BUSINESS

Greetabl: The St. Louis Startup That’s Challenging a $6 Billion Industry

Joe Fischer doesn’t like to brag, but he had it made.

After graduating from Saint Louis University, Fischer worked his way to the top of the totem pole on Wall Street, becoming the youngest vice president of Goldman Sachs’ consumer/retail unit before his 30th birthday. But as he traveled the world making business connections, he realized he was missing out on a different—and arguably more important—type of connection: interpersonal relationships.

Leading up to 2011, Fischer had written dozens of congratulatory wedding cards and typed hundreds of “happy birthday” posts on Facebook. But those were a dime a dozen. He wanted his thoughts to make an impact, especially if he was on another continent—a tough task to accomplish with envelopes or pixels alone.

Fischer racked his brain for weeks thinking of a way to make greeting cards that were cool, useful, and memorable. Finally, during a Mad Men binge session, the idea came to him.

Challenging a $6+ Billion Industry

If you’re like most people, you make a distinction between “the card” and “the gift.” You know the drill: nod and smile appropriately, pretend to read the corny lines, then toss it into the heap of other cards. To Fischer, this routine was ripe for disruption. So, he decided to create a card that transformed into a gift.

He called it Greetabl.

With his kernel of an idea, Fischer teamed up with local graphic designer (and now co-founder) Zoë Scharf to design the world’s first greeting cube of its kind. The finished product put prototypical greeting cards to shame. Clocking in at about 3 x 3 inches, the gift boxes tap into the need for personalization in a cluttered world. Gifters simply choose a design, write their message (or choose a pre-written one), and add treasures like bath bombs, mini flasks, gift cards, or pretty much anything that fits.

The $6+ billion greeting card industry—like most dead-tree industries—is facing challenges. But Fischer and Scharf have found a sweet spot with Greetabl, which essentially created a market of its own with its customizable card-gift hybrid. Consumers are increasingly turning to digital alternatives for greeting cards, but even Facebook’s snazzy birthday video-messages, which have come a long way over the past decade, are no match for the Greetabl experience of opening a gift in real life.

“Our fondest memories don’t take place in the digital world, neither should your friend’s birthday,” says Fischer.

When Joe Fischer launched Greetabl, his goal was to make cards cool again. If numbers are any indication, he and Scharf did just that. Greetabl expects to ship its millionth gift within the next year.

A Downtown St. Louis Success Story

Greetabl is part of a growing group of Downtown St. Louis startups that graduated from T-REX into a dedicated office. After five years of growth, Greetabl moved into its current space at Olive and 10th in 2017, where the team continues to expand, attract investors, and most importantly, make people’s day with one-of-a-kind gifts.

“The Downtown startup community has been extremely supportive of Greetabl,” says Scharf. “Between the accessibility and affordable office space, I don’t think we could have built Greetabl anywhere else.”

Greetabl’s success extends far beyond Downtown St. Louis, though. It’s been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, and BuzzFeed. Even O, The Oprah Magazine gave Greetabl its stamp of approval: “When a card’s not enough and a bottle of bubbly’s too much, there’s Greetabl.”

St. Louis has a history of big ideas: Enterprise Rent-A-Car, peanut butter, ragtime music, the list goes on. But Greetabl proves that big ideas can come in small—like, really small—packages.