Branding can be a sticky business for many small businesses looking for affordable ways to place their logo onto merchandise, storefront windows, or company vehicles. And who knows when creativity might strike? StickerYou of Toronto, Ontario is taking the decal industry by storm with a state-of-the-art, online interface that makes it easy to design and order custom decals and labels in any quantity, at any hour of the day or night.
With the help of the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), StickerYou has developed software for their proprietary die-cutting technology that allows them to transfer designs accurately from their website to the factory floor. Easy and inexpensive to order, skateboarders, schools, brides, event planners, and businesses of all kinds are turning to this fun and practical way of expressing their personality through decals!
Bringing the decal industry into the digital marketing universe
Andrew Witkin, CEO of StickerYou, founded the company in 2008 after inspiration struck while on a walk along Manhattan Beach in California, where he was fascinated by the role stickers play in surfing culture.
"I realized how expensive it was for individuals to create great-looking die-cut stickers themselves," recalled Witkin. "They had two main options: to adapt ready-made labels or to go to a print shop to order a custom job that often meant they had to order quantities of several hundred."
"In 2008, I flew around the world to find the technology that could make the product I thought people would want," said Witkin. By 2009, he had put together a software development team and proved the quality of his online design and ordering system.
"We launched the business in 2010 and quickly realized small businesses made up a big portion of our sales," explained Witkin. "They were looking for more specialized clear stickers, and while we had the technology to produce them, we did not have the software for online ordering of this product."
"It doesn't sound complicated, but when someone draws a design online, it doesn't always turn out the way they want," said Andrew Bauder, the IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) who first worked with StickerYou. IRAP supported the company with the research to develop complex algorithms that could make the graphics come out clean. "Clear stickers became one of their biggest lines of business."
StickerYou then turned to IRAP for help in cutting production costs. With IRAP support, the company developed a mathematical model to "nest" the images closer together in the sticker printing process. With this technical competitive advantage, StickerYou passed its savings to customers, growing the business further.
"The ITAs are always asking the tough questions – challenging us to look to the future and to think internationally. They have really helped us to raise the bar."
"Next they began to look at larger die-cut logos and vinyl lettering for storefront windows or cars," said Vance Pan, StickerYou's current ITA. "Traditionally, these are produced by hand. With IRAP support, they engineered the software to reliably automate production and offer these products through their online platform."
"It was a real game-changer for us," emphasized Witkin. "We are competing now with printers all over the United States and Canada."
Aiming for success: growing local into global
StickerYou is now on a roll. With a vision of going global, they are shipping to 200,000 customers — large and small — worldwide. Their products cross several market segments, from stickers to labels, and their latest IRAP project will help them enter the growing market for custom die-cut patches for clothing. Since 2011, StickerYou has grown from 11 employees to 57 in 2016, while revenues have skyrocketed by more than 1800 per cent.
"With IRAP's help we have hired software developers and printing technicians who have stayed with the company," concluded Witkin. "They have also given us invaluable strategic advice and introduced us to other funding programs. The ITAs are always asking the tough questions — challenging us to look to the future and to think internationally. They have really helped us to raise the bar."
"The greatest benefit of working with IRAP is that they are business-oriented and understand how to grow the technology. They were able to look at something as old-fashioned as stickers, and see us with a fresh lens."