Editor’s note: This is another in an occasional look at technology businesses operating in San Luis Obispo County.
When Steve Belmonte started AccuZip, a national data quality and mailing software company, he knew one of his biggest challenges would be finding his niche.
The former Southern California print shop owner not only created the first version of postal software for the Mac, and later for Microsoft Windows, but he also allowed unlimited access for customers to the National Change of Address Service (the NCOA database was established by the U.S. Postal Service to validate and help keep address records up to date), something competitors weren’t doing, said Kristen McKiernan, company president.
“He (Belmonte) was always trying to find the differentiator that allowed us to compete with the big guys,” she said. “He’s continued to find those differentiators and capitalize on them. By doing that, we’re able to gain market share.” After more than two decades in business, AccuZip continues to develop solutions for the mail industry — building on what McKiernan called an “outstanding reputation for value, service and innovation.”
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AccuZip’s software, certified by the U.S. Postal Service, helps businesses to correct and standardize addresses for improved deliverability. Business owners can run their mailing lists through AccuZip, and the software will compare the lists against the U.S. Postal Service database to make sure they’re current, and that there are no duplicates, thereby maximizing postal discounts. The software also presorts the mail in the order the postal carrier delivers it so that the U.S. Post Office, a certified partner with AccuZip, doesn’t have to.
In addition, the company has developed the patent pending AccuTrace and LIVINGMAIL, which allows customers to track their mail in real time, with notifications via email, text or a phone call to let them know where it is and that it’s on the way.
AccuZip also prides itself on its free and unlimited training and technical support for customers, McKiernan said. In addition, customers can always talk to a live person.
“There are no auto attendants or voice mail. We have a guaranteed 15-minute response time. If someone sends email to us, we have a live chat for support,” she said.
AccuZip serves a host of clients, from small and large print shops to universities — USC and the University of Tennessee, among them — as well as Fortune 500 companies such as Aflac, UPS and AAA.
The private company declined to disclose financial or employee information, but McKiernan said its revenue and customer base have grown exponentially every year.
AccuZip is doubling the size of its office in Atascadero and is expanding its sales division to market its newer technologies. It expects to hire about 25 to 50 people within the next year or two.
“With this next phase, we’re very invested in the community,” McKiernan said. “It will be neat for me taking on this role as president to start to hire locally. I know there’s so much local talent here.”
While the company is in growth mode, its leadership continues its focus on community and supporting a culture that values family life. AccuZip started in Southern California, but when it became apparent the company was on the rise, Belmonte wanted to relocate to a place where he could raise a family, said McKiernan, who grew up in San Luis Obispo County.
A former Templeton Citizen of the Year, Belmonte, the company’s founder, is known for a commitment to education, the community and his love of agriculture.
He likes to share his passion with employees and local students, McKiernan said. Kids involved in 4-H come to AccuZip’s offices at California Mid-State Fair time because they know AccuZip will “likely buy their animals at the fair, supporting their college funds or savings,” she said. Each year, Belmonte buys 20 hogs or livestock at the Mid-State Fair Junior Livestock Auction and each employee gets a freezer full of meat. The company has a kitchen stocked with requested food items, and every week, employees get fresh eggs from the Belmonte family chickens.
AccuZip has donated to the Atascadero Police Department’s K-9 unit and supports local sports, sponsoring a girls and boys basketball team called the AccuShots, and “even bought a charter size bus for them to bring them to events since school budget cuts didn’t pay for travel anymore,” McKiernan said.
Employee benefits are also generous, with each employee and their dependents receiving 100 percent employer-paid medical, dental and vision. Employees are encouraged to leave work at work and spend time with family. “It’s an environment where people want to work,” McKiernan said. “Mailing and address quality is not the most exciting stuff, but if you build an environment where people feel comfortable, they want to stay.”