By Margaret Jackson | Jan 24, 2021
Signage, free delivery, rush services
When the Mulligans started YellowDog, the couple approached it from completely different perspectives.
Dan, a self-described serial entrepreneur, was selling a business and Jenny was trying to convince him to get a "real" job.
"That went over like a lead balloon," says Jenny, who spent her career in corporate America until the couple started YellowDog. "We were pregnant, and we knew we wanted to spend more time with our kids. He proposed some businesses, but I needed to be convinced."
But Dan was persistent, and YellowDog was born in 2004, with the company hiring its first two employees in 2005. The company today provides print, design, and branding solutions to hundreds of businesses, from the nonprofit sector to large corporations.
Even after starting the company, Jenny says her corporate background continued to make it difficult to overcome her low tolerance for taking risks, which made it challenging to expand the company.
"Every time it was time to hire the next person, I wanted to be 100 percent sure the sales were there," she says. "I know now, that's not the way it works. COVID has really proven to us that if we can withstand the pandemic and withstand the recession in 2008, we can do anything."
Like most companies in the printing industry, YellowDog's sales are down. Much of that can be attributed to the company's reliance on events and trade shows the company helps its customers prepare for with banners, signage and other collateral.
The $70 billion U.S. printing industry revenue was forecast to decrease 14.4 percent in 2020, revised from a mild drop of 0.7 percent in the year estimated before COVID-19 hit the global economy, according to IBISWorld, a Los Angeles-based market research firm. Even with the pandemic expected to recede this year, demand for printing is expected to continue to decline over the next five years as the prevalence of e-commerce and digital marketing continues to expand.
Challenges: Because a large part of YellowDog's business had been driven by in-person events where its clients engaged its services to create booths, banners and signage for trade shows, the pandemic has resulted in a 30 percent decline in revenue for 2020.
"So many industries are just beginning to recover," Dan says. "Restaurants and events are going to be very slow in how they spend, so we're working with them to help keep them alive. Budgets aren't where they were."
Opportunities: YellowDog, which traditionally has focused on business-to-business products and services, is adding consumer channels and exploring expansion into the e-commerce space. "It's just having multiple revenue streams," Jenny says. "We're heading in that direction now."
Needs: Jenny says the second round of PPP funding will be crucial. YellowDog already has applied to its bank for the funding, which will be used to re-hire some of the employees it wasn't able to retain because of the business it lost as a result of the pandemic.
"We've been doing more with less people," she says. "Our biggest fear is that our employees will get burned out. We need a little bit of financial help and more people."