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From the Editor: Outside the (Cereal) Box

(August 2017) posted on Thu Jul 20, 2017

Our industry is filled with intriguing tales of how one stepped into the digital print business. What’s your story?

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By Adrienne Palmer

You may not know this, but print led to the creation of Airbnb, an online hospitality service, connecting travelers with locals leasing or renting out their extra space – and my favorite way to crash when traveling.

OK, “print led to the creation of Airbnb” might be a stretch, but print is definitely a large part of the founders’ story:

Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were beginning to run out of money for their bed-and-breakfast startup, so they decided to capitalize on the frenzy of the 2008 McCain-Obama election. The duo designed artwork for political-based cereals – “Obama O’s, the Cereal of Change,” and “Cap’n McCain’s, a Maverick in Every Box” – printed the flat rectangular boxes, cut and assembled them by hand, stuffed them with cereal, and sold them for $40 a pop.

Chesky and Gebbia ended up selling $30,000 worth of cereal, pulling themselves out of debt and keeping their startup dream alive.

So, in the end, digital print (along with some creativity, a highly publicized election, and nutritional strength) spurred three million-plus hospitality listings around the world, and the most valuable American tech startup after Uber. (Airbnb is worth $31 billion today.)

We hear of these stories in our own industry often.

In 2004, Reed Silberman moved into his van to save money and purchase his first piece of print equipment for his shop, Ink Monstr. He now owns a 10,000-square-foot facility with 16 employees and nationwide clients including MTV, Nike, Adidas, Smashburger, and GoPro.

And in 1987, 15-year-old Jared Smith – a former Big Picture columnist and current Editorial Advisory Board member – was working at Domino’s Pizza delivering flyers door to door. A year later, he received a contract to deliver for a few more stores, and in another year he was delivering 250,000 flyers per week with his own staff of nearly 100. This led to more accounts and more print offerings, like business cards and letterheads. A few years later, he and some friends founded The Golf Tournament Group, and bought their first digital printer to make golf event signs, decals, and banners. In 2000, the same group founded bluemedia to widen their client base. Today, they produce signage for some of the biggest brands and events in the
world
and have made the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies list for the ninth time.

What’s your “outside the box” story of how you started your print business? Shoot me an email or tweet. Big Picture loves hearing success stories, from our yearly “How I Got the Job” feature to our upcoming second annual Women in Print Awards (nominations due August 7). After all, where would this industry be without the print community and the stories that made us who we are?

Check out more of Editor-in-Chief Adrienne Palmer's "Insight" or exlore the rest of Big Picture's August 2017 "Outside the Lines" issue.

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