These Brothers Started A Custom Stickers Business At 16 And Have Grown It To $1.5M/Year

David Rubie-Todd
Founder, Sticker it
$125K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
14
Employees
Sticker it
from Bristol, UK
started September 2007
$125,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
14
Employees
614K
alexa rank
6.66K
followers
142
followers
74
subs
market size
$3B
avg revenue (monthly)
$125K
starting costs
$30.1K
gross margin
30%
time to build
720 days
growth channels
Email marketing
best tools
Ahrefs, WordPress, Google Tag Manager
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
44 Pros & Cons
tips
2 Tips
Discover what tools David reccommends to grow your business!
shipping
customer service
financing
reviews
accounting
productivity
payments
blog
seo
Discover what books David reccommends to grow your business!
Start A Names Sticker Business

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, I’m David Rubie-Todd, a co-founder of Sticker it. We print custom stickers for some of the smallest and largest brands all over the world.

We use technology to make buying custom products easy. We believe there shouldn’t be a compromise on quality just because something is personalized (think crappy printed t-shirts).

Our bestselling product is our die-cut stickers, which are simply custom-shaped to fit your design.

We launched in late 2018 and have grown to $125,000/month in revenue. We started just in the UK, and throughout 2021 we’ve launched into the US, Germany, France, Italy, and India. Because of this, we’ve seen 4x year-on-year growth which is getting faster & faster!

Our customers fit into 3 groups; creative individuals, designers, and marketers. Each of these customers buys stickers or labels for a different reason so we’ve learned to tweak the user experience depending on who they are.

these-brothers-started-a-custom-stickers-business-at-16-and-have-grown-it-to-1-5m-year

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Starting Sticker It was an extension of what we were already doing, just on a much larger scale - designing & manufacturing custom graphics for motorsport.

My brother and I were just 16 & 18 years old when we started Kartdavid. We used to race, spending every weekend at the track.

We always wanted to start our own business and had the idea of selling sponsorship packages to local businesses. They would be able to brand a driver for a season and get exposure to the spectators at the track.

For this to happen we needed to brand the karts with stickers, so after shopping around and being unimpressed with the local sticker shops we leased our first printer & cutter for £6000.

At one point we had 9 full-time developers working on the site and we were only launching small updates every 3-4 months. I think we sunk £120,000 into that site.

In the corner of our parent’s house, we took some graphics to the track and on our very first weekend sold £500 of graphics - for kids, we thought we’d won the lottery!

It all snowballed from there. Fast forward 10 years and Kartdavid is one of the largest suppliers to the karting industry globally.

It wasn’t until 2017 we started to discuss the concept of Sticker it and we ended up launching this brand in 2018. 2 things happened when we expanded outside of karting; growth increased massively due to the increased market size but so did the quality of competition. It caused us to level up in a lot of areas, such as focusing on designing the best possible user experience.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

We make everything to order, in-house, using our own manufacturing facility.

Getting started took months of iterating. Karting, which was where we started, is a really complex application. They use plastic bodywork that’s molded in complex shapes.

This means the stickers need to be highly flexible but also really sticky to survive tires rubbing them at 70mph and a lot of knocks!

We ended up having the raw materials made for us, using a network of specialists, to our exact specifications to get the right adhesion and flexibility for a cost that customers would accept. The trick is to get the perfect level of stickiness so it sticks well but also can be removed & replaced when needed.

The second challenge was color. In motorsport fluorescent & chrome, colors are super popular. However, these colors aren’t used in many other areas so they aren’t widely available.

We’ve ended up working with color manufacturers to get our own shades of fluorescent made, so we’re one of the only businesses in the world that can print fluorescent with tiny minimum orders!

these-brothers-started-a-custom-stickers-business-at-16-and-have-grown-it-to-1-5m-year

Describe the process of launching the business.

Launching Sticker was painful! We made the decision early on to launch on Magento 2 because we had big ambitions. It was a nightmare!

After about 6 months of development, we finally went live and had so much downtime and such a buggy user experience - it was not good!

At one point we had 9 full-time developers working on the site and we were only launching small updates every 3-4 months. I think we sunk £120,000 into that site.

The main reason for the pain was simply that Magento was the wrong technology for us. We were a small team and just couldn’t handle the sheer size & complexity of the Magento platform.

Our biggest takeaway was walked before you can run, aka ‘Do things that don’t scale’. We thought Magento could scale with us for years to come, but what we really needed was a platform that could launch us fast with the minimal investment so we could bootstrap effectively.

In mid-2020 we cut our losses and re-launched on BigCommerce within 8 weeks. From the day it launched, the 9th September 2020, it transformed our business.

Our conversion rate doubled overnight and our SEO rankings grew faster than ever before (more about that later).

BigCommerce has given us a platform to develop custom user experiences, like Graphic. A tool that allows people to create custom stickers without needing a design or design experience

Graphic explainer video.

these-brothers-started-a-custom-stickers-business-at-16-and-have-grown-it-to-1-5m-year

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

For the first 18 months of our Sticker It journeys we solely ran Facebook, Instagram, and Google ads to acquire customers. Facebook and Instagram have always worked better for us because our product is so visual.

They worked well for us (2.5+ ROAS) until the iOS14 changes with Apple around Spring 2021. Our ROAS dropped off a cliff, CPA rose from £15 to £65+ and we ultimately stopped running ads altogether to focus on SEO & email.

We often put artificial mental barriers up to what is achievable, or to what may go wrong. Most decisions are non-catastrophic and even reversible. If this is the case make them quickly and have a go.

Luckily we’d started SEO in 2020 and saw positive results, especially when we launched the new site in September 2020.

2021 is when SEO was really growing for us and we’ve steadily ramped up our SEO efforts globally, as we’ve launched into 6+ countries.

The image below shows the growth from our Organic channel, which has the bonus of converting really well too!

these-brothers-started-a-custom-stickers-business-at-16-and-have-grown-it-to-1-5m-year

We have found the trick with SEO is to focus on compounding gains over time. We do something little every single day and that compounds over a year to be a lot. There are a ton of places to learn about SEO, and the Ahrefs YouTube channel is a great place to start. Within just a few hours they’ll explain the basics. With that knowledge and the discipline of little and often it can compound into big wins.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Sticker it is going really well.

We’ve just invested in the world’s best digital printer, costing £0.5m+ but that is unrivaled in quality.

It will help us to speed up our scaling process whilst maintaining short lead times.

We’re constantly trying to widen the creative envelope to create effects that are usually only achievable for large brands, printing thousands of units.

By using digital print methods and by batching hundreds of orders together each day, we can give crazy special effects to people who want as little as 1 sticker, all for a reasonable price.

These used to only be available to huge brands that need large production runs. They may have spent thousands of dollars just setting up a single production.

In terms of growth, we only launched in the US 10 months ago and it’s already 2x our market in the UK. We’re doubling efforts in SEO in the US and also aim to launch throughout the whole of Europe in 2022.

these-brothers-started-a-custom-stickers-business-at-16-and-have-grown-it-to-1-5m-year

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

There have been many learning experiences we’ve got from all over the place.

We nearly went bust back in 2010 because we only had 1 supplier for our major product. When they couldn’t supply us our production dried up and it hurt us a lot! Since then we’ve always had multiple suppliers.

My biggest learning is that we’re a product of our decisions. So I spend a lot of time learning about human decision-making, strategy, and trying to make the right decisions. This can directly impact our trajectory and grow us quicker.

The other big learning I’ve had is to keep learning. At times when I get crazy busy, I stop reading and it always has a negative impact. If I keep on feeding my brain with new perspectives, knowledge, and experiences it’ll help to solve the problems I experience as an entrepreneur. I’m a big reader so I read a lot of books (non-fiction mainly) and cannot recommend them highly enough for all of us to read more.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The most valuable book I’ve read is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This is my all-time favorite book and all the habits are so actionable.

Who by Geoff Smart is the best book I’ve read on hiring good people. As such a key part of building a business, learning how to find the right people is critical.

The Art ofThinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli is an awesome introduction to our models of thinking and decision making which is made from lots of small concepts making it easy to digest.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

My advice would be to challenge your thinking & perceptions to understand what is really possible.

We often put artificial mental barriers up to what is achievable, or to what may go wrong.

Most decisions are non-catastrophic and even reversible. If this is the case make them quickly and have a go.

What’s the worst that can happen? Why can’t you achieve it? Have you chosen courage over comfort?

Use some of these questions to challenge your thinking and nudge yourself into action.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Developers. We’re always looking for people to help develop our technology. We’re a tech company that prints stickers, so finding people that can help us to bring better custom products to brands globally is at our core.

Please email caree[email protected].

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

Want to start your own business?

Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.

We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help you get started.

Interested in starting your own business? Join Starter Story Premium to get the greatest companion to starting and growing your business:

  • Connect + get advice from successful entrepreneurs
  • Step by step guides on how to start and grow
  • Exclusive and early access to the best case studies on the web
  • And much more!

Did you know that brands using Klaviyo average a 95x ROI?

Email, SMS, and more — Klaviyo brings your marketing all together, fueling growth without burning through time and resources.

Deliver more relevant email and text messages — powered by your data. Klaviyo helps you turn one-time buyers into repeat customers with all the power of an enterprise solution and none of the complexity.

Join Brumate, Beardbrand, and the 265,000 other businesses using Klaviyo to grow their online sales.

Try Klaviyo for free right now ➜

Want to start a names sticker business? Learn more ➜