Written by Andrew Seale
There’s a three-storey sticker on Queen Street. Yes, three storeys. Improbable, sure, but by no means impossible. At least not for Toronto startup StickerYou. Fittingly, the decal is affixed to the retail store for the custom sticker and label maker which opened Fall 2019, a decade since the company launched in Toronto.
“We ship around the world, about 80 per cent of our sales are in the US,” says Andrew Witkin, founder and president of StickerYou. “But it has given us a very local presence – it's kind of fun to juxtapose our core business online versus something that's happening more locally at the store and see it all out of Toronto but with two different lenses.”
Witkin’s like that – nimble in his vision, tapped in and looking through those lenses for the next direction, whatever that may be. “I'm a product junkie… I get excited about new products when I think that they can really meet needs.”
That’s what led him to launch a custom sticker manufacturing company in the first place. Witkin’s background is in product development and marketing. Watching the shift towards customization, the sort of thing digital could augment, had him reflecting on untapped markets, industries that’d yet to be explored through a tech-enabled customization lens.
While in California he was exposed to sticker culture in a way he hadn’t really thought about it before. “You walk by Manhattan Beach and you'd see stickers on surfboards, skateboards on the doors of restaurants, on mailboxes,” says Witkin. “I took a step back and asked myself how are people making these stickers and can you do that online?” He researched and realized the space was antiquated. Most suppliers had minimum orders in the 500 to 1,000 range and getting custom die-cut stickers online seemed to be out of the question.
In 2008, Andrew Witkin launched StickerYou as a website allowing customers to upload their logo or design and print their own sticker. They started producing in Toronto. “It evolved from something that we thought was going to be more appealing to teenagers and skateboarders to something that at the heart of the technology was businesses who didn't necessarily need a thousand stickers,” says Witkin. Over the past decade, the company has expanded to other sticky products like labels, temporary tattoos, and decals.
In 2015, Witkin joined Peerscale (at the time called AceTech). The group was focused on elevating founders as a whole through peer support. “It brought a lot of companies together because other than talent, they weren't really competing with their products against one another,” says Witkin. At that time there was a need for that infrastructure to allow people to work together. The sort of infrastructure that’s rife in Toronto’s current startup ecosystem.
“As we all see now it's actually this extremely vibrant community, there are lots of startups and we've watched the big companies come in to see the talent that exists here on the software side,” he says.
It’s a maturation Witkin has watched unfold in step with his own business' evolution. As the startup scene has adapted, so too has Witkin. And he’ll continue to. “I think our product pipeline looks pretty good from a physical product perspective of some of the things we're going to start coming out with next year,” he says. “And then there are some new categories altogether that we can still apply and learn and grow into… we're excited.”
Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)