Quick – where’s your college diploma? If you’re like me, it’s in a box somewhere. And a Twin Cities company sees a business opportunity in that forgotten box.
Uploma is a commemorative desktop diploma. It sits in the open like a large paperweight or a small sculpture. Ed Reichow, owner of Dayton-based Titlecraft, came up with the idea after attending a trophy industry trade show. And, indeed, the five-pound Uploma does resemble what you might expect to see if universities handed out trophies rather than sheepskins to their graduates.
A nice chunk of business
With graduation products logging $4.7 billion in annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation, Uploma’s backers see an opportunity to carve out a nice chunk of business. More than 100 colleges and universities have either licensed their rights to Uploma or are selling Uplomas in their campus bookstores. Among them are the University of Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas, Gustavus Adolphus College, Bethel University and North Dakota State University.
“The space has been pretty dominated by the frames and the rings for a long time,” said Chris Deanovic, director of operations and business strategy for Uploma. “We came up with a better mousetrap, and it’s been really well received.”
Customization is a key attribute in the graduation market, and Uploma offers the option to engrave the sides of the piece with a personalized inscription, a list of accolades or the names of inspirational mentors. For example, recent University of Minnesota graduate Jordan Lynn, who lost both his parents during his time in college, had special words from each of them etched onto his Uploma.
Deanovic said the iconic piece is a great fit for millennials, who love to share their inspiration with the world, just as they love to share their tattoos and their social media postings.
“This fits right into how they’re wired,” he said. “We’ve seen songs, proverbs, quotes from Einstein and Dr. Seuss, parents writing notes to their kids, kids writing notes to their parents.”
‘Bleed those colors’
The company also is projecting significant sales from alumni. “We’ve had a lot of people buy these for their parents, or their spouse,” Deanovic said. “A lot of people are very passionate about where they went to school. They bleed those school colors.”
The Uplomas range in price from $189 to $229. This being the first full graduation sales season, results are incomplete, but Deanovic said sales are running ahead of projections so far. Uploma employs about 10 people and hopes to expand.