Business Monday

Company’s success? It’s in the mail — 100 million pieces a year

From left: Cristina Echarte, senior graphic and media designer, and Michelle Mendoza, customer service manager, at the offices of Arrowmail Corporate Services.
From left: Cristina Echarte, senior graphic and media designer, and Michelle Mendoza, customer service manager, at the offices of Arrowmail Corporate Services.

The company and its services: Doral-based Arrowmail Corporate Services, a bulk-mail processor, handles large volumes of outgoing mail for businesses, governments, universities, nonprofits and other clients.

Using skilled employees — who have an average of 15 years at the company — and high-tech equipment, they send out property tax bills, credit cards, bank statements, brochures and other documents by mail for about 400 clients. In addition, the firm is increasing its use of electronic document transmission.

“We handle 8 to 9 million pieces of mail per month, or roughly 100 million pieces of mail per year,” said Cristina Fernandez, one of the four co-founders of the family-owned and operated company and currently its president.

“Our bread and butter is first-class mail, but we also do bulk mailing for local governments and the federal government, political mail, and advertising for universities, Realtors and nonprofits,” said Fernandez, who received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Madrid (Spain) and worked at KPMG before taking an active role in running Arrowmail.

Arrowmail earns its income by charging clients per-envelope fees, depending on the complexity and volume of each order. The company picks up mail and other materials from clients, presorts mail according to ZIP code, and prints bar codes on each piece. It then arranges mail in special boxes used by the U.S. Postal Service and delivers large batches either to the dedicated post office in the Arrowmail building, or to the post office station at Miami International Airport.

Since Arrowmail saves the post office money by providing them with mail ready for delivery, it receives a discount for each piece and passes these savings along to clients.

In some cases, Arrowmail prints documents for clients at its headquarters, inserts them in envelopes, adds addresses and barcodes and then ships them to recipients.

It also charges fees for printing, packaging, graphic design, data management and other services.

About 40 percent of clients are insurance companies, Fernandez said, while 30 percent are government agencies, 20 percent universities and other schools and 10 percent are real estate firms and nonprofits.

Getting started: Arrowmail got its start in 1991 — as Arrowmail Presort Co. — after one of the co-founders, Rafael Fernandez, lost his job as an accountant. His brother-in-law, Raul Echarte, learned about how the bulk-mail industry worked from relatives. Working with their wives, Cristina Fernandez and Carolina Echarte (Cristina’s sister), the four pooled their resources and started the business in a 500-square-foot warehouse space, presorting mail by hand in cubbyholes. They handled about 300 pieces of mail per day for their first customer, an advertising agency. Arrowmail now has a 52,000-square-foot facility, cutting-edge mail processing equipment, a large printing business and a fleet of trucks and vans.

The difference: The company meets with clients, tailoring services to their specific needs and avoiding unnecessary costs. In addition to providing low-cost bulk mailing services to clients, Arrowmail also offers a range of additional options: designing, printing and mailing bills, statements and other documents; electronic transmission of documents; fulfillment (inserting brochures and documents, addressing envelopes, etc.); data processing; technology to develop and optimize mailing lists; quality printing; graphic design of brochures, catalogs and marketing materials, plus other services.

Sales: “Our revenue for 2015 was $20,840,292, which is excellent for a penny-business,” Fernandez said. “Our charge for most services is three or four pennies, depending on the type of service.” Thus far in 2016, Arrowmail has seen a double-digit increase in sales.

Competitors: Postal Center International and some smaller direct-mail firms in South Florida.

Glitch: “One tough lesson as we grew was learning to delegate,” Fernandez said. “Learning to trust someone else with your baby is necessary for growth, but always difficult.” The owners — who also operate the business — began delegating more jobs to trusted employees. They focused on broader issues, like growth strategies, but still lent their expertise to daily operations. “This allowed us to expand in directions that were unfathomable when we started. It was the key to moving forward,” she said.

Outside view: Gary Malinovsky, director of fulfillment operations at Weston-based Altegra Health, has worked with different bulk-mail firms, including Arrowmail, here and in a previous management position in Ohio. “Comparing Arrowmail to vendors in Ohio and to some here in Miami, I would rate Arrowmail in the top three vendors I have worked with,” said Malinovsky, whose company is a nationwide provider of advanced payment systems for the healthcare sector. Their edge is that they are a true business partner willing to work closely with clients, answer questions and help find possible solutions, he said.

What customers say: The Miami-Dade Property Appraiser’s office has been using Arrowmail’s services for many years, said Jose M. Nodarse, chief of information services. “They have a full-service operation,” he said. “They can handle anything — printing, mailing, sorting and other services.”

Arrowmail recently sent out more than 1 million property tax (TRIM) notices in one mailing, and handles other mailing for the appraiser’s office throughout the year. “We looked at other companies,” Nodarse said. “But they stand out … it’s their customer service. They come in and meet with us regularly. They know our business cycle, they work on planning and project schedules with us. They’re a good business partner who understands our needs and our schedules.”

Ani Roy, purchasing manager for AvMed Health Plans, said her company — which sends out large volumes of mail — has been working with Arrowmail for more than 15 years. “They provide mail processing, data processing and fulfillment services for AvMed,” Roy said. “They save us time and money with their expertise in handling mail.” AvMed chose Arrowmail over other vendors because of their reliability, their many years of experience and the fact that they are one of the largest companies in the tricounty area serving an extensive list of large clients, she said.

Challenges and outlook: “We know we must innovate to compete in this changing industry,” Fernandez said. “To that end, we’ve continued to add services for our clients and invest in new technology.” The company is already working with e-statements and parcel delivery, and sees strong growth opportunities in these business lines. “Revenues were up 18 percent for the first half of 2016,” she said, “and all our service upgrades point to a steady increase in sales over the next few years.”

Arrowmail Corporate Services

Business: Arrowmail provides a wide range of specialized mail services for businesses, government agencies, universities, nonprofit organizations and others. These include bulk mailing of first-class letters, brochures, post cards, and magazines; high quality printing; fulfillment; mail sorting and barcoding; priority packages; mailing list technology; and graphic design. Arrowmail processes about 100 million pieces of mail per year and has its own dedicated post office on the premises, which clears outgoing mail for direct shipping to recipients in Florida, the rest of the U.S. and overseas.

Headquarters: 9825 NW 17th St., Doral.

Founded: 1991 in Miami.

Founders: Rafael A. Fernandez, Cristina M. Fernandez, Raul Echarte and Carolina A. Echarte (Cristina Fernandez’s sister).

Leadership: Cristina Fernandez, president; Raul Echarte, vice president and treasurer; Carolina Echarte, corporate secretary; and Patrick Riboul, director of sales and marketing.

Employees: 85, with an average 15 years at the company.

Ownership: Family-owned by the founders.


Source: Arrowmail