Written by Julie Cole (BA ’95)
Thirteen years ago, along with three of my friends from the University of Waterloo, I started a business. The idea came from a simple inspiration – we all had small children who were losing their belongings. We noticed there was a gap in the marketplace for durable, dishwasher/microwave-safe, personalized name labels for children.
With that realization, Mabel’s Labels was born.
We started making our products on equipment in one of the partners’ basements. Before long, we outgrew that basement and, today, we’re in a 14,000 square foot facility with a staff of forty.
What were our keys to success?
Safety in Numbers
Although many people would advise against having a partnership as big as four people, we felt there were many advantages. In the early days we shared labor and start-up costs. Being able to assign tasks among us meant we launched quickly and moved at a good pace. While not without its challenges, having four brains and four different skill sets at the table usually meant we made the best possible decisions.
Our market of moms prefer to align with brands that they feel connected to, and we have created that community of customers. By engaging in social media before most businesses knew what it was, we were able to reach our market in fun, playful, conversational and effective ways. Our community is strong – 150,000 Facebook fans strong. Not a bad number for a small company in Hamilton, ON.
Since we started our business, many other label companies have popped up. We remain the market leaders because we continually innovate. We love creating and being innovative. Our ingenuity is not only limited to our products - we have very exciting and innovative HR policies, company culture and leadership.
Get Out There – Media Hits & Awards
We put ourselves out there and promote our business any chance we can get. We love spreading the Mabel word wherever we go. As a result, Mabel’s Labels has been featured on The View, Rachael Ray, Live with Regis and Kelly, The Early Show, Today, Parents, In Style, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, People.com, Forbes.com and countless other media outlets. Awards and recognition include being named as one of Canada’s Top 100 Small and Medium Employers in 2015, the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship in 2014, rankings on the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 list and the PROFIT 500 list of Canada’s fastest growing companies.
Not bad for four moms who started off in a basement. We created a company that has been noticed by countless customers and fans all over the world. Recently, we were acquired by Avery/CCL and we are delighted that this will bring more opportunities to the Mabel’s Labels brand.
Julie Cole (BA ’95) is a recovered lawyer, entrepreneur, blogger and proud mom of six. At University of Waterloo she was a busy Arts student, Don in the Villages, active volunteer, committed Bombshelter customer and elected member of the Federation of Students executive. Mabel’s Labels was established alongside alumna Julie Ellis (BA ’94), Cynthia Esp (BA ’95), and former staff, Tricia Mumby.
Check out Mabel’s Labels at: www.mabelslabels.com