A lifelong entrepreneur, Peter's idea for Ampjar came to him while working at the social media and marketing agency he helped create and launched The Township. Working with brands like Burts Bees, John Frieda, Clarins, and Biore, Peter noticed how brands like these would put so much time and effort into creating content that would get so little engagement, compared to these tiny small companies. The reason why he discovered it was storytelling. People genuinely loved hearing from the small brands because they were better and more effective at telling their brand story authentically than big-name companies. So, Peter decided to help out the small companies and sold his agency to invest in the future of what he calls 'the small brand movement.' "The new media landscape doesn't lend itself to TV ads. It lends itself to authentic messages that come from a place of heart and bring joy to customers," says Peter. [05:25] And thus, Ampjar was born.
07:29 SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS AMPJAR?
Launched initially as an email builder, Ampjar has since transformed to focusing on helping brands find authentic ways to shout out each other and grow their customer base together.
In order for a brand to join the platform, they first have to apply, because they want to keep the quality really high in the community. Peter mentions the three things they look for in a new brand, great content, customers who love them, and have good stories and products that people love to talk about. Once you’ve been accepted to join Ampjar, the company matches you up with brands who have customers that you want to target, and vice versa, and you shout out each other social media, email, and on your website as a way to help get their brand and your brand in front of new people.
11:04 WHY ARE YOU FOCUSING ON SMALL BUSINESSES AND CREATIVES?
Before the birth of his five-year old twin daughters, Peter’s wife started shopping for their nursery, and he noticed that a lot of packages that were arriving at their house weren't Amazon boxes but hand wrapped and packaged items from small businesses. He loved the feeling of getting something from a local store and thought that there has to be others who feel the same way. Peter also realized that as a society we’ve moved away from our favorite brands being these huge corporations and instead have created “a more democratized model of where we spend our money because everytime we spend our money with a small brand where every time we spend our money with a small brand it genuinely brings us joy,” and he deeply believes in that mission. [12:40]
12:53 WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A BRAND'S STORY?
The first place Peter goes when looking at a brand, is their “About us page,” so don’t skimp on it! The other thing brands need to think about when creating their brand story is, as a founder, how comfortable they are with putting themselves out there and how much information do they want to share.
When creating a brand’s story, the founder’s story is intertwined in it, and founders need to set clear boundaries on what they are comfortable sharing, and what they think customers will connect with.
17:08 WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU'VE SEEN SMALL BUSINESS DO TO GET CREATIVE?
Right now everything is changing and influx, so creating an authentic connection with your audience is now more important than ever. According to Peter, people are hungry to see how small companies are hustling to make it through and brands should showcase that part of their journey with their community, whether that be in an email, Instagram, or any other platform. “[Showing] your journey showing your story giving the people the want and the will to continue to support you and be a part of your journey,” he says.[17:34]
To do this, Peter recommends two things. The first is, that you should give your brand a voice and messaging that’s really unique and clear to the brand. Once a brand has done that, then it’s time to have authentic conversations with it’s followers, which can be anything from asking questions about what new products a brand should come out with, to dropping positive comments on followers posts—all things that big brands can’t do.
The second thing Peter recommends is finding ways to acquire customers through authentic collaborations and partnerships, that way both companies can succeed.
19:49 CAN WE TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT FACEBOOK ADS?
First off, Facebook ads are really hard and really difficult to do. Bigger companies will spend money running Facebook ads and targeting customers on smaller brands websites, and other channels, directly taking sales away from those little companies. This leads to a cycle of smaller companies thinking that they need to spend the same if not money in order to compete with those bigger brands. “It's a very easy way to spend money and if you're not being very deliberate about it you'll lose a lot of money,” says Peter. [20:37] Peter believes that if bigger brands want those more niche audiences they should do it through partnership and collaboration, not through outspending them on marketplaces like Facebook ads.
22:44 SO HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR MODEL REPLACING FACEBOOK ADS?
The short answer is it’s gonna take a lot more than Ampjar to do this. “Creators are the ones who are creating the audience and bring people into the channels. So if you’re the brand, artist, community organizer, you’re the one bringing people in [to these channels]” says Peter.
[23:09] What he hopes is that more and more people will reevaluate their spending and budgets on Facebook ads instead focus on models and other companies that are actually focused on giving rewards to creators who are bringing people to their platform.
25:41 WHY DID YOU DECIDE ON THE NAME AMPJAR?
Coming up with a name for your company is quite hard. Originally called Posty, with the url goposty.com, Peter noticed that his site, goposty.com, wasn’t driving as much traffic as it should be. Instead, everyone was heading over to what they thought the company’s website was, posty.com. So when it came time to rename, he had one big rule—it needed to have a clean .com. Peter decided to combine the word ‘amplify’ with ‘jar’, a nod to the humble roots of many of their customers selling their goods in canned jars at markets, thus Ampjar was born.
27:03 YOU SWITCHED TO A NEW MODEL DURING COVID TIMES, WAS THAT IN THE PLAN?
Back in March, when the country was first starting to experience it, retail was forced to make a hard stop—which is a huge portion of Ampjar’s business. Given that cash was strapped for not only consumers but also businesses, Peter decided to make an on-the-fly decision and do something that would really support Ampjar’s members—he decided to make the platform totally free. The reason being. Peter didn’t want businesses to stop marketing because he knew that the thing businesses needed now more than ever was to continue to grow their customer base if they wanted any chance of surviving this.
Fast forward to July, and after a few months of this model, Peter was looking at how Ampjar could get out of this model in a way that not only took care of it’s customers but also the company itself. Peter decided to make another on the fly decision and change the pricing model once again. ”[There’s really] no shame in making decisions on the fly that you just have to make some times”
[30:23] Now, instead of charging people every month a flat fee, they are rewarding top sharers and those uplifting other brands by making it free for brands who give 12 shout outs a month.
33:33 CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW YOU GOT FUNDING FOR AMPJAR AND WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
A pitch competition! At the Sydney Launch Accelerator event, Peter was one of three winners of pitch competition and netted $100K in seed funding. What happened next was that he was invited by the Launch Accelerator’s founder, Jason Calacanis, to travel to San Francisco for a three-month program and a chance to pitch in front of some of the world’s biggest Venture Capital firms (VCs). Every Thursday, from October through February, Peter stood in front of big name VCs and pitched Ampjar. Midway through this program, Peter got an offer from a VC firm to invest in his company.
Rather than go with that first offer, Peter called up another investor that he met with earlier in the program that he really liked and respected. After some wheeling and dealing, and a hop over to New York, Peter was able to secure $1.5 million in investment! “It’s a very foriegn process, and it’s one of those things that you have to take a leap of faith that the model works,” says Peter. [39:24]
40:10 WHAT WAS IT LIKE BUILDING YOUR TEAM?
When first starting Ampjar, Peter had to make a decision on if they should create a headquarters or go the nontraditional route (at the time) and have everyone work remotely. So he put out the job listings Melbourne, LA, NYC, Sydney, and other locations. What they got was high quality locations from candidates in smaller cities compared to those metropolises, and decided to forgo the office model in favor of virtual. Now, the team at Ampjar is 14 people strong located in places like Austin, Texas, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.
42:38 WHAT IS NEXT FOR AMPJAR?
Peter’s goal is to continue to help support small and medium brands. Next year, he’s focused on spreading the more about Ampjar and getting more brands in front of customers, through partnerships and in real life.
44:08 WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SMALL BUSINESS AS THEY START TO NAVIGATE THROUGH THE HOLIDAY’S, ONLINE PRESENCE AND GETTING BACK TO LIFE?
Peter’s big takeaway for your holiday strategy is to create a consistent story. “Your customers want to be a part of the journey and experience the highs and lows that you experience.”