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Update: How We Grew The Business To $2M/Year With 50% YoY Growth

David Rubie-Todd
Founder, Sticker it
Sticker it
from Bristol, UK
started September 2007
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hi, my name is David Rubie-Todd and I run a business called Sticker it. We print custom labels and stickers for people & brands all over the world, from a few stickers for local artists to hundreds of thousands of labels for the globe's biggest brands.

A lot has happened over the last year and I’m excited to share our story and learning with you.

In the last year, we’ve grown well and invested heavily in manufacturing and marketing to set ourselves up for a great 2023. We currently turnover $2 million per year and are growing over 50% year on year.

One of the biggest innovations this year is the launch of our compostable stickers and labels which, we believe, it’s unique to us in such a wide range. Here’s an example of a custom label to show what we do:


Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

The first step is to understand what you need to be working on. What is going to move the needle (drive more growth) more than anything else you can work on?

We’ve had a few big changes and milestones this year.

The first is the installation of the world's best digital printer we’ve invested over $750,000 in a manufacturing department and part of this includes installing, an HP Indigo digital press, which looks like this:


It is a phenomenal bit of kit. It prints up to 50 meters/minute which is faster than the eye can see. It prints in incredible detail. For example, it can print micro-text 0.5pt small that is viewed through a microscope. It also has brilliantly vibrant colors which everyone wants.

So that’s been a huge change and progress for us and customers are loving it.

The second biggest change is the launch of a new website in the summer of 2022. We launched a static site which means it’s super fast to load gives a great experience with customers, and ultimately helps SEO and conversion optimization, which are two big focuses for us internally.

It also allows us to release new features and upgrades faster than before, alongside maybe testing new releases, so we can make sure that our changes are helping us to grow.

Here is an image of the homepage of the site:


The final big change in 2022 is the one I mentioned earlier where we’ve launched a whole range of compostable materials. These look and feel like plastic labels, but are compostable which means the impact on the environment is much less as they will degrade over time.

The compostable range includes all of our most popular colors; white, clear, holographic, glitter, mirror silver, and mirror gold. As far as I’m aware, these products are unique and we’ve managed to price these products at the same level as their plastic counterparts, which means there’s no barrier to brands or individuals going to the more sustainable option. Which customers love!

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

The biggest challenges this year, have been around funding the new investment in manufacturing because we are businesses growing through reinvesting in profits and also growing the marketing channels that give us a great return on investment.

As you can imagine investing $750,000 is a challenge without outside investment. We managed to debt-finance the printer because it’s an asset with intrinsic value.

The challenge was to prove to the financiers that we can make the payments, after 2020 when Covid made the world an uncertain place.

You have a big challenge for us is to find new marketing channels that we can see a positive return on investment in a reasonably short space of time (6 to 9 months).

As we’ve grown more, we look for channels to diversify our sources of growth, ultimately, to scale faster and faster. We invested a lot into Facebook ads in the second half of 2022, which ultimately was a failure and we’ve now stopped for the most part.

The biggest surprise was how much it changed since we last ran Facebook ads back in 2020, and how we needed to create so much content that required a full-time team and we just couldn’t get a positive return on this investment.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

If people aren’t reacting positively to what you’re doing, listen to their feedback & change. A pivot doesn’t need to be a huge leap or u-turn. It can be a slight re-alignment of direction.

I’ve learned a lot over the last year and it’s hard to distill all of these down. So I’ve tried to highlight three of the most prominent lessons from the last year and hope these help you.

1. Delegate don’t abdicate

I find so many managers, especially people new to management, tend to abdicate rather than delegate.

What I mean by that, is they ask someone to do something and expect it to be done perfectly the first time on time without any more communication on the subject. This is an application and rarely works especially if the person you’re asking is new to the task.

Whereas delegating a task is quite different.

The most important difference is that you remain responsible for completing it.

So you can get others to help you and do bits of the task, but ultimately you’ll still be responsible for delivering and that slight change has quite a significant impact on behavior and how you may manage the person you’ve asked to help with the task. Regular check-ins, making sure they have the tools and resources needed, and being open to providing support are some of the differences that you’ll notice.

2. Focus on things that move the needle

Focus and prioritization are incredibly difficult and I believe very few people get them right. I find myself constantly battling with what’s important to spend time on.

The first step is to understand what you need to be working on. What is going to move the needle (drive more growth) more than anything else you can work on?

Once you know that, you can start to say no to other things and you’ll feel comfortable with it. I’ve had a mentor for many years who has built a multi-£bn business and he is extremely good at not sweating, the small stuff and focusing on what’s important. And sometimes some small stuff gets missed, but that’s part of the sacrifice and as long as an important task of attention, then I think it’s the right balance.

3. Self-care is critically important

This is probably something that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older (I’m 33 now). I used to work every waking minute of every day and didn’t think about how to be the most productive or have the most impact. I just work worked, kept it simple and it went pretty well for the whole of my 20s.

Now in my 30s I’ve got two children and I find taking a little bit of time to go to the gym three times a week and meditate in the mornings helps me focus for longer and make the most of them now more limited time that I have to spend on my business.

It’s not much, I probably meditate five times a week for 10 minutes each session and go to the gym three times a week for about an hour. So that this up over the week it’s not much time but I found it helps my mental state and helps me process what’s happening in life as it’s getting more complicated with more moving parts.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

It’s an exciting year for us in 2023. We’ve invested a lot into manufacturing so we can handle growth & provide the most beautiful quality products.

Our key milestones for 2023 are:

  1. Invest another $400,000 in the manufacturing dept to reduce lead times & increase capacity as we grow.
  2. Scale SEO faster than ever before by doubling down on content & PR.
  3. Grow the team even further across the continents. We currently cover 16-18 hours/day with our customer service & design teams. We’re looking to expand this to cover 22-24 hours/day, by having people in Asia, America & Europe. We already have people in all 3 geographies, but will scale this model more.

Looking further ahead, we’re looking to open manufacturing facilities in other countries as we grow in each of them. We’re also looking to go beyond custom stickers & labels - but more on that in the future!!

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

Build by Tony Fadell.

He is the “father of the iPod” and then went on to create Nest, which got acquired by Google.

I particularly like the detail he goes into on developing hardware & how he thinks about the customer experience so deeply. It’s especially relevant for us, as we create physical goods.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

Be happy to pivot!

It’s the single most important factor, I believe in firstly surviving than thriving.

If people aren’t reacting positively to what you’re doing, listen to their feedback & change. A pivot doesn’t need to be a huge leap or u-turn. It can be a slight re-alignment of direction.

Nearly all of the greatest success stories involve a lot of trying, failing, pivoting, and retrying. Just do this before you run out of money, time, or grit.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yes! We’re looking to grow our tech team. We have a large, complex stack that is constantly growing & evolving, so need amazing people to help us build beautiful solutions.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

David Rubie-Todd, Founder of Sticker it
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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