Sue and Curt Todd invented the original concept for MailWraps magnetic mailbox covers.
The couple formed a new corporation, MailWraps, Inc., to produce and distribute their product concept. Their business plan called for distribution through independent gift shops and mail order catalogs. Curt quit his job in the training business to devote himself full-time to the new venture. To ensure the family had at least one stable paycheck, Sue returned to work full-time as a registered nurse.
MailWraps mailbox covers were launched at the National Stationery Show in New York City with a total of only sixteen SKUs. Initial order volume was very modest.
The company received the first of many, many letters from consumers raving about the cleverness and the quality of MailWraps mailbox covers. Over the next two years, the company received hundreds of similar hand-written letters from consumers, enough to fill several cardboard storage boxes.
Despite enthusiasm from end-users, problems with early product packaging hampered sales at retail and store reorders were minimal. The company’s capital was exhausted and two very difficult years followed.
Curt and Sue were ready to face financial reality and throw in the towel, when Desert Storm began. Demand for patriotic products exploded, and American Flag mailbox covers were no exception. MailWraps, Inc. went from 4 employees to 35 employees in less than 3 weeks. The war ended quickly, and so did the window of opportunity. But the short-lived phenomenon gave the company a much needed capital infusion and several more months of life.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office notified Curt and Sue that the patent application for their magnetic mailbox cover invention had been approved. They were issued U.S. Patent No. 4,991,769 on February 12, 1991.
After a lackluster Fall/Holiday season in late 1991, the company needed a very strong Spring to justify continuing. It didn’t happen. MailWraps, Inc. was dissolved in early 1992 and Curt and Sue believed their dream had ended.
As part of a liquidation strategy, the couple moved the remaining inventory to the basement of their home. They abandoned efforts to sell to retail stores and instead began focusing on mail order sales. A new entity, Magnet Works, Ltd. was formed. Another important change in the company was a role switch for the couple. Curt returned to work full-time in the training business. Sue traded her full-time nursing job for a part-time job running the new basement operation. She built a mailing list from the cardboard boxes of consumer letters the company had earlier received and mailed a small brochure. The response was overwhelming. Sue’s part-time job quickly became full-time.
Their liquidation plan worked so effectively that inventory of the best selling designs was quickly exhausted. Less than 12 months after mothballing their printing equipment, they pulled everything back out of storage to begin printing MailWraps again. They set up their print shop 30 miles away in a small 30’ x 30’ wooden floor garage that belonged to Jerry, their former press operator (and current Plant Manager).
Kevin Taylor Todd, the couple’s third child, was born on April 18, 1993. Curt and Sue jokingly refer to him as their MailWraps baby. As an infant, Kevin was often found sitting in an infant seat on the shipping desk as Sue boxed up the day’s shipments. He sat next to Sue in a car seat as she shuttled around town picking up magnets at a truck terminal, picking up MailWraps at the die-cutters, or making the 90 minute round-trip to the print shop. Kevin grew up calling the UPS driver “Uncle Ken”.
During this period, the small mail-order business grew 30-40% every year. To keep up with demand, Sue found it helpful to hire a neighbor, her mother and Curt’s mother. Running a growing basement operation became quite a challenge. The couple didn’t want to upset neighbors with trucks delivering supplies, so Sue would personally pick up all supplies at the truck terminals. The dispatchers at Roadway knew Kevin by name. Every carton was carried down the steps to the basement. Every order was assembled, boxed, then carried back upstairs before UPS arrived each day. Curt and Sue had the only forklift in the subdivision.
Wholesale interest in MailWraps began percolating again in 1996, prompting the couple to pay some attention to the wholesale side of the business. They developed a unique cedar display fixture and rented a small showroom in the Atlanta Merchandise Mart on a new specialty floor known as “The Gardens”.
One of the most significant milestones in the company’s history occurred in early 1999. Advancements in the screen printing industry made it possible to reproduce fine art in full color with good outdoor durability. Sue initially licensed artwork for four designs which immediately became the best-sellers. She quickly added licensed artwork by well-known artists such as Debbie Mumm, Warren Kimble, the Hautman Brothers and Judy Buswell as sales continued to grow.
The need to hire more employees finally forced the company out of the basement. In January 2001, order fulfillment was moved to a 3,000 square foot office/warehouse in Arnold, MO, just a few miles from home. This location is remembered as Arnold 1.
Curt rejoined the company on a full-time basis during the summer of 2001. They then hired a sales rep agency to expand the business into five nearby states. The couple adopted a controlled growth strategy in which expansion into new territories would continue, but only after comfortably absorbing the previous expansion.
The company first reached $1,000,000 in sales in 2001.
A second sales rep agency was added in January 2002 and a third in April. Less than 18 months after moving into Arnold I, the company moved again into a 9,000 square foot facility remembered as Arnold II. The larger building was needed to accommodate a new 6-color printing press purchased to handle the increased demand for MailWraps mailbox covers. No more 90 minute round-trip drives to the print shop. It was finally consolidated into the same building as assembly and order fulfillment.
Less than 9 months after purchasing their first large printing press, the company needed another. This also meant a larger building was needed. In May 2003, the company purchased a 17,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art printing facility. The company moved into their new Broadway home in September 2003, their fourth location in less than 36 months.
Yard DeSigns magnetic yard art was added to the company’s category mix and was an immediate success. Door Décor magnetic organizer sets were also introduced in 2004. This innovative product line was the company’s first indoor product offering.
The Yard DeSigns product line was aggressively expanded in 2005. Yard DeSigns grew at an explosive 251% growth rate over the previous year.
Magnet Works sales reached $5,000,000 for the first time, as the company enjoyed its 14th year of continuous sales growth.
In January 2007, BreezeArt premium decorative flags were introduced. The company’s decision to “raise the bar” on printed flag quality was very well-received by the industry. Flag sales far exceeded the company’s initial expectations and the line was quickly expanded to well over 100 collections of coordinated flags, mailbox covers and yard signs.
The company introduced their latest decorative outdoor accessory, MatMates interchangeable doormats. This innovative product coupled an eco-friendly recycled rubber mat with the amazing artwork and reproduction for which Magnet Works is widely recognized. MatMates has quickly become the latest of a long string of "home run" product categories for Magnet Works.