Correction:

An earlier version of this article incorrectly named the location of Zombie Coffee. This version has been corrected.

Capital Buzz: Former framer enters greeting-card business

Glen Homan, the founder of Arlington-based PaperCardShop.com , is trying to rustle up some venture capital interest in his start-up.

The 66-year-old entrepreneur, with $50,000 of his own money invested, plans to take on Hallmark and American Greetings, which control 82 percent of the $7.5 billion paper greeting-card market.

Homan, who sold a Georgetown-based poster/framing chainlet for a nice profit a few years ago, was navigating the card section of a local pharmacy store looking for a Mother’s Day card for his wife when he decided there had to be a better way.

“Once you get beyond Hallmark and American Greetings,” the Harvard Business School graduate said, “there are hundreds of small publishers, many of which have really exciting products — but they have very limited distribution. Our Web site offers them a way to get exposure.”

Like many nascent online industries, Homan’s big challenge is finding a cost-effective way to drive traffic to the site.

Jobs. Jobs. And real estate.

Studley, the New York-based firm that represents clients who lease commercial office space, is expanding the size of its 30-person Washington area office by 10 to 15 advisers this year.

“This is the most sought-after market in the country or the world,” said William Quinby, a 25-year veteran of the firm who was recently promoted to executive vice president.

Quinby has participated in real estate transactions totaling more than 31 million square feet to date.

Studley’s local office is split between Tysons Corner and the District. The local branch — one of 22 worldwide — doubled its 2011 revenue compared with the year before by brokering big deals for clients such as Choice Hotels International, Accenture, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The Buzz hears:

In its never-ending quest to find entertaining ways for people to spend money, LivingSocial, the District-based daily deals company, is holding a couple of dodgeball tournaments. The first is Republicans vs. Democrats on April 28 at Yards Park, at 3rd and 4th Streets SE. The event is promoted by the company’s Adventures division, which tries to think up new things for people to do. Tickets go on sale April 10 for $25 if you want to throw a fastball at the opposition. “Independents,” who want to just sit and watch, can pay $10. For that, you get admission and a couple of beers.

The following week is “Pirates” vs. “Ninjas” dodgeball.

White House Nannies has won the contract for babysitting duties for the families of Washington Nationals baseball team. It replaces SeekingSitters, which recently signed the Shakespeare Theatre Co.

Entrepreneur John Kane of the Kane Co. has started two new businesses. One is Hospital Relocation Services, which stores and installs equipment for mid-Atlantic hospitals. “There are 5,850 hospitals in the country, and most will renovate in the next decade, so we are focusing resources for that industry’s needs,” Kane said.

The other is Kane Home Moving & Storage, created for the hoped-for revival of the housing market.

Serial retail entrepreneur Chuck Rendelman’s FroZenYo (yogurt shops) has started Zombie Coffee as a small in-store station at the FroZenYo store at F Street. Now it is on the hunt for its first stand-alone store. Rendelman is positioning the new coffee shop as a blue-collar competitor to Starbucks. The Zombie mission statement: “Less money, and you can get in and out in less than two minutes.”

Auto dealer mogul Tammy Darvish zipped down to Orlando last week to hear about the digital opportunities in the dealership industry — and to pick up an award applauding how Darcars Toyota Dealership treats women customers.

Take aways? “Digital tools should allow us to better engage with customers so we can do things like track their service histories and keep them informed. The social media side of the business shows us how to better connect with our customers and build long-term relationships with them.”

Carlyle watch:

The Carlyle Group plans to sell up to 10 percent of the company when it puts shares on the market in the next few months, according to a regulatory filing last week. One of the firm’s founders, David Rubenstein, also said at a Washington investor conference last week that he expects the next Congress to take up the issue of taxation of the private equity business as part of overall tax reform. Private equity’s profit-based compensation — known as carried interest — is taxed at a lower rate than earned income.

Factoid of the week:

Geico — the Chevy Chase-based auto insurer owned by Berkshire Hathaway— recently signed its 11 millionth customer when Adam Smith of Las Vegas inked a new auto insurance policy. Geico’s Tucson office is hosting a celebration for Smith and for the Geico sales associate, Christopher Oliva, who closed the sale. 

 
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