Sticker Giant Does Big Business in Tiny Town
Stickers are the chief export from this tiny Boulder County community. Stickers for breweries, tech companies, CrossFit gyms, labels for bakeries, marijuana dispensaries, beard-oil purveyors — online orders come in to Hygiene every day from coast to coast, for anywhere from 250 to 20,000 stickers.
“The physical thing is just a piece of plastic with adhesive on it, but people are always fired up about their stickers,” said John Fischer, who founded the company that would become StickerGiant in his basement in 2001.
“Are they fired up about their office supplies? No,” he said. “But they are fired up about their stickers.”
In 2014, StickerGiant printed 9,300 miles of promotional stickers and product labels, growing its annual revenue nearly 40 percent in one year to $5.8 million.
This year, the custom sticker company was on track to do more than $8 million in total revenue, with even bigger plans for the future — the least of which is an attempt in January to set the record for the world’s largest ball made entirely of stickers.
This spring, StickerGiant will move into a 12,000-square-foot facility in Longmont, doubling the space it currently has in Hygiene. The company also hopes to expand its reach and start shipping to the U.K. and Australia.
“Every sticker has a story,” Fischer said. “It allows people to get the word out about things they’re really passionate about. So, we make it over and over and over for them.”
The StickerGiant story begins in 2000 with Fischer’s idea for a bumper sticker inspired by the Bush-Gore election, in which Al Gore won the popular vote, but George W. Bush won the electoral college.
“It was ‘He is not my president,’ Fischer said. “We didn’t know who would be president for six weeks.”
The success of the bumper sticker gave fruit to another idea — StickerGiant, an online store that Fischer envisioned as the “Amazon of stickers.“
“It was a sticker store. You could go online and buy an Allman Brothers sticker or a Dallas Cowboys sticker or a Broncos sticker or whatever,” he said.
In 2011, StickerGiant began printing custom stickers in house. By 2013, when the retail store closed for good, custom orders had become its bread-and-butter.
Now, the 32-person operation averages more than 500 custom orders a week, many on a 24-hour turnaround. They will print just about anything on a sticker or label, as long as you order at least 250.
Occasionally, they do reject orders — one case involved “super bad, racist hate speech” — but Fischer said they haven’t had a problem in years.
All orders also receive free art services and die cutting. Live customer service is available from local “sticker experts” during business hours.
“When we started doing custom printing, one thing we figured out quickly was small business owners didn’t have art skills,” Fischer said. “If you’re running a muffler shop, you’re lucky if you even know where your logo file is.”
Stickers are printed onto giant rolls of substrate, often 20-30 orders per roll, pressroom operator Jane Slauson said.
The rolls are then fed into a laser die-cutting machine — StickerGiant has two of just six machines in North America — where the stickers are cut into whatever shape the client wants, without also cutting the backing. A laminate is also applied.
Past customers include Google, Uber, Magpul, Boulder Granola, artist Phil Lewis and Left Hand Brewing Company. Breweries make up a sizable market — 1,800 have placed orders with StickerGiant.
“Overall in America, the printing industry is kind of disappearing, but you know what? Stickers seem to survive and thrive,” Slauson said.
On his laptop, Fischer has two stickers — one is a small StickerGiant logo, the other an image of the Star Trek character Spock.
“It allows people to make things theirs,” he said. “You can put granola in a plastic bag and mark it with a Sharpie “Mom’s Granola” or you can make a really cool design.”
Attempting the world’s largest sticker ball was an extension of another idea they had, creating a National Sticker Day, marketing director Jesse Michaels said.
Earlier this year, StickerGiant worked with the folks at National Day Calendar to get the day proclaimed. They chose Jan. 13 because it is the birth date of R. Stanton Avery, inventor of the self-adhesive label.
National Sticker Day was also the date they chose for their sticker ball weigh-in, scheduled for 12 p.m. at Wibby Brewery in Longmont. Guinness World Records has said the sticker ball must be at least 220 pounds to earn the title, Michaels said.
“Going into it we thought, piece of cake. We print stickers all day. We’ve got plenty of runoff we can put on there,” Michaels said. “After two weeks, it was 20 pounds, and we were like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is going to take a lot of work.’ “
Nearly two months later, “Saul the Sticker Ball” had topped 200 pounds and 147,000 stickers .
“It’s been the biggest team-building project ever,” Michaels said. “It’s taken every single person here to try to get stickers on it.”
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