A Venture that Sticks – The Stephens’ Business Entrepreneurship
Sometimes, in the middle of a busy workday in his warehouse, Matt Stephens (BS 18) will take a moment to pause, look up and take in all that is going on around him — people diligently working and equipment running at full tilt. He takes it all in and thinks, “Wow. This is pretty awesome.” Matt and his younger brother Josh, of Warren, Michigan, have had an unquenchable thirst for business entrepreneurship since they were young boys.
The brothers’ first start-up was a knot-tying app. The application was downloaded more than 100,000 times, bringing in “a decent chunk of change,” according to Matt. That was just the beginning. Matt and Josh could rattle off a litany of entrepreneurial endeavors that followed: selling screen protectors on Amazon, generating solar leads, pitching mobile oil changes and creating another app to generate ad revenue. While some of these ventures gained traction, for one reason or another, they did not materialize into viable businesses.
It wasn’t until years later that they finally found a venture that stuck.
Matt attended Grace at the same time as his older brother, Daniel Stephens (BA 18), who encouraged him to pursue illustration and visual communication design. After graduating, Matt was offered a full-time graphic design job with Quicken Loans. During that time, Matt and Josh did what they do best — they launched a business reselling stickers with another pair of brothers. The orders started rolling in and never stopped. As the business grew, keeping up with the inventory and limited sticker offerings was tough.
It didn’t take them long to realize the vendor they were working with had some issues. As they started looking for other partners, the brothers had a novel idea — what if they cut out the middleman and made the stickers themselves? They began to investigate the feasibility of this idea and scheduled dozens of phone calls with industry leaders and salespeople for printers and cutters. Matt and Josh would be the first to admit they had their fair share of bumps in the road.
“No one took us seriously,” Matt recalled. “They treated us like we were just kids trying to print stickers that weren’t worth their time. It was a long, daunting process, but we eventually were able to acquire the equipment we needed at the quality we were looking for,” he said.
Once the company, named “Sticker Blitz,” found a home and obtained the resources it needed for operations, the brothers began to build out their brand and put their individual skills to work. Matt drew up the graphics for the company, and Josh developed proprietary technology that enables Sticker Blitz to offer print on demand, meaning orders of up to 10,000 stickers are printed and shipped the next day.
“In business entrepreneurship, the rule of three suggests you can’t have speed, quality and price. But I think it’s in-the-box thinking to assume that is how it’s going to be. We strive to hit all three,” said Matt.
Sticker Blitz’s commitment to providing high-quality stickers in a timely manner and at an affordable price has won them a corner of a robust market. “At first glance, it doesn’t seem like that big of an industry, but when you think about it, there are labels and stickers everywhere,” said Matt. “A lot of local printing companies don’t want to touch stickers because they can be difficult to print, so we are competing nationally.”
Given the industry size and the growth they’ve experienced so far — Sticker Blitz isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
The brothers, now 23 and 25, think back to their early business entrepreneurship ventures and shake their heads in disbelief at the notion that they are now business partners. Josh and Matt both admit that being partners was always a dream, but they didn’t expect it to happen this soon. “It’s not like we necessarily planned it, but we always hoped that one of our ideas for business entrepreneurship would gain enough traction for us to work together,” said Matt.
The key? Finding an idea that sticks.
Are you looking for a graphic design job? Or are you interested in business entrepreneurship? It all starts with a degree from Grace College. Learn more about our visual communication design program here and our entrepreneurial management major here.