Amish Tolia is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Pear, a digital media company headquartered in Chicago, IL. Since starting his first business in his dorm room at Indiana University with $200, Amish has now raised over $2 million in venture funding from leading VC firms, has partnered with dozens of global brands and has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, TechCrunch, The Chicago Tribune and more.
Pear executes a social grassroots strategy through the sponsorship of millions of targeted consumer groups to drive high-quality engagements, lift in brand metrics and conversions. Pear enables brands to break through the traditional marketing noise and build deeper, more meaningful consumer relationships by supporting their personal passions. At its core, Pear is devoted to marketing that matters.
Who are your ideal clients?: Our ideal clients are businesses looking to acquire high-quality leads across the nation. We work with clients who are looking to break through today’s advertising clutter and build authentic relationships with consumers through their personal passion points. We work with clients that are in insurance, banking, CPG, telecom, beer, QSR, and retail industries.
Is this your first business?: No. Jared Golden and I started our own apparel printing company, Campus Threadz, in our dorm rooms at Indiana University. We grew it to 40 campuses before selling the business in 2008. While designing branded t-shirts for local organizations, we both realized community groups had difficulty raising money for large events but were quick to use social media to spread the word about their organizations. Similarly, we found that brands wanted to support these organizations but didn’t know how to create authentic, measurable engagement. From this realization, we founded Apparel Media Group in 2009, which was later rebranded as Pear and then acquired by CustomInk in 2012.
What is the biggest reason for your success so far?: The fact that our platform is a unique community marketing channel. By helping marketers advertise in a more meaningful and beneficial way for both brands and consumers, Pear is breaking the traditional media marketing model and pioneering a new technological solution for brands in a $29B industry. Currently, Pear is reaching more than 80 million consumers annually and works with millions of community groups across the country, from student organizations to sororities to youth soccer teams, who are in need of sponsorship.
What were the earliest indications that this business could be successful?: The earliest indication of success was when we were able to successfully convince an advertiser to leverage our platform to communicate their message through apparel and reach their target audience.
What is working best for your marketing right now?: Our partners are some of our best marketing channels right now.
What is your biggest differentiator?: We have created a unique community marketing channel that’s able to target consumers at scale and produce high-quality leads. We sell a media marketing solution to clients that are continuously looking for new and unique ways to advertise in a very saturated marketplace.
What is the toughest decision you've had to make in the last few months?: Focus is everything in the startup world and critical for success. It’s tough to say no to clients when there’s potential revenue on the table.
If it was possible, what advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?: Don’t try to be a hero. There’s no shortcut to a successful business, but it’s important to stay focused and to be able to strategically adapt at a fast pace.
How did you meet your co-founders or business partners?: Jared and I met during a college course on campus and started working together after that.
Has content marketing been successful for your business?: Yes, content marketing has been successful. Specifically, we have found that useful and shareable Infographics resonate well. They’re easy to digest and can be extremely impactful if executed properly.
What book are you most likely to give as a gift?: Either Good to Great by Jim Collins or The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.
Favorite place to travel to?: El Nido Philippines.
What is the best small business in your neighborhood?: Brett’s Kitchen in River North. It’s one of my favorite lunch spots.
What is your favorite app or online tool?: Uber.
What inbound marketing strategy has provided the best ROI?: Article publications and email campaigns have produced the best ROI in the past. We’re currently working on a video marketing project, which will be a new channel for us.
How did you finance your business?: Venture Capitalist, strategic partners, and the acquisition by CustomInk.
What business would you love for someone else to start?: I would love for someone to create a premium travel company that lets people book awesome adventures off the shelf.
What advice do you have for new founders?: Be calculated. Be diligent in finding product market fit and securing unit economics. Don’t lose focus and always hustle.
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