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The Plumage team hard at work. From, left to righ, Mike Hayward, Shawn Herron and Trevor Hartman

In a world where an increasing number of people are shopping online, retailers have to work harder than ever to make their customers feel at home and keep coming back for more.  Plumage, a Seattle startup led by advertising and design vets, believes it has figured out a way to help retailers bridge the divide between the physical and online worlds. It does this by posting special offers on in-store monitors or displays, encouraging customers to get deals if they follow the retailer on Facebook, Twitter or sign up for an email newsletter.

It’s a cool idea, and there’s plenty of activity in this arena, including Kirkland mobile coupon app Pirq which we wrote about earlier today. We caught up with with co-founder Shawn Herron to learn more what makes Plumage unique for this installment of Startup Spotlight.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it“We give businesses a way to digitally display their social content, including Facebook photos, posts, Yelp reviews, and Tweets, and then capture Likes and Followers while a customer is still in their store, restaurant or office.”

Is this how you connect with customers? Plumage thinks there’s a better way.

Inspiration hit us when: “We noticed a clear divide between businesses’ social presence and their physical spaces. So much effort goes into growing social communities and engaging customers online, and a terrific amount of content is produced to showcase and build brands in the social world. Then when you get to a store, there’s a single sticker or printed placard that says, “Like us on Facebook.” We knew there was a way to bridge this gap, let businesses show customers in their actual store or restaurant their vibrant social communities, and help them capture likes and followers while it was top of mind.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap. First, the word bootstrap sounds much cooler. Second, we wanted to see if we could make this thing work on our own. It’s a badge of honor for us, not just a business. We saw a problem and wanted to see if we could solve it by putting our heads together.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Humility, determination, and Pike Place IPA.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Not giving up sooner.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “If this doesn’t work, then not giving up sooner.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “All three are certainly welcome to call us anytime. But we’d have to say Bezos. His vision changed the way goods are bought and sold, and everything he’s done has been grounded in real human behavior. And it all started with such a simple idea: there has to be a better way for people to buy books. We like simple, smart ideas. Plus we love his laugh, and chances are we’d get free Amazon Prime out of it.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “Our kids go to bed.”

Rivals should fear us because: “We’ve got founders with three very different sets of skills, and those skills come together to create one giant robot that’s hell bent on our rivals’ destruction. Actually we’re pretty nice guys. Hell bent on our rivals’ destruction.”

We are truly unique because: “Of our perspective. There are plenty of companies that try to get likes and followers for businesses, but we see there’s value for a business to actually visualize their content in a physical space. It’s a brand experience, it’s an acquisition strategy, and it (miraculously) gets Facebook, Twitter and Yelp to play nicely together. Even if they aren’t aware they’re doing it. We also recognize that putting a Zagat rated sticker on a window still gets noticed, and influences purchasing decisions. There is a real value to displaying ratings, likes, followers and gorgeous photos of fresh grilled salmon.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Self-doubt and lack of salesy-ness. And sleep.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “If you’re not overworked, insecure, second guessing and making a ton of mistakes along the way, you’re not doing it right. Oh, and your first product demo will go badly. But keep going, it gets better.”

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