal fistfights between everyone.

Joe Calderon: Yes, that’s it.

Ethan Peyton: No discrimination.

Joe Calderon: No discrimination. We’re all on a level playing field when it comes to that professional versus family. No, I only see my staff members and my team. I don’t see anything else besides that.

Ethan Peyton: Perfect.

Joe Calderon: Yeah.

Ethan Peyton: All right, let’s talk about….

Joe Calderon: …which is a skill that you just have to learn. That was an acquired skill. I learned that because before it’s like, oh, I feel bad. I don’t want to say something, but now it’s like, nope, this is how it’s got to be. So, yeah.

Ethan Peyton: So yeah, actually, I wanna dig into that.

Joe Calderon: Yeah.

Ethan Peyton: Is it an outward way that you act or is it kind of like an inward feeling? I mean, it’s probably a little bit of both, but like, what do you feel like the biggest change was between when you didn’t feel like you were, you know, had a super strong handle on the family dynamic in the business versus the time when you do have that skill?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, from the internal, it’s about… It was struggling with, man, I don’t want to say this because it’s gonna hurt or it’s gonna,

Joe Calderon: You know, it’s gonna, she’s gonna disagree with me here. 

Ethan Peyton: Yeah.

Joe Calderon: He’s gonna disagree with me. So, but after that, you have to learn that, you know, you’re the one in charge. You have to make the decision because ultimately, I’m making the best decision that’s gonna benefit everyone else, you know. I’m thinking I’m making the decision that’s going to benefit everyone else. So, me holding back and hampering that decision-making is just hurting everyone else in the long run. So, that’s kind of the realization that I came across. and I worked on personally.

Ethan Peyton: All right so let’s talk about the future of Pelipost, the expansion, the plans that you’ve got. Are you more focused on growing the core photo delivery service to more users, more facilities, more of the same, and just kind of like building yourself out that real hold on the market? Or are there other directions that you’re looking into that make sense to build out?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, so… With respect to our products, like I said, we are a full-production printing press. So we’re able to, we’ve just expanded our product base beyond just photos. We’re able to do greeting cards. We’re actually partnered with facilities to allow photo books as well. So we are able to kind of innovate and create more product offerings that comply with facility rules. We’re also adding the ability to write letters. 

So that’s a big one that we want to really be able to serve because pictures are great. but I want to be able to write an entire letter to keep that communication line open. But as far as the big picture, I alluded to it earlier, I want us to become the resource for this community that’s going through this really challenging time. Because I was there, I went through that challenging time personally. So I ultimately look at building a forum for our users so that they can go on there, exchange information, doing a podcast, you know, we want to do a Pelipost podcast for our users to give information that they can use to help navigate this difficult time. So I think that is definitely where the future is becoming is just being that online resource to connect this community and to keep the communication lines open.

Ethan Peyton: Pelipod.

Joe Calderon: The PeliPod.

Ethan Peyton: That’s the name of the show.

Joe Calderon: That’s it, Ethan. 

Ethan Peyton: There you go.

Joe Calderon: That’s it. Boom.

Ethan Peyton: Was building a community top of mind when you launched Pelipost or was there a certain point in time where you were like, hey, this makes sense. Let’s do this.

Joe Calderon: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s always been at the core of. our company because what makes us really unique is that we were there. You know, I was there, Becky was there. We’ve gone through this struggle. So we understand that the importance of photos and what they mean to somebody on the inside, if you ask Becky, she’ll say it was the fuel in her tank that kept her going through her sentence. So just knowing that every time we get an order, we fulfill it and ensuring it gets delivered, we know the impact that we’re making and the community, how we’re benefiting the community. in that sense. 

So yeah, I mean it is embedded in our core and I think that’s what speaks to our culture of empathy here at Pelipost is putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes. You know, you may have somebody incarcerated, you may be going through something personally, but I think a strong skill is just putting yourself in that person’s shoes and understanding, hey they’re going through a rough time at this point. So that’s kind of the foundation of Pelipost.

Ethan Peyton: All right, we’re gonna get into the good stuff, my favorite question. What is your number one piece of advice for early-stage entrepreneurs?

Joe Calderon: That’s a good one. I’m going through like a Rolodex of all the information.

Ethan Peyton: Oh yeah, everything’s up there.

Joe Calderon: My number one advice, I don’t know if this is cliché or not, but you know, be a jack of all trades but a master of none. You know, and you have to ask for help. You have to reach out and get the advice. I’ve made the mistake, you know, of thinking, you know what, I can do this. I can do it myself. I can do the heavy lifting. But there are people out there that specialize in things and you can network with these people, get information to help you succeed. So that ultimately is the advice I would give, is know when, what your limit is, and then know when to ask for that support, when to ask for that help. 

Ethan Peyton: You know, cliches become cliches for a reason. It’s because they’re good advice.

Joe Calderon: You know, yeah, I mean, that’s ultimately what I can say. And I mean, just another piece of advice is just speaking from personal experience. you’re gonna have the entrepreneur journey, the entrepreneurship journey is a non-traditional journey. People are going to criticize, people are going to say, why are you doing this? You have to stay the course because ultimately you’re gonna see that traction, but you have to stay the course. You have to ignore the outside noise and just go with what you feel. And if you have the drive to do it, you’re gonna succeed.

Ethan Peyton: All right, what’s next for Pelipost? What are we gonna see in the next month, three months, six months?

Joe Calderon: Yeah, so I mean, like I mentioned, looking to start a Peli Post podcast. So that’s going to be rolling out probably within the next, I would say three months or so, and then you’re going to start seeing more and more product offerings. You’re going to start seeing, uh, greeting cards, which have already launched. We’re starting to see traction there. And I think what you’re gonna start seeing too is we’re gonna start being, working directly with correctional facilities because ultimately if we keep that line of communication open, that’s gonna be better for our customers because our photos will be delivered, we’re all on the same page. So that’s gonna be crucial and you’re gonna start seeing these collaborations with correctional facilities to ensure that those communication lines or methods stay open and those on the inside.

Ethan Peyton: I’m looking forward to seeing everything that you’ve got going on. Joe, this has been a ton of fun. Last question, where can people connect with you online and how can our listeners support Pelipost?

Joe Calderon: Absolutely. I would just tell everyone go to our website You can see our story. You can see pictures of, you know, Becky and I when she was incarcerated. So you know, you know, telling the truth here. And then all of our social links, you can find us on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, definitely want to check out our TikTok. We have some great content on there just to kind of see what we’re all about and what goes on between these walls every single day. So. And Facebook.

Ethan Peyton: All right, well, and Facebook, get the Facebook.

Joe Calderon: Gotta get to Facebook.

Ethan Peyton: Well, we’re gonna put links to everything, everything you just mentioned and everything else that we talked about in today’s show on the show notes page over at slash podcast. But this is it, Joe. This has been a ton of fun. Thank you so much for coming on. I wanna give you the last word.

Joe Calderon: No, I just want to say thank you for having me and for just talking to those entrepreneurs out there that are looking to start up. Like I said, you just have to stay the course. Listen to your heart, go for it. And if you don’t succeed the first time, you take a step back, learn from it, and just keep going. So just keep going for it.

Ethan Peyton: Thanks, Joe.

Joe Calderon: All right, Ethan, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Ethan Peyton: 

Alright, that’s going to be it for this week’s episode of the Startup Savant Podcast! Thanks for hanging out!

Hey, I have a quick favor to ask of you before you go. If you like the pod and want to support the team, the best way to do that is to share the show with your friends. All the podcast players make sharing pretty simple, so when you have 30 extra seconds today, tap that share button and send this over to two of your besties. We appreciate your help!

We will be back next Wednesday morning with another episode! I hope to see you there, and in the meantime, go build something beautiful!

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