Johnathan Grzybowski is rogue risk taker turned entrepreneur and national thought leader in digital marketing and branding. Grzybowski took his experience from working at Apple to launch a digital design and marketing agency called Waterfront Media in 2015. The organization serviced medium size businesses, nonprofits, and universities.
After recognizing a need for more community-conscious businesses, Grzybowski partnered with Khai Tran, CEO of Waterfront Ventures – an economic development organization that brings startups, businesses, and jobs to Camden, New Jersey – to launch Penji in Oct. 2017, an unlimited graphic design service for marketing teams, that provides work and internship opportunities to students and residents.
To further his mission of helping entrepreneurs and businesses, Grzybowski launched and produces the #1 rated business and entrepreneurship podcast called The Blind Entrepreneur Podcast. It features interviews with entrepreneurs, CEOs, and business professionals to share their insight on profitability, business development, and growth hacking.
How would you best describe your job?
A lot of what I do is the organization and sales aspect to Penji. My co-founder is based on the technical end, and customer service end.
I make strategic partnerships, and talk to our future customers about the product. My hope is to find and create a scaleable sales process that will allow us to grow from 200 customers to hopefully a thousand and beyond.
What is the story of how Penji began?
It was the cultivation of five plus years of entrepreneurship. It was the culmination of two business professionals coming together for a common purpose. I was a digital marketing professional at Waterfront Media, and my partner had a digital publication about business entrepreneurship, Owners Magazine.
The company really started when we were at an event in Camden and people asked, “are you hiring in the city”? We said “no, actually,” and that was reason enough for us to launch Penji the next day.
We started Penji as a tech company that was able to hire people in the city of Camden, a city known to be blighted by drugs, alcohol, and violence.
But we realized the city that we have been in for the past five years is a beautiful town, filled with industry and opportunity. In fact, Campbell’s Soup and Subaru are coming to the city.
How can a startup, without an ounce of funding, hire students in the city? Penji shows that you can be successful in the very place you call home.
What advantages do you offer the client?
Penji eliminates onboarding. We want to be the dependable and reliable design hub. You don’t have to question anyone’s credentials because we’ve done the vetting for you. You’ll get the great design and quality experience.
How did you initially get the clients?
We did a lot of cold emails, cold calls and social media.
Many of the people who hired us were people in our network or our network’s network.
We also sent out a survey to startups and marketing agencies, asking people if this is a service they’d pay for, what their onboarding was like, and how they found designers.
What we discovered was that people loved the idea of Penji, and would pay for it.
The idea is that they’d just plug and play. They are immediately met with backend software, and they can tell us about their project in under three minutes.
In less than two days they’ll receive a mock up design.
What we’re solving is the hurdle of obtaining quality design, and gives the business more time to focus on their tasks, or other parts of the business. We can then become the main design team to serve them.
What have you learned about launching your own business?
The biggest thing that I’ve learned has been setting your ego aside, knowing that you are not bigger than your company. The company is bigger than you.
I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs have an egocentric idea – they do a lot of things for themselves, which they’re entitled to, but some entrepreneurs cannot get out of their own way.
What you’re building is for a greater purpose. You also need to know you’re there to help other people do their jobs. What you want is for everyone to have a successful experience for all parties involved.
What kinds of things are you doing to grow the company?
We are actively listening to our customers, and actively asking for feedback. When we get that, we fine tune the product and better the overall customer experience.
We want to make sure that Penji is an irreplaceable product, making sure our tool is such an integral part of their business. We want to make sure they receive quality experience.
The one thing in particular, is that we’re becoming more of a data driven company. We gauge how long customers stay on the site, and use the platform. It gives us the opportunity to pursue innovation on our end.