We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Zisek and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I went to NYU to get my MBA, and as a poor college student I had to commute in and out of NYC via train. As luck would have it, my professor of my entrepreneurial class was making the same commute and became a mentor of mine. During those rides, he instilled in me that if you find something you personally need, a large percentage of the 300 million+ Americans will have a similar need. That then is the basis of your business. Fast forward 5 years and I was at an industry trade show and through happen-stance, ended up talking to the person who had one of the more unique promotions: Open a “faux” door with your hotel room key card and win a giant prize. She mentioned how hard it was to put the promotion together and I thought “how hard could that be”? A few years later, a friend and I were talking about businesses and I remembered the Faux’ door and how it filled a need for advertising on key cards while attending meetings and visiting trade shows. That was enough for us to pursue a key card business geared at meetings and conventions. As you might imagine, it took quite a few cold calls and hotel visits to understand the industry. One big learning was that the trade show and meeting business key card market paled in comparison to the hotel market. Which if done right, you get the meeting and convention keys for “free”, as you day to day customers come to you. So, we flipped our business model and the day to day products is now our primary focus. We have also expanded our product offering to include key holders, notepads, pens, Do Not Disturb and other signs. We have grown to 10+ people (plus some contractors) that help manage the company day to day, which services almost 1,000 hotel customers around the world. This includes quite a few in San Diego and Orange County.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have worked in both Sales & Marketing and Accounting / Finance and at companies large enough to be part of the Fortune 50 and small enough to have only one sales person. I have also sold on the extremes from a product perspective. From the highest of high tech to the most basic paper product. That has meant selling products that cost in the hundreds and thousands of dollars to products that cost low 5 cents each. As a result, I have seen quite a few scenarios and recommend getting a variety of experience both if you work at a company, or want to start a company.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ll start with the caveat, that all of this is pre-Covid; things sure have changed. I live in San Diego, which is a sophisticated beach town. For sure check out Mt. Soledad for sweeping views of the entire city, as well as the beaches and coves of La Jolla and Torrey Pines. Of course, there are many other beaches too numerous to name, so that is not a comprehensive list. One needs to check out two distinct neighborhoods: Coronado for the feel of a small New England town on the west coast and Old Town for some traditional food, especially Mexican – one of my favorites. Which leads me to some great food stops – Old Town Mexican Cafe is a bit touristy, but worth the visit. Fidel’s is closer to home and one of my favorites. For a fun time , try Lahaina Beach house in Pacific Beach where every night all the patrons applaud the sunset – a favorite. Lastly, the Gaslamp district is only a few blocks, but covers all types of food from high end to a sandwich, as well as clubs of all type depending on what you are looking for. Last stop downtown is the top of the Hyatt for more views of all of San Diego
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Without a doubt my Entrepreneurship Professor from NYU. I was working at Johnson & Johnson at the time and going to Graduate school at night. I felt like my career was on a more traditional path – find the right company and work your way up the ranks. He helped me understand how to identify markets and take risks; calculated risks, but risks nonetheless. Both are key traits to running your own business. We took a train together every night after class, as we both lived in NJ and so I got so much input on my career while passing time. Once the class ended, we kept in touch and he was a source of career guidance and interestingly lost touch before starting my own company. His impact though helped lead to the concept for Front Desk Supply and I appreciate his guidance to this day.