Far Corner Publishing, formerly Marketplace Books, is one of those companies that aren’t content to be successful doing just one thing.
In Far Corner’s case, publishing led to selling and marketing its own products, which led to an expanded wholesale business, which led to a global logistics and transportation network with a separate technology branch.
Each Far Corner company is autonomous, and the collection is run by an array of industry professionals who leverage the resources and experience of their sister companies through routine management summits.
“It evolved organically into a global commerce model with distribution on the wholesale side, which allowed us to acquire and efficiently move other products around the global market,” explained CEO and founder Chris Myers.
Now celebrating its 25th year in business, the Columbia-based company has been located in Howard County since the beginning.
“We have deep roots in the direct-to-consumer trading, investment and financial [fields],” said Myers, who founded Traders’ Library in 1991 as the first spin-off company in Far Corner’s portfolio, following the sell-off of a financial software company that developed technology licensed to a Wall Street rating agency.
SuperBookDeals, which markets books, CDs and DVDs, followed in 2001. That company currently sells products on 26 platforms worldwide, optimizing pricing and listings for 16 million stock keeping units (SKUs), and shipped 1.4 million packages in 2011.
Great Sage, a business-to-business trading company, expanded Far Corner’s focus to include textbooks for the academic market in 2009.
Expanding and Branding
Books and media remain a key part of Far Corner’s business.
“Sales didn’t decline like industry experts predicted with the advent of e-books; they plateaued instead,” Myers said. “Six years ago we saw that as an opportunity to create a strategic plan that would allow us to diversify and begin marketing our logistics and technology capabilities.”
In 2011 the growing company branched into the logistics arena with Forward Transit, using all modes of transportation to move virtually any commodity and allowing Far Corner to support a variety of customers ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.
“We now operate a network of third-party logistics warehouses controlled with our software that provide fulfillment of 10 to 12 million orders per year,” Myers said. “We have 35 employees in the United States, and also have an operations site in Colombia, in South America.”
Torrential Systems joined the Far Corner fold in 2012, utilizing proprietary software and decade-long expertise to manage the entire process of selling products around the world regardless of currency.
In April of this year all of the associated companies underwent rebranding, becoming Far Corner eCommerce (SuperBookDeals), Far Corner Technology (Torrential Systems), Far Corner Wholesale (Great Sage), Far Corner Media (Traders’ Library), Far Corner Publishing (Marketplace Books) and Far Corner Logistics (Forward Transit).
“Customers, partners and vendors will have a seamless experience through the implementation of the unified brand and will gain increased visibility to the wide range of services and solutions that are available across the Far Corner enterprise,” Myers said.
As the individual companies gained momentum, Myers began searching for a way to support the nearby Fort Meade military and defense community, not only through charitable donations, but also directly through the company’s operational capabilities.
He discussed the idea with Kent Menser, a fellow cycling enthusiast and ride partner who happened to be a former Fort Meade commander. Menser also had served as director of Howard County’s BRAC Business Initiative (BBI), an entity that connected businesses looking to support the military installation’s Base Relocation and Closure process as it began to draw new jobs and opportunities to the region.
The duo soon realized that the same type of partnership model championed by the BBI could generate a sustainable revenue source for Non-Appropriated Funds, Civilian Welfare Funds and other family support activities for service members and their families at Fort Meade.
“We thought that sustained revenue would be a better option over the long run and could allow the people it supports to be participants in the process,” Menser said.
The program helps collect and sell used books and entertainment media from the post and its partners, generating a sustainable revenue stream that has already expanded beyond the contract and will grow to help other deserving charities.
“Government budgets are being reduced, and we’ve been through long bouts of war that have stretched the requirements and needs of military families,” Menser observed. “What we’ve done is introduced some new players and innovative ideas to help [Fort Meade’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation division] be more effective with the funds they do have and also supplement them.”
Three years ago, Menser introduced Myers to Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber (BWCC) CEO Walt Townshend.
“I was searching for a strategy that would help me manage my involvement in the community,” Myers said. “I was immediately impressed that the Chamber’s involvement was spread over the entire region.”
The Chamber’s knowledge of players in the industry and of needs in general were helpful in fleshing out that strategy, he added, which helped seal his commitment to join the Chamber.
“Many [BWCC] members have expressed interest in the Far Corner GiveBack program, and there’s no reason why the BWCC can’t partner with us,” Myers said. “It’s a great way to leverage Walt’s knowledge.”
“BWCC has a great deal of experience in establishing partnerships for companies that want to do work for the government,” Menser added. “In their case it was a one-way-street that served to make a profit, but this case illustrates that the Chamber can do so much more than just make money for business.”