Sick of sending birthday cards in the mail? Send a potato.
“The potato is such a versatile product, and there’s a lot of puns related to potato, which makes this whole thing work,” said Riad Bekhit, chief potato officer and owner of Potato Parcel.
Potato Parcel allows you to pop online and send the gift of a potato with a message or photo of your choice right on its hearty brown skin.
However you say it — po-TAY-toh, po-TAH-to — sending potatoes in the mail is a big sproutin’ business.
More than 20,000 potatoes have been sent since the business sprouted in May 2015. Revenues are now budding over $25,000 per month.
“There’s so many serious things that go on in the world,” said Bekhit. “This is a very niche product, and when people see it, they get excited about it.”
What’s the point?
“It’s the same point of sending someone a birthday card or a Valentine’s Day card. This is just a funny alternative of a traditional card,” said Bekhit. “People love it. We’re a different form of sending someone a happy birthday message, congratulatory message, love notes, things of that nature.”
Sure, it helps that potatoes have a longer shelf life than other produce.
“If we were shipping a tomato and it got crushed in the mail and was all wet with seeds everywhere, this would not last,” said Bekhit.
Bekhit, who has a background in eCommerce and online marketing, has been leading Potato Parcel since Oct. 2015 after purchasing it from its original owner, Alex Craig.
“The founder was just a quirky, creative guy and came up with a cool idea. He started selling it online and was successful almost overnight,” said Bekhit.
Craig initially leveraged Facebook and Reddit, while working his full-time job. Ultimately, the business became more than he wanted to oversee and sold it to Bekhit: “I had time on my hands for a cool project like this and decided to purchase it.”
Bekhit said the social media element is infectious. So much so that Potato Parcel doesn’t really ever have to advertise.
“Our customers help us out more than they know. People talk about us online, posting on Facebook and Instagram, and then tag us and use our hashtag online,” said Bekhit. “We get a lot of publicity for free.”
Ready to send a spud? Head to the Potato Parcel site, choose your potato and enter the message or image you want to appear on the potato, ranging in price from $9.99 to $14.99. Feeling fancy? Add a little burlap sack for an extra $4.99.
“We get our potatoes from our local sources, and all the messages are written by hand,” said Bekhit. “We have people dedicated to writing messages on the potatoes and fulfilling orders.”
To date, it’s been bootstrapped, and the future of the business seems well-rooted. It’s hiring more now to keep up with demand and get those potatoes out quicker.
As for Potato Parcel, it’s keeping it simple. “We still think it’s very early on in the business. There’s a lot more people who still don’t know about us yet. When it comes time for us to innovate and stay relevant, we will do that,” said Bekhit.
Ironically, as for cooking up that potato, that’s apparently inadvisable.
“We recommend that you don’t eat it. Because we can’t be liable for any sickness. It has ink on it; it has gone through transportation through the mail. So, we don’t recommend eating it,” said Bekhit.
Although, some people may just have to try it.