How this printing business quickly pivoted to meet new demand
At a glance
A small business loan from Prospa helped Phil Walding of LabelMAN to:
- Invest in upgrading his printing machinery to reduce production times and increase output.
- Weather supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic.
- Expand his product range and make in-roads into new markets.
For small business owner Phil Walding, being a label printer is a great combination of art and science. As the founder of small business LabelMAN, based in Christchurch, he loves exploring new printing mediums and techniques, all while getting to geek out about the latest technology.
Phil developed an interest in adhesive labels in the early ‘90s while working as a manager in the manufacturing industry, but at the time the printing process wasn’t very far advanced. As the technology progressed, Phil dabbled here and there with self-employment in label printing ventures. Then, in 2004, he founded LabelMAN, and the business has been growing ever since.
Building the business around a high level of automation has allowed Phil to punch above his weight in terms of the quality, quantity and turnaround times for his products. Other than himself, he employs two part-timers to take care of the accounts and business administration. Despite being a small operation, he is able to keep his six printing machines running 24/7 to produce labels for customers all around New Zealand.
“I dance between different roles dealing with customers and supervising the machines. The output is well beyond what you would anticipate for a one-man-band operation,” he says.
As his business relies heavily on technology and automation, Phil is always on the lookout for new machinery and printing techniques that can help him scale the business or expand his product range.
In mid-2019, he was given an opportunity to purchase a high-tech UV printer that would allow him to reduce his production times and produce more complex labels. Even better, the seller was pricing it at well below RRP. Still, Phil knew he would need help with funding to make the most of the opportunity, and fast – the seller needed a response within 24 hours, or they would sell it to someone else.
Not wanting to miss out, Phil turned to Prospa for help with a small business loan. Hear more about Phil’s story:
Jumping on opportunities
At the time, Phil says he was struggling with knowing how to scale his business and expand his inventory range with his current set of printers.
“I was doing a lot of work with a machine that was hampering production and cash flow, and I just couldn’t get to the next stage,” he says.
“The trouble for many small businesses is that they’re always hamstrung by capital needs to expand the business and grow.”
Without enough savings to purchase the printer himself, and with his traditional bank not being quick to respond to his request, Phil began looking elsewhere for funding. He remembered hearing about Prospa on the radio and thought “why not give it a try?”
From his first conversation with Prospa, Phil says he knew he had made the right choice. Prospa’s small business lending specialist was able to help Phil secure a small business loan within 24 hours. This quick access to business funds meant he could make his purchase and get the new machine up and running as soon as possible.
“The window of opportunity was very small, and the speed of being able to set things up with Prospa really set them apart,” Phil says.
“I was able to start making products for a new market a lot sooner than if I had to wait until I had those funds on hand – it was just an immediate return on investment and the business has been able to grow because of it.”
Creating security during uncertainty
2020 was challenging for many small businesses, but Phil counts himself lucky that LabelMAN was able to weather the pandemic relatively well.
“We’ve had a fair amount of business come in, printing lots of hand sanitiser labels, so we were very busy for a while,” Phil says.
That’s not to say the period hasn’t had its challenges. Supply chains were disrupted for a while, and Phil says he was concerned about what delays or disruptions would mean for his stock of raw materials. Some of his customers were also facing hardship and either postponed or cancelled orders.
“It was a very disrupted market that we were operating in, and it was very hard to tell what was happening,” he says.
In a case of perfect timing, Prospa checked in with Phil during the pandemic to see how his business was faring and whether he needed any additional help during this challenging time.
“I wanted to make sure I had enough financial padding, if you will, in case anything cropped up at short notice,” he says.
Phil applied to refinance and was found eligible to receive additional funds through his small business loan with Prospa, which allowed him to purchase additional stock and ensure he had enough supplies to last him while he secured his supply chains. Having this extra cash flow help was a relief, Phil says, and made it easier to meet short-term needs while keeping his eye on the long-term future of his business.
Looking to the future
Although things haven’t exactly returned to normal, Phil is looking forward to the future of his business, which means continuing his hunt for new printing techniques and technologies, and exploring new shapes, colour combinations and textures.
“I’m always trying to keep up with what my customers are looking for,” Phil says.
The past few stages of growth for LabelMAN, as well the effects of the pandemic, emphasised for Phil the benefits of having a relationship with a responsive lender that understands the needs of small businesses. As he looks to the year ahead, he says he hopes to tap into ongoing funding opportunities with Prospa to support his business’s growth.
“I have quite a few plans for the next year on expanding equipment, expanding areas of the market that I’m trying to penetrate, and ramping up and improving my marketing and distribution,” he says.
“I expect that I’ll be working with Prospa again in the near future to make it all happen.”
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