By Eric Peterson | Apr 06, 2015
Riverton / Kanab, Utah
Rubber Stamp products
Riverton (HQ), and Kanab (factory), Utah
Interim CEO Sara Douglass aims to bring the joy of rubber stamping to a younger generation.
Shelli Gardner started Stampin' Up as more of a social endeavor than an entrepreneurial one: In the late 1980s, the young mother of four was in need of some conversation with peers her own age, so she launched the company with her sister.
Today, the company continues to serve as a social launchpad for customers all over the world by bringing a direct sales model to rubber stamps, but it also has grown into a manufacturer with an 80,000-square-foot facility in Kanab.
Douglass, Gardner's daughter, has taken the reins as interim CEO while her mother serves a church mission in Hawaii for a year.
The company hit a financial bump and restructured in 1990, then started manufacturing stamps in 1996. That was the turning point, Douglass says. "It took off when we started to manufacture decorative rubber stamps with our own exclusive art. When you go exclusive, you've got an edge."
And the company has parlayed that edge into long-term growth. "We started with a 64-page catalog and we're currently around 250 pages," Douglass says. After starting with stamps, ink, and paper, Stampin' Up has moved into other products, including ribbons, die-cutters, and other tools of the stamping trade.
Stampin' Up has nearly 50,000 demonstrators who market the stamps at parties, classes, and other events. Douglass calls them "creative coaches."
Most of the manufacturing is in Kanab, where the company has 70 employees, and about 400 staffers work at the headquarters in Riverton on the Wasatch Front.
Stampin' Up has monthly company-wide "Innovation Days" to brainstorm and improve processes. "We've introduce a few new products through that process," says David Baugh, VP of global operations.
Through implementation of an internally developed Lean program called TRIM, the company has decreased touches and increased output on one of the manufacturing lines. "We've seen a 20 percent increase in our efficiency on that line," says Baugh. Another initiative reduced waste of photopolymer sheets by 25 percent.
While the economy has presented obstacles recently, Stampin' Up had its best quarter in years during the first three months of 2015. "We're seeing a positive trend," says Douglass. "We're really excited about it."
The social focus that Gardner began with in 1988 remains center stage. "The relationships are what's most important," Douglass says. "The direct sales model facilitates that. You're getting to know people and learning art stamping. You get that 'I made it!' feeling."
Challenges: "We're a multinational company," says Douglass. "We're in 10 countries. We face challenges with exchange rates and the fluctuation of economies."
Baugh says "distance” is another big challenge. "We've got 300 miles between our Kanab manufacturing facility and our distribution center in Riverton." The key bridge, he adds, is communication.
Opportunities: A younger demographic. "We have a big opportunity to inspire a new generation of crafters," says Douglass, citing "increased interest in DIY [do it yourself]." "We've embraced that."
Douglass notes that many customers who have followed the company for more than 20 years are in her mom's generation, but the target market is in her demographic.
Needs: "We have invested quite a but in new machinery and equipment in the past few years," says Baugh. "Our need at this point is more throughput."