VIDEO: Durham-based Spoonflower sees triple-digit growth as creativity and crafting grow during COVID

Back in March, Spoonflower, an on-demand, digital printing company, reported 30% year-over-year growth in the first quarter.

By most standards, it was poised for a “nice” year going forward, says its CEO Michael Jones.

Then the pandemic hit.

“We saw a little bit of a slow down for a few days,” he recalls. “Then the business took off like a rocket ship.”

Founded in 2008 and headquartered in Durham with an office in Berlin, Germany, Spoonflower prints custom fabric, wallpaper, and gift wrap. It also serves as a global marketplace connecting makers and consumers with artists worldwide.

Stuck at home, people needed material for new home projects, or to make masks or blankets. The orders surged.

Within 30 days, the startup had to double the size of its factory to 50,000 square feet and added three new industrial printers – one flown all the way from Israel.

Nine months in, Spoonflower is now on pace to deliver “triple-digit” growth, year over year. It’s also tripled the size of its workforce, jumping to 350 employees worldwide. And it’s getting ready to move again, this time to an even bigger 100,000-square-foot factory.

“It’s just crazy,” Jones admits to Hypepotamus. “I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a year like this ever, both professionally and personally”

Even more so when you consider that he only joined the company this January. A year prior, Jones was working as the chief revenue officer for the London-based internet company Amplience and before that, had a nine-year stint at ChannelAdvisor.

“It’s been an amazing journey. Obviously, things have changed a lot,” Jones says, “but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

E-commerce Boom

Certainly, Spoonflower isn’t alone.

On the back of the pandemic, it’s boom times for anyone with tendrils in the e-commerce world.

US e-commerce sales will reach $794.50 billion this year, up 32.4% year-over-year, according to a recent eMarketerreport.

“We’ve seen e-commerce accelerate in ways that didn’t seem possible last spring, given the extent of the economic crisis,” said Andrew Lipsman, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence.

Jones, meanwhile, believes the good times are here to stay.

“You’re going to see what I would call ‘a new normal,’” he says. “Even when stores open back up, you’re going to continue to see e-commerce be really, really strong.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s being bullish. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. He says it’s all about being patient.

“I’m a pretty hard-charging person, and I want our business to grow, but it’s really hard to do that in a time where some businesses aren’t doing well. So part of what I do sort of on a daily basis is trying to take a step back, and to think about how we grow responsibly and help our community, without burning out the employee base.”

For sure, he says the company plans to keep hiring and isn’t taking a capital raise off the table.

But as far as Jones is concerned, it’s all about a “less is more” strategy.

He’s also focused on Spoonflower’s other mission: helping the small business owner.

“Obviously, these artists are making money off every purchase that gets made,” he says. “In a world where there’s a lot of doom and gloom these days, it’s good to know that literally every day that we’re around, we’re literally helping people stay in business, which is really great to be part of.”

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