By Melissa Martz
With over a dozen children between them, Julie Cole, her sister Cynthia Esp, and two friends from university, Julie Ellis and Tricia Mumby (who have both joined the family with one marrying the sisters’ brother, and the other marrying a young uncle) had the same concerns about the potential of many lost articles. They felt a product was missing on the market for labeling children’s stuff easily and effectively. They set out to do something about it.
Mabel’s Labels is a homegrown business that started in Hamilton in 2002 with on-line sales available in March 2003. The product: stick-on labels, which are durable, dishwasher safe, microwave safe and UV resistant, and simply peel and stick to virtually anything. “Our original classic sticky label is by far the top selling and favourite product among consumers, because of the versatility it offers,” Cole says. She also notes that their “Ultimate Back to School Combo” pack proves to be a big season seller as well.
Their first year’s sales totalled $16,000, with just the four of them employed. Now, Mabel’s Labels is housed in a 14,000 square foot facility, employing 40 people. Mabel’s Labels’ annual sales are now a whopping $6 million, and they keep on climbing. To date, more than 50 million labels in 97 countries have been sold online.
The growth has been happening in leaps and bounds. A PR person in Los Angeles was hired to assist them with the development of the American market. Currently, it’s split 60-40 between Canada and the United States. After much market research and help from retail consultant Gerald Harris (who has more than 25 years consumer-focused retail development), they have now been able to crack into Walmart Canada with a new product: a self-laminating write-on label. The result has been overwhelming. “This has been an amazing opportunity for us to have our product available in one of the biggest retail chains in Canada. Mabel’s Labels are currently in 295 Walmart stores across Canada. We are in negotiations with Walmart US and it looks very promising,” Cole says. They have also secured agreement with Target US. This new product, which is still both dishwasher safe and microwave safe, is ideal for parents who find themselves in time restraints, have little time to be ordering online and awaiting delivery, or need them immediately…like when the kids are off to camp the next day. “There are people who will not punch their VISA numbers into a computer, so this is a great alternative for them,” Coles says. Purchasing personalized labels won’t break the bank since many of the labels online cost between $21-$30 for 45 labels. There is free shipping in Canada for online orders.
The blank write-on label is great for teens and guys who don’t want to be using anything that looks juvenile. The new product, available at Walmart (selling at $10.47 for 30 labels), has proven to be a winner among both genders and all age groups. It’s now cool to have labels on your stuff because you can personalize them yourself, right then and there.
Each of the four founders are VPs, managing different areas of the business. Julie Cole oversees Customer Service, is the company’s spokesperson, (and just recently announced that she will be CHCH TV Morning Live’s new Parenting Expert, providing a monthly round up of parenting issues), Julie Ellis is responsible for IT and Finance, Cynthia Esp oversees Production and HR while Tricia Mumby manages Marketing and Sales. Both Cole and Esp live in Hamilton, while Ellis lives in Burlington and Mumby resides in Kitchener.
Leaving the corporate world or traditional workforce for the sake of balancing their young families, and finding their personal satisfaction from creating a well-thought-out product has been a whirlwind of a ride for Julie Cole, Julie Ellis, Cynthia Esp and Tricia Mumby. It takes a great idea, lots of hard work and determination for a business to succeed, and these four moms have done it. They eagerly look forward to what the next 10 years will produce at Mabel’s Labels.