While major retail stores like JC Penny, Macy’s and K-mart are closing stores at a record rate some merchants are moving from the simple clicked mouse of online retail to more complicated brick and mortar stores.
Pipsticks, a sticker based subscription business, recently opened its doors at 1239 Monterey St. in SLO after being purely online since 2014.
The business concept is simple and effective. Starring at $10 a month, a subscriber receives a packet of stickers and other ‘goodies’ in the mail. That’s it. Pipsticks currently has thousands of subscribers from 60 different countries.
“There’s this really interesting, amazing feeling of just really simple kind of giddy anticipation that people associate with stickers,” said Maureen Vasquez, owner and mother of four, “and I think a lot of our generation has that nostalgia around it because a lot of us grew up collecting them.”
She explains that the company receives fan mail from all over the world on a daily basis that not only give praise but recommendations that Vasquez has put into action.
Opening a brick and mortar location came from necessity over the success of the product and the success of the product came from Vasquez’s talent and drive. She spent months originating the business and developing strategies, beta testing, and marketing to ‘mom bloggers.’ The simplicity of the idea belies the effort is has taken to make it a success.
After much deliberation and thought, Vasquez and her husband Nathan, a former options trader, decided to move to San Luis Obispo and run Pipsticks fulltime. Vasquez went from managing and promoting the business while living in London to stuffing envelopes in their cottage on their property in SLO.
“So we really out grew the space, last December we were on top of each other,” said Vasquez. “I think there were 8 working at that point in 600 square feet with sticker coming out of our ears.”
Opening the storefront brought another dimension to business that Vasquez enjoys. Already very communitive with her customers, she looks forward to interacting with them in person. Since the physical location was not a determining factor in the business’ success, Vazquez said that retail space is exactly what she envisioned.
“Also, from a business aspect,” Vasquez said, “we are looking to expanding to a wholesale market, so developing our own products and marketing them to other retail stores, which will allow us to really understand the market better.”
The location also serves as a production floor in the back and Vasquez is looking forward to launching an event space that can be reserved for special occasions and giving people another option for after hour activities.
At first, the sticker packets were geared toward children. Within six months, she realized that the majority of subscribers were adults and adapted to the surprising discovery. Now, the company assembles two types of packs; ‘Kid packs’ for children and the ‘Pro Packs’ for adults.
“Right now, about 70% of our club is actually adults,” said Vasquez. “All of our kid packs are designed with parents in mind as well… all the stickers are tried and tested by children [her children] and high quality.”
She explained that, when a parent needs a break and uses stickers as a distraction, the last thing they want is a lousy product.
Before the Cal Poly graduate became the queen of sticker subscriptions, Vasquez worked for Clifford Chance, one of the top ten largest law firms in the world, while living in London. The last project she worked on was centralizing all the firm’s designs that spanned across countries and create a new design and identity programs.
“The experience for me in terms of large scale product management was awesome,” she said attributing businesses success to her experience at the law firm.
Pipsticks will celebrate its grand opening on June 3 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with free sticker crafts, prizes, treats and music.
For more information, go online to: pipsticks.com.