This is one idea I was a little hesitant to post, just because I’m positive *someone* is already doing it. My, admittedly shallow, search hasn’t turned them up (although I’ve found very similar things), so I’m going to call it fair game as a wacky business entry.
A mail drop is just a business that you get mail sent to their address, they package it up and forward it on to you. Because I’m always moving, I use my parents’ address for anything important, and they forward me all my mail when it builds up or when something that looks important arrives. I do the same thing with a friend in the US (which is what let me open a Prosper account, build credit in the US, maintain a US bank account, etc).
My “twist” on this concept is that you could allow a completely virtual connection to the end user by providing an address for them, and as mail arrives open and scan it, send them the resulting documents (in a convenient choice of formats), and allow them to e-mail you documents which you’ll then print and mail. This would give the person / business the perfect appearance of operating out of a fixed location, when they could actually be based anywhere in the world.
The processes to send and receive mail would be the core of the business, however you could grow these organically. If you wanted to started with just a PC and a multi-functional printer you could manage a number of clients. Eventually you’d probably want to have industrial scanners, and a fairly sophisticated web portal to let customers view and track their mail.
You might get your postman scratching his head when letters start arriving for “Unit #203” at your house. I’m not totally sure what the laws are surrounding handling other people’s mail, but since companies operate mail drops, there must be a way to do it.
Combine this with a VOIP with a local number, and customers could have a roving office that will seem to be an established brick and mortar.
For this post, or any other of the wacky business ideas I post, obviously I’m releasing any ownership claims I may have over these ideas. If you like something I post and feel like you can make money from it, please feel free to do so! Let me know when you’re opening and we’ll do a post on it to give you some free advertising.
16 replies on “Virtual Mail Drop”
It has been done:
You know, there isn’t a lot of wackiness in your ideas. More like solid business ideas to solve people’s needs (a true sign of a good entrepreneur).
Mike: Thanks for the link to the business week article. I think what I’m proposing is subtly different. The people mentioned in the article are time sharing an actual office (people can come and see them there) and getting a prestigious address on the cheap (the main woman they mention who was scammed visited his “virtual office”). What I’m proposing would be TOTALLY virtual (the “suite” mail is being sent to doesn’t exist and there’s no actual office present).
I’m assuming that the provider in the article forwards mail by snail mail as well, which is another important difference.
TMW: Thanks 🙂 The “Wacky” adjective was more an attention getter than anything. If you ever want to drive a socialist nuts, suggest that capitalism rewards people for being of service to others.
Nice idea, but isn’t this why we have virtual offices? 🙂 Serviced offices do a similar thing, however you can rent the office off the provider.
I know your idea is a little different, but it is on the same lines as a virtual office, have a read into it and best of all, Good Luck!
[…] Four Pillars has a wacky business idea: a virtual mail drop. Read on to find out what it […]
The Mojo Channel has a show called Start-Up Junkies where they profile an entrepreneur and their start-up. The company that they have been profiling (not sure when it originally aired) is called Earth Class Mail, they accept, scan and deliver people’s mail (electronically) .
The differentiator with your idea is the reversal of the process, in accepting digital docs, printing them and then mailing them out. I could definitely see a market for that kind service, especially for those who have virtual office spaces.
Here are some links to the Mojo Channel and Earth Class Mail. Mojo has a free episode online.
JAlpino: Interesting, sound like they have pretty well the same idea as I do. Will check the links out, thanks very much!
Dang, I’m late to the punch: EarthClassMail does exactly this.
There’s also a similar service (from another company) that does receipt scanning. You throw all of your receipts into an envelope every month. They scan them and return them with another empty envelope for the next month. Last I saw it was too expensive for anything other than business purposes.
Of course, Mr. Cheap, you could likely benefit from the use of EarthClassMail, I know that I’ve looked at it a few times (now that I’m a “displaced” Canadian).
Gates: Thanks for the heads up. I’d be interested if you ever decide to sign up for the service what your experience is like.
[…] Wacky Business Idea #5: Virtual Mail Drop at Quest for Four Pillars […]
I still don’t understand how people can trust complete strangers to open their mail and do whatever with it? How can this be solved?
spy vs. spy
Answer to your question here:
All things considered, this sounds much safer than having mail delivered to a typical home mailbox.
I still disagree with you in case of Earthclassmail, as there are still human factor involved, by real people opening other peoples’ letters.
And this looks like a stone wall if or someone starting out.
Hey, apparently they are on their way to NZ… Take a look http://www.earthclassmail.co.nz.
Hey, I travel overseas a lot and find Private Box Ltd (http://www.privatebox.co.nz) do a great job outside of the USA.
I ran across several places that do just this a few years ago when I was researching this type of business. In fact, when the post office first introduced their bill pay service back around 2000 they would receive your mail and send some electronic files after they were paid. I had signed up with them, and they kept sending notifications that it would be operational “some time soon”. By the time they were “operational” my bank had a much better online service. I can’t remember the names of the services when I did my search, but they were almost the exact same thing you propose. Also known as snowbird mail forwarding, which the post office does with physical mail (for a price). Of course, a lot of people have their mail sent to their accountants because they already trust them.