High school dropout to CEO: Postcardmania founder helps market small businesses

It's a workplace where even the printers have personality.

Joy Gendusa leads Postcardmania's colorful office space in Clearwater as the founder and CEO. She said the company takes traditional direct mail by using postcards and other products to combine with online ads and tracking to see where leads are coming from for small businesses. 

She said her business and marketing savvy didn't come from a college education. She dropped out of high school.

"I was definitely a ne'er-do-well," Gendusa said. "I went to an art high school in NY and really just enjoyed hanging out with friends and doing art and enjoying the city more than I liked going to class. If you can sell you can pretty much do anything, so I started selling. I'm pretty self-taught in a lot of areas including graphic design which eventually I started doing freelance, which then led to me brokering printing and then that led to Postcardmania." 

Postcardmania employs more than 300 people, many of them younger.

Gendusa said she tries to mix in light-hearted activities, like Spirit Days, to keep them engaged.

"It's more important now than it used to be, although we were always fun," said Gendusa. "We do a ton of surveys of the staff to see what they need and want, and then we just provide what they need and want."

She's created her own higher learning of sorts at the business called Postcardmania University to help her staff succeed. It includes courses for new hires to get acclimated to the company and how it operates. 

They also created a marketing dictionary with terminology to train people from the ground up, Gendusa said. 

While she doesn't discount the benefits of a college education, Gendusa believes direct experience has been an invaluable tool in learning what works and what doesn't.

"They think 'oh I'm going to put a post on Facebook, and I'm going to get business.' It just doesn't work that way. People need to see things over and over and over again. It's hard work. It's long hours. It takes a lot of dedication and stick-to-itiveness, persistence on a given course. Those are the things that I think are missing from the college education. Teaching about those things. Those soft skills," said Gendusa.