Stuart is a passionate, driven and innovative individual. He stresses the importance of not hiring family and “yes people”, as his businesses would not grow otherwise.
During the lockdown, Stuart has done some incredible work and has really stepped up to support the UK in the fight against COVID-19, even to a point where he hired an aeroplane so he could supply PPE products.
We were thrilled when Stuart said YES to being on our podcast and what an episode it is!
Stuart is the CEO to 3 brands, Your Print Partner, Santa Sacks and Custom Gifts. Your Print Partner is the UK’s fastest-growing printing company, working with brands such as Cancer Research UK. Santa Sacks is exactly what it says on the tin, with an average of 100,000 orders every Christmas, this business is growing at an astounding rate. YPP Group supplies custom gifts and has worked with Warner Bros, football clubs and a whole range of chocolate brands, to name a few.
Over lockdown, Stuart has been incredibly busy supplying brands such as Starbucks and Costa, with sanitiser and PPE products.
In this podcast, Stuart shares how his eCommerce businesses were created and the importance of delivering on your promise for success. He discusses his opinion on the future of Print and the power of personalisation.
He shares the heartwarming story of how he hired a plane to supply the NHS and big brands, such as Starbucks, Costa and KFC, with PPE equipment and hand sanitiser. Using LinkedIn he has grown his brands and he did exactly that with his PPE products.
Stuart shares which marketing channel had led to his success, his opinion on TV Ads vs Social Ads and how they both bring in sales. His success comes down to his attitude and drive, thinking outside the box and hiring people that challenge him to grow all his businesses.
5:20 – His transition to eCommerce from business to business selling
9:06 – Deliver on your promise for success
13:19 – Will print ever die out?
16:56 – The power of personalisation
21:34 – You want people to challenge you
27:38 – Build relationships with people on LinkedIn
29:15 – Hiring a plane to provide sanitiser and PPE to brands such as Starbucks, Costa, BMW and NHS
43:50 – Using LinkedIn to get sell to big brands
47:01 – Social Ads vs TV Ads
51: 34: Using the Internet to learn
Richard Hill: Hi and welcome to another episode of eCom@One and today's guest is Stuart Maclaren. Now Stuart is the CEO and founder of the YPP group based in Lincolnshire. How you doing Stuart?
Stuart Maclaren: Good little bit weird. My office doesn't look good. Should've had a branding done, haha.
Richard Hill: Yeah, you slipped up there with you because you've probably got about 50,000 banners downstairs up with you.
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah, exactly. I don't have something behind me saying YPP.
Richard Hill: So Stuart is based not too far away from where I'm sitting right now. I think we're probably as the crow flies about two three miles away, probably. Stuart is very well-known locally here in Lincolnshire and nationally in the UK for the for Your Print Partner brand. So maybe I think the good Stuart just to kick off from give us a brief sort of Journey of the YPP to this date.
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah, so obviously it started from Your Print Partner which was eight years ago now when I was a lot younger life felt something different, I could go to the pub without having to sign up form. It was kind of like normal lifestyle, although I don't know what normal is nowadays. Yeah, and we started as a fabric printer kind of a little bit different to a lot of the people in the market at the time because they were always signed printers. So, we came in as a fabric printer and grew massively actually to come the UK's largest public printer and we have a number of clients that we work with trade and end users, That brand carried on growing and then about five, four years ago, we started with looking at our dip because we were always outside marketing, winter comes or Covid-19 comes and obviously all that stops and being a large format printer, we didn't really have any products that people at home wanted so it was great having all of our customer database and then we were like well now it's Christmas we'll just sit and do nothing for a couple of months. I created a brand called Santa sacks, and that's what started getting as a lot of awareness because we took that to QVC, took it into retailers. It went everywhere from a Santa's Sack and it was quite crazy because we were having a very nice summer, kind of like what we've had during lockdown. Yeah, and I came to the office one day and my creative director and that was there, and I said I'm ordering 50,000 potato sacks and literally my staff was like, I think Stuart is losing it. It's all gone, his brains gone, we’ve lost him, we are missing someone and I said no no, no I'm going to do and then I what are you going to do with the potato sacks? We're going to brand it up to a vintage Christmas Sack and they like we're talking about Christmas it’s only July Stuart? No. No, everyone does Christmas in July. This is the new thing. Yeah. I remember this container arrive in about 14 weeks later full of basically potato sacks, and they all looked at me go yeah, he's lost his marbles, and we all got covered in Hessian and offloading it. It's worse than dog hair and it gets everywhere you find it for months and you think cats cough up fur balls. You should have seen what we were coughing up with the hessian sacks. And so we started Santa Sacks, and actually that was probably my first proper step into eCom because Your Print Partner being trade they don't really buy online. We just get hundreds of orders a day. Santa Sacks took off really quick. We have around about 25,000 fans on Facebook now in Facebook, just Facebook kind of snowball for us. Everybody was oh my God, have you seen these? Oh my God, and it just grew bigger and bigger and it's really bizarre because we talk about Christmas in July now, we're already getting orders for Santa Sacks.
Richard Hill: Wow, actual orders. That's not just you figure that order.
Stuart Maclaren: They're already ordering and then you get an email going, do you know when my Santa Sack is coming, you know we are in July don’t ya?
Richard Hill: We have got 6 months to get it to you, haha.
Stuart Maclaren: This is a priority but it's as we started growing our brand and that now does around about a hundred thousand orders each Christmas, which is still insane volumes of traffic. And then when I sat looking at it about three years ago, I like eCom and make money while I'm asleep and and you see all these posts all over LinkedIn nowadays where it's like to earn a hundred grand a year is only equivalent to a hundred and five pounds an hour or so if you work more hours or something that well, you don't want to work more hours and then they go well become an e-commerce entrepreneur, you know, yeah as if it was that easy, but basically that's where Custom Gifts which is our new brand that sits on the YPP as well, and we own licenses to Warner Brothers, two football clubs and we have partnerships with and about 55 football clubs, Disney, Chocolate brands. So it's absolutely crazy. Yeah the the volume of orders that all come in. So, we started that last year and as always with e-commerce you think you know what you're doing. Our e-commerce has to be a little bit more technical because it creates the print many files on the server. So, the second our guys come in the morning. They click a button and all the orders feed into the system and everything's going to work amazingly and then, what we did was we did that typical thing that probably where entrepreneurs and web people do, they go, yeah I know how it looks like I built it, so this is how you do it. Then you put someone who's never been on your site before the front of it and literally like I put my mom in front of it just like where do I start then, what do I do. It's an investment and it's quite funny because I was literally like one pound I spend, I got £0.76 back and they’re like that's not good sir and I know it wasn’t, so it was costing us money to win the sale.
e-commerce businesses do start like that because you have to drive the sales and then it got better and better and now that brand I'm glad to say during lockdown has been saying, I did put some pictures on LinkedIn of one of the mornings when I came in and the production teams, said oh can’t of been that busy online last night's only printing out like a hundred and fifty orders. Last night, that was the last hour! My warehouse is thirty-eight meters long and the shipping labels went down the warehouse and back.
Richard Hill: Those guys listening in I would really implore you to follow Stuart on link and I would say LinkedIn obviously. I follow you on that and Stuart post a lot of them imagery and updates, sort of the journey and specifically this last three months when there's been some crazy order volumes, you know that shipping labels the whole length of the warehouse and back again, It is full of branded product for well-known brands, which we will come to, fantastic. So, we've got three core brands their Stuart, is that right?
We've got Your Print Partner which started as like, I don't want to use the word but like a traditional print company, but obviously is then completely, you know, really focused on material print and sort of fabric, but I know that was something when probably I don't know maybe four years ago, we went to an expo and we've found this fabric print stand and we went there. We were the owner know maybe five years ago. We were the only one. Yeah, and we had a lot of 25 people say where did you get that from? The next year everyone had them and I think everyone bought them from Stuart at that point pretty much it. I think I actually spoke to you then at that point, it was like four years ago. we briefly had a chat and you see expos now and they're full of these fabric prints, you know, whether it's by metre to 3 metre 1 metre all the different conversations isn't there. Then we got Santa sacks which is sort of the Christmas focus and then we've got the custom gifts. So obviously there's that thread all the way through a print.
You know obviously print all the different angles of print and more importantly you've got different sort of seasonality is covered there, which is I think a lot of e-commerce stores, you know, they're focused. You know, they're the ticking along maybe, you know, maybe a bit extreme but and then Christmas comes about this four five six-week opportunity. So, you know, great example there of different times of year having different products sets different sub brands.
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah. It's actually quite interesting on that because we were talking to one of our resellers today. We work through API feed into our system. So we print still trade gifts as well. And they say said that they do 70 percent of their annual turnover is in six weeks of Christmas.
Richard Hill: Yeah, it's quite normal
Stuart Maclaren: I think it's so crazy when you sit and think about like, what about the other 46 weeks a year? What are you doing? Yeah, only generate 30% of your income in that period. Yeah, but that's when all your costs are.
Richard Hill: So, if I was to say to you, what would be the one thing that has resulted in your success across the board, what would you say that that would?
Stuart Maclaren: Being different! We do it quite a lot and a prime example was right fabrics stands that you just mentioned actually. Jumping in two feet doesn't always pay off, we are kind of young business that likes to take risks and that's probably what makes us very different and makes of win work.
Where other people say it's impossible, you can't do it, we go, well, it is possible and we can do and actually in our office, we have a massive big wall papered and it says it's kind of fun to do the impossible and just to remind everyone every day, we do the impossible when people come to us and during covid-19. We have had some impossible challenges and they come to you for the reason that you say you'll do it and you deliver it and that’s one of the biggest things as well of our successes. If you say you're gonna do something, do it. Yeah, if you fog customers often that is really hard to get nice reviews on Facebook and reviews.com and that and trustpilot but it's really easy to get bad ones. This is the first thing they do and everyone is guilty of it. If you have a bad experience, they go and slate and straight away you like that company, they didn't do that. They gave you a cold meal, if you had a really good meal, you don’t leave a good review normally
Richard Hill: Yeah it is very rare, isn't it? I am more likely are they to leave a bad review, unfortunately.
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah, and I always encourage all my staff, especially when we're local at minute, especially in Lincoln and in an any local areas where you are, you've been out for something always if you had a good meal leave a good review, you had a good experience. It actually makes a massive impact on that business because you might as left a really nice review in the bar, the shop or something said thanks they were really helpful, but actually leaving a review online actually brings a massive difference to their business.
Richard Hill: It’s a huge thing, in any business. You see that that proof from other people's or everyone else especially like in our industry. There's a million digital marketing agencies out there, you know, so easy, no barriers to entry to but there's nothing better than customers saying actually these guys or you know, those guys are or good rather than you have to say all the time. So, I thought I liked what you said at the beginning of that. Obviously, you've got three brands that are doing very well.
But I think it's you what you're saying there is just go out and push through but not every time it's going to work is the reality and but it's taking those shots isn't it taking those risks, but obviously calculated to a point, you know, you're working in, you know in different areas of print but obviously underlying there is, you know print I'm guessing inside outside down back to prod the industry. So to pivot of try not to you do an episode without you doing that word but well I got to throw it. I'm sure, to pivot, you can have a huge entry cost potentially because you can try something even test some some products.
Stuart Maclaren: Its usually skill set as well. We had a really talented girl who did animation who works for us. So last year we did a little bit different and again trying some different is Facebook and Google and everyone that had Christmas, the ad spend goes crazy. Yeah and everything like that. So, Olivia who actually works for drew the new front cover to one of our Christmas catalogues. Drew it and carried the pattern onto the back. She did was we did the different we were like Facebook and that's all crowded and stick catalogues into actual people's doors. Yeah, let's drop them onto people's doorsteps and see if it drives traffic differently that way. Yeah and it always trying to be different. We still supported that completely with an e-commerce online side of it to balance it out across everything.
Richard Hill: So that brings us on to the next question nicely. So, you see this banding around like a lot of Industries. Is this dead? Is that dead? Is SEO dead? So do you think Print will ever die?
Stuart Maclaren: Oh, that's a hard one, with print ever die up, you know, I don't think it will. I think it will keep me reigniting in different directions and trying to do different things, but I definitely don't think print will just die out. I think the traditional print on the High Street might die out just because the simple fact is there's lots of companies out there with massive big printers doing so much more cost effective because it's all automated and that versatile High Street guy who's printing out 50 flyers for you. However, the guy on the High Street 55 is probably the person if you wanted a more local touch pick him up the same day have that interaction of advice not because a lot of its now online where you talk to a computer and say I want this and then it goes in its little library and goes all this is the response I should say.
Richard Hill: I actually like getting print, you know. However, many hundreds if not thousands of emails a day trying to get your attention. It's very hard to stand out and inbox and on social media or Facebook at you know, all the Ad platforms, you know, it's more challenging and it's but to get you know, I still subscribe. Here's a here's one of my this isn't mine. But this is something I subscribe to it's a print magazine all about funnels comes from the US Russell Brunson. I've had this for three three and a half years now. You know, I love when this lands on my desk, you know, I'm not. Oh, yes, it's that time of month, you know, it comes here. Usually end up buying something that's associated with it or whatever, you know, so I think those goodbye my you know, I would say as well as like using both using traditional print with you know, the modern day marketing methods using email accepted but then in those sequences because like you touched on clients using APIs, it's very easy to work in an API into a sequence send it and so emails then API off to a print company like yourself and then, you know date 14 send you know the postcard, it invites them to the webinar or invites them to their here to purchase product X Y Z. So yeah, so like any industry you're saying it's not going to die, but it's going to move like you have moved in the last, you know, very short period of time, you know you rather than printing, you know business cards for a living which is don't that you don't take that the wrong way, you know, which is where probably a lot of printers start isn't it pretty low station reads traditional print, letterheads, you know, you've gone over fabric or fabric and then you've gone fabric, you know, like 10,000 potato sacks.
Millions million miles later, or how many miles later printed physical things. So, the custom gift business. I think that's a business that you know, I know I've seen you know, I've got I've got a very good friend or a very good friend of a friend who is sort of completely stopped his career in working for a printing company and went and invested in a company that provides the API for a lot of firms custom gateway I think they are called.
Stuart Maclaren: Hey, I know those guys.
Richard Hill: Yeah Alistair, do you know Alistair?
Stuart Maclaren: I don't know. I do know Custom Gateway.
Richard Hill: Yeah Custom Gateway and I know you know, I don't see him that often where we write that we usually have a golf trip every year or so, but actually we didn't so but last few years when I had seen him it was like some of the scale the growth of that industry custom print obviously, that's something so that to tell us about custom the custom gift business. Yeah, so specifically I'm really interested, personally how you managed to sort of get these relationships with these absolutely top-tier Brands.
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah. So custom gifts is very different to a lot of Brands. We own the master licenses. We on the licenses to not only manufacture the item under a brand of Warner Brothers. For instance. Harry Potter Looney Tunes all of the big names that people know and has grew up around.
But we also own the rights to person like that and make it look like it's the official brand. So for example Friends TV program, there's now 25 years old and now it's got the actual average audience age now is between 12 and 16, which is crazy.
Richard Hill: WOW, its just kind of come around full circle.
Stuart Maclaren: Have you seen this friend programme? Like yeah that was out when we were kids.
Richard Hill: My son is obsessed with it. He's 13 to bang on bang goes with that. Yeah.
Stuart Maclaren: So friends is coming back massively. So what we did was when we did it was I didn't want to be another personalisation gift company that you know, I don't have one on my desk, but normally where you just go mug has been sent to you and it's a Stuart. Yeah how great that is an amazing look fantastic, but that's not what we wanted to do. We wanted to go out there and go we want you to have a friend's cushion for instance with the famous friends picture frame but a picture of you and your Mum in it, the name on it and all within the brand and all made in the UK and all produce to the correct standard. So it was quite a hard job pitching that to obviously Global Brands because the simple thing is that they sit there and go. Well, No, why should we let you personalise it? That doesn't fit within our point guard. How are you going to stop someone swearing on it? Football clubs are the worst laugh because one day the manager is the best thing since sliced bread the next day he’s an idiot. So and if you've got been an official light and and I don’t know, Sheffield Wednesday Tower holding off and it says you're an idiot or whatever. The manager's name is go away in that you kind of like yeah, that's not going to go down very well. So we had to put in lots of profanity checks and everything built into the site. So when we went to them to start with it was kind of like banging their head against a brick wall with all the brands they wanted personalisation, but they didn't want personalisation. They knew it's where the market was going, but they didn't feel comfortable with any brand because a lot of them is well, we get to see like for instance the new when the new Birds of Prey film came out Harley Quinn film. We saw work six months before it goes anywhere. So we've got all this amazing artwork and we're making these Concepts up and everything and then a lot of companies would send that out to China or India or somewhere make the products then it comes in. And what was happening was they were then over printed onto it or embroidered in that but it didn't felt feel part of the product. Yeah, where we will make everything from scratch something. So we have this giant rolls of fabric come in we print onto it the seamstress is here, cut it so it put other legal labels and that in it gets packaged up in its correct branding then it leaves. So when they started seeing that they were actually the qualities good. It looks like it's a whole product because it's been made at the same time and it's going to meet the price points as well. So we don't need to worry about the price points as much so that was how we kind of started our relationship. And as soon as you start a few, they all they all follow suit fairly quick.
Richard Hill: So going after a couple of big name brands putting everything you've got into it showing the differentiator, answering all of their concerns, once you get one or two and then sort of the floodgates open and he starts to get the rest. Yeah fantastic. So, listening to you obviously, you know, I know last three four months particularly, but just you know from the outside looking in, you know, I'm not too far away. Like I said, it seems like you've always got a new I think you're on QVC not long ago. I saw you. I think that was right, you know, and then the next thing I know you've got a shop in meadowhall for three months or so. Yes so much going on and so much going on at a level that is so admirable. You know, how do you manage to sort of do everything? How do you manage yourself any tips? You would give you know people listen to the podcast now, you know, they might struggle to ship their 50 orders a day. Whereas you're doing maybe, you know twenty thousand orders a day, whatever it may be.
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah. So the big thing with us is whenever we do something we don't do it half heart because it's pointless doing it half hearted and you brought up the Meadowhall shop. That was the old Apple store. So just to put into concept of how big the store was and when we kitted it out it we were only there for nine weeks, but I just thought it was over Christmas, but we kitted it out as if it was a full on full shot fit out or walls decorated alcohol licenses. Everything was dead shot. So it's done properly the one of the biggest things I've learned probably over the last eight years has don't employ friends or family. Yeah.
Yeah, it sounds really weird because I actually have three family members work for me. And my mom is probably one of the oldest ones working with those and also my little brother.
Richard Hill: She's web UX tester.
Stuart Malaren: Actually. She's probably as I call that the ringleader of the Union against me because the simple fact is that when you bring your family that in they know how to push button but also they're quite supportive but times but what you want is you actually want people that's completely opposite to you because it also if you just have people that say yes or the 10 when you're trying to do something they just keep going. Yeah, that's great idea and not challenge you yeah, you can end up spending a lot of money on a rubbish product range. Yeah idea and go. Well, it doesn't work and then all you people around you and well I didn't actually think it would work because it was like you never said that at the time. I have quite a diverse team across all departments in age in the skill sets and departments and everything. So I think as a as a whole one of my biggest things I would definitely say always is make sure that you have a wide range of skill set and people sets because at the end of the day, I'll even in my business although a lot of its now automated still people that drive our brand forward and our idea.
Richard Hill: We're getting real experts at their discipline. So when you went into Meadowhall you can sort of just rock up with some tables and hope for the best sort of thing. Is what you're saying experts in that field to dress that shop or whatever, you know and get that shot ready at a level. So you're playing the proper game and that's the same in all areas of on your eCom side. You've got specific experts, you know when you're inside, on your license inside you’ve got experts. you know, I guess yeah,
Stuart Malaren: You know those experts don’t have to be paid people. You may have people that have done it before and you just ask them for their advice in that because I know what it's like when you've got the smaller end businesses as well. Me going and get experts in everything, when I started I had to be the expert of everything I had to learn. I sit there meeting going, oh, yeah, if I do this I can make that work and as times gone on you start bringing in people. The other thing that I do quite a lot is I come on sit awake at night and go tomorrow we're going to do this and I'll come in and the whole team were instantly know that I've had one of those nights because I'm coming and I'm like guys were having a meeting. Let's go. Let's go. Oh or nowadays they get a zoom invite saying join a ZOOM call.
Richard Hill: Get your coffee down you boys we've got something to talk about.
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah, they know it’s obviously one of those nights when the getting the zoom invite about half 11:00 at night for five past nine. Let's go home.
Richard Hill: In the early days obviously depending, you know, when you listen to the podcast obviously you're in different stages of your business, but it's really about reaching out of someone that’s maybe done it, you know, maybe you know that thing that you're thinking about dropping them a message, you know, I get messages on LinkedIn a lot about agency life and ruin agency starting a podcast, you know scaling a business etc. I love to help and I think you what you're saying, you know, most people like to help, you know, getting out that working locally in different, you know, and you know, if you're talking about licensing, well, I know there's a licensing event at the NEC every year probably more than one but I've been to another event that was on and that was on while that was on. I think it's like the Autumn Fair Spring Fair licensing part of that.
Stuart Maclaren: And also there's a there's actually a full license and show at the now called license and life and that has every single Global brand you can think of. I got stuck in a mascot parade. These mascots wander around and you think of every shoot mascot in the world, a kid would have a field day in there, a mascot of everything. I was walking down and out and I got like I think there's actually a picture on my LinkedIn because there was literally probably a hundred and fifty mascots come around the corner from all four directions and I was stuck in the middle with some other people.
We like we're being attacked by mascots. You can just imagine I get me out of it.
Richard Hill: Yeah, so you go into these expos that 9 times out of 10 are free, you know, the exposs the NEC there you can find any industry to your realm you're selling in you can go to an expo at the NEC and obviously they'll be dozens. If not thousands of exhibitors, experts, talk, speakers, that obviously takes a bit of confidence to get in there and go and say hello and but then you know. Go go and say hello to these guys.
Stuart Maclaren: The people who set these Expos as well. The people on the stand. I'm going to bite your head off or anything. They want to know about your business to see if they can sell to you as well. So go on and talking to them in that seeing what services they offer what they do trying to be a little bit quirky and different but remember you. We've actually met some really good suppliers and partners over the time and I think people forget how powerful LinkedIn is as well. Yes. It's been a little bit weird recently with lockdown and bits like that, but everyone from China has wanted to connect with me over there.
Richard Hill: This is got you know, when you're starting just Stuart saying that that the beginning go to an expo is free, you know, and then from there, you know, you get to know who's who and then you as you scale your business and your confidence grows, you reach out to more and more people, you know, and that's great bit of advice there Stuart. So, you say LinkedIn, I think you know, I keep seeing literally seems like a Sunday night thing. I'm watching whatever's going on and prepare for my week and then Stuart pops up. Oh, here's a picture of the 50,000 labels waiting for the crew in the morning or is that here is the you know every day that over the last I guess we're on four months. Now are we really four months? Yeah. Obviously, we're going to use the word pivot again apologies obviously print there's been a lot of opportunity for print companies to create and some really get in front of brands with all the different PPE products obviously is a whole raft of different products, but I can see your for your firm really seems to have stood out and manage the pick up some huge Brands, you know, literally The Who's Who of the High Street over the last is every week I'm seeing, you know, the latest you're so you know how he managed to sort of secure some of these real big brands or maybe just talk us through some of the key sort of timelines in the last four months and how you've managed to secure brands.
Stuart Maclaren: So I think I probably did the same as every company owner regardless of the size of your business. When that Sunday night came and Boris Johnson said we're closing businesses stay at home and I literally went oh, stay at home. I can't I can't stay at home. One I would of probably killed the other half. My dog will probably be walked so much and anyone who knows me knows I've got a little pug that's been with the for fours years of he’s more in charge of need to be fair. that dog would have never been walked so much in his life and three, I just couldn't sit back and do nothing. There was obviously things that I could do we had big equipment here and a skill set of people that can do things. Yeah. So what we did was we obviously had that week where we were told to plan too shut because we're going to shut, Yeah, I'm sat there going. Well, we're not going to shut, I'm going to work this through. So, as the guidelines starts coming out. We had a couple of people have to go on furlough because of medical social shielding, I'm sat there going God. This is this is going to hurt our business and then my FD comes out with new forecast numbers and he's like predicting like losses that are just like off the scale of losses and sat there go didn't businesses aren't going to come out the end of this. If what you’re predicting here. Basically, he predicted that I would earn less in a month than what we do in a couple of days and I'm sat there going but all my cost of staying the same that and they're like, yeah because you're still going to have to do this this and this and I'm like, well, let's just let's think about this with businesses can't just close and then use also see starting to appear in every think online that the NHS are struggling for PPE and hand sanitiser and the face shields and scrubs. I’m sat there thinking, I've got qualified seamstresses, I’ve got automated cutting machines. Yeah. I know how to sort of parliament and I was like, this is just ridiculous. Why are we why are they telling us to close? So, we put what we spoke to our health and safety people in that and we put all the distancing in and I went right we're going to do something. We're going to get hand sanitiser. Now as this happened and it’s always one of those things I disagree with is that no one in the UK could make hand sanitizer. For some reason. It was never a product that we needed and those slowly getting Gin firms and that to convert but they could only 200 bottles a week or something. But the NHS was using 10,000 the shift or something else and I sat there going, this is getting out of hand. So I went to Europe. Yeah, like let's look at question you're Europe is now in full on meltdown, so nothing is coming out of Europe you tried getting PPE and they're taking it off you at the borders like it needs to stay in the country. So I had to do that thing of going to China and I'm thinking they started this virus has come from China we believe and that they're going well now we need to protect we need to supply the hand gel liner. So we did it slightly different than we went to a factory that had what's called a ian 1500 SPS Orleans and that's what we did was we basically audited the factory to make sure I met every single criteria that the NHS needed and also other people in the UK. So we got all this paperwork done in that and independent audited by American companies and that got it all ordered 1.8 million bottles, which is just insane
Richard Hill:1.8 million bottles of sanitiser?
Stuart Maclaren: 1 point eight million bottles. I also have bottles on my desk like this.
Richard Hill: That was your first order?
Stuart Maclaren: First order because what happened was I said to the NHS of the welcome in Nightingale hospitals and stuff. I'll get your hand sanitizer because no one can get you it. Yeah, that's one of my bottles as well, that's one of my bottles.
Richard Hill: So, we had a remember with the case now to 24 36. We had a case of you about six weeks ago.
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah. It's so it sits on my desk and you're constantly doing it, it has just become a natural thing. That’s it, keep using it, you need to order more. I’ve still got some in my warehouse, don’t worry.
Richard Hill: 1.8 million ordered, that day, when you pressed the button and said, right? Yeah, I want 1.8 million. That's one hell of a I don't know say about that's one hell of a toss of the coin, isn't it?
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah, but purchase orders were coming in at such a rate, that 1.8 million were sold within about two weeks. Now made all this 1.8 million bottles of hand sanitizer and then the crisis gets a little bit worse. We start to see deaths is growing and the supply chain is needing it quicker than what they thought they were going to need it. That's where it then got scary because I have a conscience. I had a delivery date to meet and we could meet it, but supply NHS, key workers and supermarkets will go, we need this hand sanitizer now and I'm thinking okay, you need it now. How am I going to get 1.8 million bottles of hand sanitizer, which is a liquid, which is flammable to the UK. I was like, I know what I do. I will charter an airplane. So I do every one of these so so it was a really weird conversation when you speak into BA going you've got a 737 was the first plane I was looking at, in Shanghai. They were like, yeah, we've got about 30 of them. I would like to hire that plane the like but we can't bring people. I don't know. I don't want any people on it, I want you to fly it from Shanghai to Heathrow for me. Okay, and then they were like, but we can only get three hundred thousand bottles on the you need to do all this extra paper. Like that's not big enough and I need a bigger plane, so that we've got a 777 jumbo, like now we're talking and they like and they were like so you need one of them, Im like no, I need two. So, from going from putting a container on a c-plate, which is a truck, which would have been about eight tonnes. So now chartering full 777 planes. Yeah, I’m sat there going this is getting a bit crazy now, so then the invoice comes in for it which then when you hiring jets, that are not cheap special and I did make the joke with the air person at BA, but they didn’t seem to really take it serious, but as I paid for every seat on that play surely I was entitled to the air mileage. If I charted 600 seats x 4000 airmiles or whatever it was on two planes, I should be entitled then my first class upgrade for the boxes that were on the first class seat.
Richard Hill: Did you pay for it on your AmEx though?
Stuart Maclaren: They refused to take my AmEx card. If you are not giving me the air points, I will get them the other way. So, we did that and then it was very bizarre because I've attended looking that we were going to need a third plane and BA said we've got no more planes. They're either locked down or they're being used and I messaged one of my friends again through Linkedin and I've worked with them on a couple of events and I knew he worked for he was the health director or medical director of Virgin group.
And they dropped me a message back within half an hour, he’s like your phone's going to ring. Okay, great. If I find you're going to speak to the CEO of Virgin Atlantic Europe. Hello. What are they? I was expecting them to pass me to a salesperson, he is like furlough, there is no sales people, you're going straight to the top. Now, I have the directors mobile number of Virgin Atlantic UK, but his planes were smaller that he had out there so we couldn't use that but during lockdown aswell, the prime contact you make because lower level staff were furlough, on the surprising nature of the people you were talking to your board director level and everything like instantly. Yeah, and it made a massive difference. Four million came by Air Freight, the rest came by sea.
Richard Hill: Speed of the lead time getting here. Is that a 6-3.
Stuart Maclaren: So instead of we've been five and a half weeks it was here in three days. Which then meant we delivered in early, kept work going and then we started make another quirky things like Scrubs and other bits and pieces and then that led is to looking at guidelines changing and the big one was Perspex screens. Yeah. Now these are now become like the way of life you go to a shop you expect Perspex screen. Now, we expect hand sanitizer on the entrance and these Perspex screens, what was bugging me with them was Perspex was an expensive material anyway, but supply and demand meant that perspex went through the roof. There are all these little local shops. It's already been hammered and they can now only have one customer in their shop about yeah, it's going to be a more cost-effective way. So we made a laminated card is with a perspex inner. They have been probably our biggest selling product not value wise but in volume of items, that we have ever created.
We sell on average around about 1,500 a week for the last 12 weeks.
Richard Hill: Yeah, and that yellow designed to them. Is that right?
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah the other ones but the very good thing with this was that always makes me smile with it is we put our brand on them because we created it and that generated so many more small businesses order it from you. But also the big businesses were ordering for people like Keck’s we had Laura Ashley. Every Laura Ashley store in the UK has got our screens in, with Your Print Partner on, and and it's such a great thing to know that we're helping the small and the big businesses because everyone's been affected by this. Yes, and our mission was not to sit there and make loads of money off. It will make our staff unsafe or anything like that. It was about driving the economy forward and at the start there was all these people on LinkedIn being there normal haters and every business and industry gets it, you should be shutting that. But if I was shut the NHS wouldn't have got their hand sanitizer, neither would have all of the Frontline workers that needed it, the print company stepped up in the hour of need across the whole of the industry and on my LinkedIn I’ve shared plenty of great success stories from making face visors as where they using their calculating machines their 3D printers for making scrubs where they were literally bringing in Fabric and Lincoln hospitals had some amazing scrubs, but I think they should keep after.
Stuart Maclaren: It was because they were just amazing with like Toy Story and I'm a wanted man , the whole nation came together and use the equipment that they could use and a lot of the print companies in that get penalized the staying open enough, but we were Frontline Services even down to floor stickers. How do you think every shop was able to keep you safe and open if the print companies weren't there Morrison from that wouldn't have been allowed to open Tesco's, Asdas because it wouldn't have had the social distancing and they wouldn't have had the screens in that.
Richard Hill: The education piece. Yeah, I mean, I think every firm has had to buy those sort of four or five things and I we did either we use yourself the bad side of that. We've bought screens. We've bought stickers, hand sanitsiers and a few other bits as well. You know that every firm whether that's you know, one man one shop buying one of everything or a handful or the likes of Morrison's with however many thousand pop up banners that they need to I think I saw you do.
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah, so that was it, another really exciting one but also e-commerce businesses have had to buy all this because they're in big warehouses where they're running up and down the aisles picking them stuff. They still needed it all but Morrisons would a prime example bank holiday weekend back in May because a long time ago now really nice sunny weekend expecting record temperatures, barbecue weather. Obviously, we're in lockdown How are Morrison's and that going to keep the flow of people moving and keep their staff safe if restocking the shelves. So we had to make 8,000. I think it was the number off the top of my head pull up roller banners with all the safety rules on it. Yeah this tribute to 456 Morrison's across the UK in 72 hours. They're Morrison's couldn't open. Yeah. Well, they would have to follow a different protocol. So it was amazing for us. The guy's emotions were great. They gave us all the codes worked out like a delivery schedule. We have delivery vans going up and down the country. We needed to remind the nation and how Morrisons were and everything and all the other Supermarket that you don't need to panic buy their supply chain was working but just mindful of all the other people that's in the que and that you don't need to buy 20,000 toilet rolls. You read that was the craziest thing that we're going into lockdown and all everyone thinks about his 20,000 toilet rolls
Richard Hill: Would it be fair to say then? So obviously traditionally you're running you're running you'll be running ads and doing they got various people in your team and different agencies you work with on your digital marketing. Yeah, but those sort of large orders that you secured was that more so, you know, there is what you're saying is you do one big order and they're just became known LinkedIn Etc and sort of the Senior Management sort of network that you're involved with as well that the see that you supply Morrisons and then next thing, you know, you got a phone call from Starbucks to say. Oh, can you help us that type of thing.
Stuart Maclaren: So it's exactly it. So Morrisons came to us off the top of another order that we adopt. Yeah and Starbucks is the same. We're now rolling out the Starbucks hygiene standards across the UK at the minute. They're going out the door quite quick and also every KFC in the UK, you'll start seeing these hygiene stands that the rollout has been huge in the product lines that we needed to do floor Graphics. Yeah. I've never printed so many floor Graphics in my life. I think I've guys downstairs is sick of seeing owls and stickers and say stay 2 meters apart. I think like again the power of LinkedIn and knowing the people in that we also have another massive contract at the minute ongoing we can't name until the first deliveries gone out, but that is off the back of one of these stands It's a contractor's engine anywhere between a hundred thousand 1.8 million pound and that was off of a post on LinkedIn.
Richard Hill: I mean, that's just headline right there was you know, just yeah using the platform to be the some of the order volumes that are out there for these particular products right now is again a part of these major High Street Brands and Major Brands it starts off with maybe that one man band that one man shot that one in your instance is like that one day. We're thinking what are we going to do? You know, right? Well, actually what we've got. We've got a warehouse full of machines and kit and raw material. What can we make? Well we can make this small shop stand that sits on the you know on the counter and whoever's got a one-man band shop. I can now open safely. The customers can feel safer. And then from there it goes into, you know, 1.8 million bottles of sanitiser getting air freight to be in and so on so on so that is an amazing amazing story that.
Stuart Maclaren: I also think LinkedIn and that, I put a post of our hygiene stands on and it was actually quite interesting because I was talking about this with my team on Friday that post has now had 48 thousand views. I only have six thousand people in my account and it's surprising the volume that the reach that have an engaging post as well. I find quite important. It's not always about here's a price and that there might be a picture. Actually. I know there's a picture of my dog sat at the automated cutting machine like he's running the machine.
And I'm rolling up banners of the Morrisons job coming off and you it was probably three o'clock in the morning and my pug was still at work with me and he was literally sat on the stool watching the machine while I'm working and it's showing our product but in a subtle way the more interested in what my dog was doing at the office at 2:00 in the morning.
Richard Hill: So in terms of like marketing strategies during the last three or four month period very much you're saying LinkedIn has been it has been great for some of the bigger orders getting 4 of the big are so key decision makers of bigger brands but if we take the LinkedIn out the equation, I know we're saying we're absolutely what would you say to the e-commerce stores that are listening? Obviously, you've got multiple stores. They're doing a lot of orders the last two or three plus years. What marketing strategies would you say you've had the best results from?
Stuart Maclaren: So Facebook, you can't run any PPE advert. Well some people somehow know that our got told off by Facebook and we weren't even trying to profiteer. We had slashed the we were cheaper for hand sanitiser than Boots. Or Superdrug can't remember which one exactly what we were trying to drive down the price. Yeah, we got we got told off for that by Facebook. Yeah, we were profiteering but that wasn't our aim at all. Now what we would normally do in the grand scheme of things and have the thing is we would go to social media Instagram on that, but we're actually going to try something again, very different. You guys have first hear it at the end of this month we are actually running TV advertising. So for custom gifts we want you know, prime time ITV. That's one instantly things is going to be really expensive and stuff like that. I would urge people to look at it the minute.
Richard Hill: Yes. Well, it is their particular deals in the moment because of the way the channels and I know I follow the stock market pretty closely. I know ITV shares or about a third of what they were pre lockdown.
Stuart Maclaren: It's probably the really interesting things are and channel for ITV and Sky. Do it ITV and channel four doing pound for pound Max from them. Yeah for the first time on edge. So every 10,000 pounds you spend you get 10,000 matched. And then you can also still negotiate the rate part, which is also really good and the other one that I'm more impressed with is what's guided so and I have had a lot to learn a lot about TV last couple of weeks because we have no one in our team that's an expert in TV, but Sky do something called at smart. Yeah, and it's really clever so we could be in houses next door to each other watching the same program and you might watch another channel to me more than any other. So your ads would be tailored to you just like on Facebook knowing what you normally watch we could be in the same house next door to each other.
We could be seen two completely different Ads.
Richard Hill: Personalized delivery.
Stuart Maclaren: Yeah, and what's even clever is they're bringing out a new thing that's also linked then to your web your internet access. So then they can see what you've been searching and feed it all in kind of like our Lexa. They say she never listen to you? But for some reason I would say red sofa my living room and I would get an advert for a red sofa for a couple of hours later and the sayings on linked and I'm like, well, I've never searched the red sofa.
I think pushing the boundaries on normal stuff, yes Facebook and that's always going to deliver some sort of results in that but I do think outside of the box the brochure was another one of that. eCon is online, but you could that's where you say all your transaction takes place get them with your site might be very different and grenade a couple of years ago did a really clever marketing campaign with it to drive traffic to their website they drove a tank for the middle of Birmingham. I think it was yeah, I did say that and it is doing the outside in the box, which is going to drive you saying.
Richard Hill: Yeah, and you would think like you'll see more and more people and watching TV at the moment. There will be you know more and then we'll be more probably negotiations to be had on deals and things like that. Yeah. Yeah. Okay brilliant. So that's looking at the sky ads. I've had smart, isn't it? Yeah and look at it deals to be had on the sort of more the traditional channels that you know, you're you're targeting. So, Stuart that has been fantastic lots of great, vry inspiring story there from start to end. I think this particular this that three or four months really interesting to see, you know, some huge big decisions been made there in the last three months to important to hire within four jumbo Jets that's crazy, you know to have the have the sort of confidence to do that resilience to do that, you know, but obviously behind all that as a serious amount of due diligence a great team support network, you know, obviously there's a lot goes into that, you know to I applaud you I really do. Yeah, that's about as fantastic So I always like to finish every episode with a book recommendation and you have a particular book that you would recommend to the listeners.
Stuart Maclaren: So this is going to be really weird. I don't read books. So, I do this weird thing of going more on to like weird programs like Google stuff and seeing what the latest trends in that are instead of reading books/. Yeah. I've never been a book person.
Richard Hill: So podcasts, or things like that?
Stuart Maclaren: I don't listen to podcast either
Richard Hill: You might do next week, then you can listen to yourself.
Stuart Maclaren: I watch myself back and cringe, but I think like the big ones for me are going online and I also watch a lot of Right video content. Yeah. I'm or that person that will have it on in the background while I'm working.
I also have quite a large green in my office. So it's split in half. So like the minute we have our video call on one side and I've got on my other side my email. I’ll be sat there working, and watch it that way.
Richard Hill: Yeah watching video, learning off videos oppose to reading. Fantastic So for the guys listen, if you want to find out more about yourself and connect with you directly obviously certain brands that are listening to the podcast want to connect with you directly and other e-commerce stores, but who maybe want to buy your products Etc, you know, where's the place to connect with you?
Stuart Maclaren: Jump on LinkedIn, I expct lots of connections on LinkedIn now and also it's great to see what other people's doing on there because I'm quite active on LinkedIn recommending people as well. So if I know like for instance over the weekend of someone looking for a Range Rover Discovery car, yeah local leasing company that I know it's gotten so the right yeah and is creating a friendly Network and you never know. Threre might be someone in there that sells something I want. Yeah, there's one myself.
Richard Hill: Yeah, so go to LinkedIn search for sure on LinkedIn connect with him, and we'll see what happens. Well, thanks very much, sir. It's been an absolute pleasure. Thanks. Bye.
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