Call it a craft fair that meets Amazon.com. CafePress operates an online service that connects millions of buyers and sellers of print-on-demand products. If you've dreamed up a catchy slogan or an arresting image, the company's flagship website, CafePress.com, will print it for you on a T-shirt, hat, mug, poster, or other product; post it on cafepress.com for sale; and then ship it off and collect payments, keeping a nominal base fee for itself. More than 6 million such products are printed and shipped each year. Other company owned websites include GreatBigCanvas.com, CanvasOnDemand.com, and Imagekind.com. Founded in 1999, CafePress went public in 2012.
The proceeds from the initial public offering, which raised about $85 million, will be used for general corporate purposes. Following the March IPO, the company's significant shareholders included co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Fred Durham, with about 12% of the shares, and co-founder Maheesh Jain, with 11%. Also, the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital Funds owns about 17%.
While CafePress's sales rose 46% to $32 million in the quarter preceding its IPO filing, its net loss grew to $831,000 from $40,000. The business earned $2.7 million in profits in 2010 as sales increased 24% to almost $128 million, following a drop in revenue in 2009. The customization company blamed economic malaise for dampening discretionary spending and the fact that 2010 was not an election year. (The sale of politically-oriented merchandise in connection with the presidential election gave a boost to 2008 sales.)
A pioneer in what is known as user-generated commerce, CafePress boasts a business strategy that includes more than just scratching the surface of coffee mugs and other products. To that end, CafePress has acquired CanvasOnDemand, an online source for creating custom canvases from photographs. Previously, CafePress bought Imagekind, which operates a website for buying and selling prints, posters, frames, and other visual media. CafePress merchandisers are known as Shopkeepers, though they don't have to keep their own shop. Besides production and shipping services, CafePress also offers customer service through a toll-free number and email. Shopkeepers receive a monthly check from CafePress.
In addition to extending its product line, CafePress has been growing by inking deals with some heavy corporate heavy hitters. It provides marketing Web space for other companies, such as Discovery Communications and the March of Dimes, and holds licensing agreements with more than 90 copyrighted/trademarked materials. Also, in October 2011 the company acquired L&S Retail Ventures, the operator of InvitationBox.com, an online customized stationery company based in North Carolina. The purchase price included an initial payment of $4.5 million with up to $8 million in performance-based future payments.
In June 2011 the company changed its name from CafePress.com, Inc. to CafePress Inc. – less