John Dowling: Hello Jennifer, congratulations on your nomination as a feature in this month’s Model Citizen Magazine. Tell me a little more about yourself – share with our readers who Jennifer Vartanov is.
Jennifer Vartanov: Well, I’m 39 years old, I live on Long Island. I’ve been a lifelong resident on Long Island, where I chose to raise my three children, my wonderful husband, and our two four-legged friends. I’m a dog person – I love animals. While it’s definitely a lot of work, it’s totally worth it. I’m also a businesswoman. I have been in the business world for nearly two-decades. Professionally, I’m the co-Founder of Merchant Industry and Swipe4Free. In the community, I am well known as the co-Founder of the Concerned Jericho Parents, one of Oyster Bay’s largest civic groups.
John: You’re an entrepreneur, actually, aren’t you? Tell us a little more about your entrepreneurial efforts – I know you and your husband work together — which could be challenging as we all know — but you both have seemed to do it very well.
Jennifer: Yes, my husband and I are both entrepreneurs. Over the years, like anything, there have been challenges – but, like all couples, we have learned how to deal with it. There’s an interesting dynamic in the workplace because we are partners as well as husband and wife. At the same time, though, I have learned so much about working with my husband over the years and I think it has been a wonderful thing. If you have the opportunity to be a husband-and-wife team, it’s important to know that your roles change in the workplace. At home, you are spouses, at work, you are there to run a business. People are relying on you; you have responsibilities, you have employees. You have to recognize that you are wearing different hats at different times, and being able to have those two roles and work together, side-by-side, is a really special thing.
John: You and your husband, as well as your team, have grown your entrepreneurial effort into pretty substantial business now, haven’t you?
Jennifer: Yes, it is. We have about fifty employees and about two hundred and fifty salespeople all across the nation. We have been in business for 13 years now. We started working together from nothing – a small office in the back of store – and we have grown to around 15,000 customers who are their own independent merchants. We do really high volume for what could be considered a “small-sized business,” processing billions of dollars a year in credit card processing.
John: So, it seems like a very exciting business to be in, but at the same time a difficult business. People who are not business owners might not particularly know what a credit card processing company does. Would you say it’s very service oriented?
Jennifer: It is – and that is one of the areas that we completely differ from the mega companies providing similar services. We make sure that our services is backed by live, caring, intelligent, well trained, and capable support personnel. We also make sure our customers are always happy – for example, being able to pick up the phone when they call, inside of business hours, outside of business hours, nights and weekends. Our customers’ businesses do not sleep – business in general does not sleep – so we are ready at any-and-all times.
John: So it seems like you are a 24/7 business. While you might have a large team, you and your husband are accessible to any client in need of assistance?
Jennifer: Yes, It’s our competitive advantage that the owners, co-Founders, and C-Suite Executives are involved in all of the operations – even the day-to-day. It’s not just that we pay a manager to run our business – we are hands on by nature. We always know what is going on in our business and we are in touch with our clients and customers, always making sure our service is evolving with changes in the industry to meet new needs of our loyal customer base. We have a reputation to uphold – one that is well respected across the areas in which we operate – and we are always building off of that, making workflow better, we innovate with technology and we are always on the on the forefront of service offerings – because advancement in the field of credit card processing is constantly improving and changing.
John: So, some people might view your service as a commodity these days – and, as such, they are looking for the cheapest viable option. Given the competitive nature of your industry, what do you say to those who are just looking for the lowest possible price-point?
Jennifer: It’s hard to compete, but when you take a company like Square, it’s a huge conglomerate. They have no phone number to call, there is no sales rep to call, it presents challenges for customer service. We are people-oriented, so problems with servicing customers real time do not exist in our company. Clients call us, we respond immediately. Most of the larger processors only communicate through automated telephone systems or through an online help. We are here live for our clients and we are all trained experts, everyone has the right answer the first time, real time, and with a staff that speaks clearly and concisely to any concern day or night.
John: That’s certainly something that I know a little about – I use square, it’s where I make my living. While it’s so simple to set up, as soon as you have an issue, you send an email — sometimes, you never even hear back from them. This impacts my business as a business owner myself. I am constantly surprised by new rules, limits, changes, and most of them just mean I am getting less and doing more myself.
Jennifer: Yes, we have heard that thousands of times and that is why we are growing at the speed that we are. That’s not what customers need. Customers need real time answers, correctly the first time, and solutions so they can get back to making money rather than trying to find ways to collect it. With our offerings, our clients speak with a real person, and we solve the issue. Whether we can troubleshoot something in five minutes and fix their system, or it is a longer-term circumstance that needs to be addressed, we are there to help… and that goes a long way with clients. We do what we need to do, get the job done quickly effectively, and are here for our clients, which is why our business is growing from referrals and word of mouth.
John: So let’s switch gears for a moment and talk about your philanthropic efforts and community advocacy. I’ve been told that you are very active in our local community, helping others and speaking up for people who need help.
Jennifer: Yes, I pride myself on my philanthropy and community advocacy. As a mother of three myself, I love supporting any charity that supports children. It just feels good to help those who truly need it the most. It could be at any charity that brings a smile to the face of a child who needs help, especially now, and it’s gratifying to help others. Through my body of work in the Toys for Tots on Long Island, an organization in which I am a Vice Chair, I feel like I am helping to afford children a second chance at that smile around the holidays. And, even though I have my hands in a lot of different things, my business, my home life, my children, etc., I always find time to give to those who need it most. I enjoy carving out time for paying it forward to others, especially local charities and again those that support children like Toys for Tots.
John: Tell me more about Toys for Tots.
Jennifer: The Toys for Tots really brings supporting children to a whole new level. The United States Marines, community leaders, and officials are amazing. We have a tremendous passion doing everything we possibly can to help others put their best foot forward. It’s so fulfilling and I encourage each and every person to get involved and give back. Helping others is the most meaningful of life’s work.
John: So let’s talk about family for a little bit – how long have you been married? Where did you meet? When did you know you fell in love? You seem like the perfect couple, would love if you shared a little more about your personal story.
Jennifer: My husband and I have been married eighteen years. We got married young and — funny enough — met playing BlackJack at the Taj Mahal, back when there was a Taj Mahal. He sat down at the table where I was playing and we struck up a conversation – we figured out that we had a few things in common and decided to exchange phone numbers. He was living in Brooklyn at the time, I was still on Long Island, so while there was a bit of a commute – we hit it off right away. Three kids and two dogs later… I really consider myself so lucky to have someone like him in my life.
He is a wonderful partner and has taught me so much. He pushes me to be the best I can be – whether it is at the business, personally, and always shares family time with us despite how unbelievably busy we are at work. He encourages me to follow my passion, and understands when I need time away to pursue my goals with Toys for Tots or the Concerned Jericho Parents. He is a support structure that I am so lucky to have in my life.
John: Jennifer, thank you for sharing your story, Congratulations, again, on being nominated as a Model Citizen. We look forward to sharing more of your story in the future.
Jennifer: Thank you John, I am truly honored to have been nominated and I too look forward to sharing more of our story in future issues.