Running a sticker business is hard

Running a Sticker Business is Hard

Have you ever wanted to run a sticker business? We've done it since 2022. Read this to understand the pros and cons. 

Margin Problem

The problem with stickers is that they are a low margin and high volume product. It takes you just as much time and effort to find customers and when you find them, your average order is under $20. Compare that to an individual who can aggressively advertise and make a sale on an $80 product or a $300 product. 

This effectively means that paid advertising is moot. Your return on investment and ad spend is pennies on the dollar.

You need to rely on satisfied customers and word of mouth.

That takes a lot of time to foster. 

Low Barrier to Entry

Another issue with a sticker business and the sticker industry as a whole is the low barrier of entry which increases how competitive it can be. Go to Redbubble and you will have 10 different brands steal and copy each other's ideas and undercut on price. It's a race to the bottom.

You want people to find your designs and generate buzz about them. But the moment you become too popular a slew of copycats will rear their ugly head.

It's difficult to be original. 

The Original Tactical George Washington NVG Stickers Hand Drawn by me.

Copycat Washington Stickers with a claim to be hand-painted but likely AI generated. 

Some ways we try to differentiate our product is by using high quality materials, hand-draw each sticker, and make them exclusively in the USA. But the value of a sticker in a consumer's mind is a $2-3 product at most. If we sold our stickers at that rate, we wouldn't make any money to sustain operations. 

But it's hard to change that perception when you go on Amazon and can find low-grade 100+ sticker packs for $7 printed on the cheapest printer and paper known to man. 

Production Constraints

Many sticker makers will keep their production in-house to save on costs. This was a consideration. However the large sticker manufactures just have better machinery and processes.

The quality stickers we receive are much better than a 10-cent sticker made in house. But that also means our production costs are increased and we hold onto bulk purchased inventory. Purchasing inventory upfront, even a small amount, in hopes that it sells over time means the first year you're only recuperating your costs. 

The costs add up when you factor in website and hosting costs, the cost of packaging/shipping, and the time spent to drawing the stickers. 

Online Business Woes 

Another issue with a modern online business is shipping products. A stamp and envelope, the cheapest way to send a good, still comes out to about 70 to 80 cents. Buying a package with tracking from the USPS is $3 - 4.

The best way to ship stickers is to encourage buyers to buy more than one so that your shipping rates remain the same but you can increase the product sent out. 

While we ship out our products within a day or two, some customers report of long snail mail time and it's totally at the mercy of the postal service. 

The Many Hats of Entrepreneurship

Something people don't take time to realize is that being an entrepreneur takes a lot of time and effort to get any business off the ground. 

You are effectively the:

  • Product Researcher
  • Artist
  • Web designer
  • Social Media Marketing Agent 
  • Sales Leader
  • Customer Service Representative 
  • Shipping & Order Fulfillment Manager
  • Business Accountant
  • and more...

Conclusion and Pivoting

At the end of the day, while our sticker business is serious and strives to be a large player in the tactical art market we acknowledge that a sticker-only business is a hard play.

Transitioning to tactical patches, art prints, keychains or pins can help. Items which still showcase our art and bring joy to enthusiasts while also sustaining our business operations. 

This is why we appreciate every single customer who shops and supports our small business.

Thank you.


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