Ethan Parker of Parker Planners very kindly agreed to answer my questions about his company, how he started it, and what it's like to be a young entrepreneur. Ethan, thanks very much for your time and thoughtful answers!
1) What first inspired you to create a planner? Was it for your own use, or to fill the needs of someone else, or both?
I was trying to create the ideal planner. I didn't want to have to carry a large planner around - I wanted something that would be discreet enough to fit in my pocket and still have plenty of room to plan on. Later, as people saw me using my planner friends and family started asking that I make them planners. From there Parker Planners was born.
2) What was your creative process? How did you decide on the format and style of the planner? Did you know exactly how you wanted your planner to be right from the beginning, or did you go through several variations before you hit on the final form?
The planner is on version 5.0 right now, but all planners have been relatively similar. We keep tweaking it based on customer input and I doubt it will ever be completely the final version. Changes to the most recent version include an extra week of planning, 2 new cover options, and a mini calendar in the back that is modeled after a conventional wall calendar.
3) What was your path to success: starting up your company, publishing your first planners?
Our first batches of planners were printed at local printers, but they charged high prices for the low quantities we started with. Now we have found a great place that charges much less bulk pricing. With college bookstores we really just got lucky, the bookstores liked that the planner was unique and we offered flexibility and responsiveness that other companies couldn't offer.
4) How did you market your planners to the first buyers?
Just walked in there and said "what do you think of this?"
5) I saw on your website that you sell lots of planners at university bookstores. I can see how your planners would be very useful to college students. What other types of people use your planners? Have you heard of any surprising users/ uses of your planners?
One surprising story was that at the University of Idaho in Moscow, ID there was a convention where baptist women loved our planners. That one was kinda funny.
6) What are your future goals for Parker Planners?
Market to bigger retail locations and expand to a national sales base.
7) What advice to you have for other young entrepreneurs?
Just try it. Stop talking about your idea, ditch school for a day, and throw $500 and 35 hours at it. See what happens. You will learn more during that time than in 5 years of what we like to call "school" in this country.
Parker Planners has been amazing for me. I love my job! Sure it doesn't pay a lot and right now is a difficult time to start a business but truly I don't regret my path whatsoever. I wouldn't change a thing. Money is not the end goal, but it can motivate toward achieving genuine goals along the way. We are always looking for talented people that care more for others than themselves. If you are in Utah Valley we'd like to hear from you if you fit that description at all.
Many thanks again to Ethan!