Twenty-five years ago, the company we now call Cimpress got its start in the spare bedroom of a Paris apartment. When Robert Keane began selling desktop publishing software and supplies to small businesses throughout France via a direct mail order catalog named “Bonne Impression,” he laid the foundation for a company that would eventually span the globe and become an industry and innovation leader.
Cimpress today is nearly unrecognizable from the business Robert set into motion those many years ago. Our customers no longer thumb through catalogs and order products from us on a phone call, but we’re still guided by the needs of our customers and a strong entrepreneurial spirit which encourages our teams to remain fast and nimble even as we get bigger.
As we head into the next decade and celebrate our many accomplishments over the years, it’s important to reflect on the longer journey we’ve been on and how it has helped us find sustained success.
A brief history
Bonne Impression set out to remove the limitations previously inherent in low-volume printed communications by providing customized printing in small quantities that is high quality, professional and affordable. But the new World Wide Web offered us a path to create a brand new industry online.
Early on, we recognized the transformative potential of the internet and saw many opportunities to meet customer needs. That led us to pioneer two key technologies that would change our industry forever: browser-based desktop publishing software, and workflow automation software that automatically aggregates very large numbers of small orders into high-quality, low-cost, high-volume production streams.
The enthusiastic customer response to our approach spurred rapid growth and in 1999 we changed our name to Vistaprint to reflect our new identity. We grew our team, expanded our products and services, entered new geographic markets, built new manufacturing capabilities and continued to invest in new technologies.
2003 saw the opening of our first production facility in the Netherlands, followed by a customer service center in Jamaica. A powerful combination of great customer value, hard work and the growth of e-commerce drove revenues from $17 million in our 2002 fiscal year to $815 million by fiscal year 2011. To put it mildly, it’s rare for a business at this scale to grow almost 5,000% organically, with no acquisitions.
In 2011 we made a decision to build manufacturing into a pillar of our competitive advantage, make customer centricity core to our culture, and invest in advertising based on the lifetime value of customers rather than on shorter-term returns. This enabled us to expand into new markets and business models as well as further strengthen our operational foundation. It’s also at this time that we determined we would commit to making financial decisions based on long-term returns, not quarterly or annual financial results.
We made our first acquisition in 2010. Since then, we’ve partnered with and acquired mass customization businesses around the globe. In 2014, as our company expanded rapidly in multiple directions, we changed our corporate holding-company name to Cimpress to clarify the distinction between the corporate entity and the company’s growing portfolio of customer-facing businesses.
Today, Cimpress spans more than a dozen businesses and operates across more than twenty countries. We have many accomplishments to be proud of, yet we know there’s still so much more to achieve!
Staying the course in 2020
If you’ve read any of Robert’s shareholder letters, then you already know about how we drive competitive advantage across Cimpress by investing in a select few shared capabilities that have the greatest potential to create company-wide value. We limit all other central activities to only those which absolutely must be performed centrally. Our businesses are encouraged to be independent and entrepreneurial.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our teams, we’ve been successful in tackling a number of challenges and harnessing new, exciting opportunities in key areas across our business. Despite decades of demonstrated growth and success, we continue to see our future as one of limitless opportunities. Here’s to the next 25 years.