By Eric Peterson | Sep 05, 2016
Founder and CEO John Fischer is the 800-pound gorilla of Colorado's sticker business. His company supplies more than 400 breweries nationwide.
Beginning as a one-man, basement operation, Fischer started selling stickers online in 2000 -- he gained national notoriety during the aftermath of the Bush-Gore election hocking a "He is Not My President" bumper sticker. The story garnered coverage from everybody from the Associated Press to Paul Harvey. "That's when we took off," says Fischer.
Fischer started printing stickers for a wide range of customers -- breweries to bands to anybody in need of a label -- in 2006 because he was getting so many calls. "Every day, the phone would ring and I'd send them somewhere else," Fischer explains.
Nine years later, StickerGiant printed 14,000 football fields of stickers lengthwise (that's about 800 miles), and Fischer expects to print even more in 2016. The company has more than 30,000 customers, including a who's who of craft breweries, ski resorts, and musicians.
He converted StickerGiant to Open Book Management, featuring transparent financials and weekly meeting with the entire staff, in 2012. "I went to art school and don't know much about business," he says. "I figured having the whole staff in on it with me was a good way to go." He says the staff is more productive and happier with the change.
"Everyone knows what's going on," he explains. "If there were ever any layoffs, they would see them coming a mile away. They know what's going on."
"I want to teach other businesses about it [Open Book Management]," he raves. "I really believe, if more businesses did this, our economy would be healthier."
StickerGiant has more than doubled its staff from early 2014 to 36 employees today, and Fischer anticipates hiring six new staffers by the end of 2016. Annual sales grew by 30 to 40 percent to about $8 million in 2015, and the company is on track to eclipse $10 million in 2016 after moving into a 12,000-square-foot facility in July.
StickerGiant's manufacturing innovation is built around digital printing and laser finishing equipment. Fischer says that only five companies in the worldwide have the latter. Because of the investment, he adds, "We can make custom shapes in large quantities overnight. . . . If you approve your proof and pay your bill by noon, we're going to print and ship the next day."
StickerGiant prints labels for such local and regional manufacturers as OtterBox and Magpul, as well as more than 400 breweries nationwide. "We're really, really diverse," says Fischer, counting customers from pizza parlors to yoga studios.
Why the universal appeal? "Every sticker has a story," Fischer answers.
And it's not just bumper stickers anymore, he adds. It's MacBook stickers and fridge stickers and man cave stickers. "Every man cave has a place to put stickers," says Fischer.
And even stickers can have stickers, as StickerGiant proved in early 2016 when its 231.6-pound "Saul the StickerBall" was certified as the world's largest sticker ball by the Guinness Book of World Records people.
Challenges: "Right now, the challenges are meeting the demands of growth," says Fischer. "The cash requirements are more than we're used to."
Weather can be another challenge, he adds, one that can interrupt shipping.
Opportunities: To max out the equipment's capacity, says Fischer. What is the maximum output for 2016? "We're going to find out," he answers.
Exports and packaging are other potential areas of growth. "We want to expand internationally this year," he says. "We're going to start with the U.K. and Australia because we can support them with language." Calling StickerGiant's technology "well-suited for packaging," Fischer says the company is adding paper-based stickers for labels.
Needs: Moving from a 6,200-square-foot plant to a 12,000-square-foot-one solved the company's space crunch and slow Internet speeds. "We have everything we need to grow to $20 million-plus in this location," says Fischer. Everything, that is, but a bigger staff. "As we grow, incremental employees will be added," he says.