Despite losing tens of millions of dollars in venture capital with his 1995 catalog start-up, Genesis Direct, Warren Struhl apparently had little difficulty financing his latest venture, Awards.com. With more than $14 million in investment capital so far, the Lyndhurst, NJ-based Awards.com launched its Website in late April and mailed 700,000 copies of its print book in early May.
Awards.com sells trophies, promotional products, and corporate gifts. The major investors include the Advance Internet division of publishing conglomerate Advance Publications; investment firm Hicks Muse; and Robert Wesson, co-CEO of New York-based Wit Capital. Struhl, who had cofounded specialty paper catalog Paper Direct prior to Genesis, is chairman of Awards.com. Michael Hamilton, who was most recently with Internet service provider Lynxus, is the start-up’s president.
“Awards, motivational, recognition, and promotional products represent an oddball area,” Hamilton says. “It’s a stale, fragmented $25 billion-plus industry with so much potential.”
The print catalog, which shows only a selection of the approximately 750 SKUs available on the Website, was mailed to names rented from lists of buyers of corporate gifts, awards, recognition products, and promotional products.
Awards.com will build its brand name by advertising in such vertical magazines as Business Week, Business 2.0, Forbes, and Fortune. The company will also advertise in the Yellow Pages and through banner ads on the Internet, and it will test radio advertising as well.
Awards.com has also set up exclusivity arrangements with several professional sports leagues, including the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer, to enable buyers to affix professional logos on their trophies if desired.