116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Sometimes an idea to bring joy to a family member can spark a business idea.
That’s what happened in the Helgens family a couple years ago.
“HappyGram was created by our family, for our family,” recalled co-founder J.P. Helgens. “Our initial launch served as a solution to get our Opa as many cards as possible for his 90th birthday.
“We put a Happy Birthday Milestone in the paper and listed our website as a way for friends to send cards to him.”
Helgens said his Opa received mail from individuals he never would have heard from otherwise, and his family got to thinking about how that might work for other seniors living in care communities.
“His joy was contagious, so we kept tinkering with the idea and offered a pilot program to see if the service would take off. And it has.”
HappyGram is a card delivery service for those living in senior communities. Family and friends of the community’s residents go to the HappyGram website where they can write a personalized message and upload a photo from their computer or smartphone.
Co-founder: J.P. Helgens
Address: Cedar Rapids
“Once their message and picture are submitted through the website, we format the HappyGram featuring a large font and picture that can be easily seen and read,” Helgens said.
“HappyGrams are then sent to the senior community who prints the HappyGrams and delivers them to their resident, just like mail.”
So far, close to 40,000 HappyGrams have been delivered to more than 275 senior communities in 35 states.
“We’ve even delivered to one location in Scotland,” Helgens said.
“Senders feel great because it’s an easy and very significant way to connect with their loved ones. Seniors are able to read their letters and look at their pictures over and over.”
He noted HappyGrams are put on doors, walls, in binders and are often shared with staff and other residents.
“We have had grandchildren who are traveling or living out of the country, and HappyGram makes communication especially easy for them. Pictures and notes are easily sent and received, when letters used to take several weeks to arrive,” he said.
Helgens and his parents — Bob and Mary Beth Helgens — along with his siblings Kylie Alger and Paul Helgens, created the company and continue to work together as it grows.
“HappyGram has been a team effort all the way around, with each family member holding down the fort at different times since we launched,” J.P. noted.
“While sitting next to the community mailboxes, our dad watched as seniors would excitedly check their mailbox, only to be disappointed with either no mail or junk they would throw away,” Helgens explained.
J.P.’s mom, Mary Beth, serves as the account contact and activities coordinator. Kylie handles marketing, education and content creation and Paul handles customer relations.
Helgens handles the technology, growth and day-to-day operations.
HappyGram also partners with schools as a way for students to connect with seniors living within their community.
HappyGram recently got some happy mail of its own, finding out that it was selected out of 1,200 applicants, to receive one of three $10,000 grants from the Templeton Rye Distillery Entrepreneurial Grant Program.
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