An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Davis Siksnans (co-founder and CEO) of Printful, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Printful – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Before starting Printful, we had a different idea called Startup Vitamins, which sold motivational posters for entrepreneurs. It came about when we wanted to put inspirational startup quotes on our office walls but couldn’t find quotes on the internet to buy as posters. At first, we printed posters in our co-founder’s living room, but the more orders we got, the less feasible it became to continue operating out of that tiny space. When we wanted to scale up and even move beyond posters into apparel, the idea was to get things printed on-demand, but the only places available at the time were small print shops that would only offer bulk screen printing. Startup Vitamins also needed a print-on-demand service that would integrate with our Shopify backend, and we couldn’t find a company that would do all of that for us. Thus, Printful was born.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
Keeping up with different market changes is a continuous hurdle, and the most prominent example is how quickly we had to adapt last year when the pandemic hit. People were stuck at home and desperately looking for any opportunity to generate some extra income, so print-on-demand suddenly became significantly more popular. Keeping up with the sudden surge while ensuring the safety of our team was extremely challenging at times, and we had to make sure that our customers were constantly informed about delays and changing shipping times. Even now, when most of the world seems to have finally moved past the worst, a post-pandemic market presents new challenges. Growing, changing, and staying agile while still maintaining our values and outstanding quality is (and will continue to be) a hurdle to overcome.
What does the future hold for Printful?
Above anything, we want to become a true one-stop shop for anybody who wants to start an ecommerce business. Our main goal is to help any entrepreneur build their online business without having to worry about the logistics of printing and shipping products, enabling them to focus on their passion and the fun part of running their business.
When it comes to more tangible goals, there are new locations in Texas, Poland, and the UK coming later this year, as well as a larger space in California and an additional facility in Mexico. We’re also constantly working on new products and services, so you can expect new additions to every product category.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Charlotte?
Charlotte is an incredibly accommodating place, with many flourishing businesses having already found success. Dozens of Charlotte-based companies have made it to the Inc. 5000 list, and I’m sure there are many more to come. The talent pool in the area (particularly in tech) makes it the perfect hotspot for modern and growth-oriented businesses, so, five years in, I’m still very happy with our choice of location.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
The very first piece of advice is to pick the right niche and the right targeting. Startup Vitamins succeeded because we filled a niche in the market by launching specific designs for specific people who are interested in startups. The same goes for Printful – we were very deliberately trying to address the need for a reliable print-on-demand partner, which was something we experienced first-hand with Startup Vitamins.
I’d also like to stress that you’ve got to be willing to focus a lot of your time and energy on good branding and marketing. Many aspiring business owners believe that they can just make a great product and it’ll sell itself. I disagree and believe that you should make marketing one of your main priorities from day one. No matter how good your product is, it won’t sell if you don’t bring it to the right people. I see many great ideas fail or underperform because they don’t have a thought-out marketing strategy.