Cupprint manufacture short run, fast turnaround, bespoke paper cups.
With over 20 years’ experience in the print industry, Terry Fox has developed in-depth knowledge of print technologies and methods. Having started as an engineer, Terry went on to become a press operator before graduating to production management, sales management and becoming the overall Managing Director in a previous business.
Cupprint was set up in 2009 with 7 people to address a huge gap in the market. They were the first paper cup manufacturer to address this market need and are now the largest, most established company delivering this new product to the market.
Cupprint manufacture short run, fast turnaround, bespoke paper cups. Traditionally, paper cup manufacturers could only offer 50,000 cups minimum and in delivery times of 10-16 weeks. Cupprint offer a minimum order quantity of 1000 cups for marketing companies and 5000 for retail/cafés in a turnaround time of 15 days anywhere in Europe at an affordable price.
This has resulted in the product gaining the interest of independent cafés and marketing companies all over Europe.
Many independent coffee shops were put off by the traditional 50,000 minimum order quantities and long lead times, but their requirement for branded paper cups is just as great as the large chains. According to Allegra Strategies, the coffee retail market in the UK is broken up into 33% large chains and 66% independent cafés, despite most of the focus for distributors being on the large chains.
Cupprint use unique printing technology to make short runs affordable to independent cafés all over Europe through their various distributors. For example, Bunzl have been selling Cupprint’s product for the past four years and it has been their fastest growing product. In 2013, Cupprint grew sales with Bunzl by 50% from the year before.
Marketing agencies are also very interested in Cupprint’s products. Paper cups are being more commonly used as a form of ambient media because of their visibility in public places and places of business. These cups are used at tradeshows and to run in conjunction with other media in marketing campaigns. Cupprint have produced cups for brands such as Audi, Mercedes, Mars Foods and Kraft Foods.
Cupprint’s route to market is mainly through distributors and they supply most large distributors across the UK and Europe. Their largest market is the UK followed by Germany and then Ireland.
Cupprint currently produce 8 million cups per month and their sales have grown every year since 2009. They now employ more than 55 people at their plant in Ireland and sales offices in Germany.
Cupprint have plans to enter the US market as well as ambitions to be the first company to offer a B2C solution for paper cups in the coming year.
– ENTREPRENEURIAL INSIGHTS –
What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start-up in business?
We were asked to look into producing paper cups in mass volume as an import substitution from the Far East. As it turned out, container loads from China is still the most economical way for large volumes. When we learned about the long lead times and high volume minimum orders we realised there was a huge gap in the market.
How did you secure your first investment?
Enterprise Ireland is our only investor. At the time, their interest was mainly in high technology companies so it was hard to convince them. We showed them a cup that we were working on, that, like magic, completely changed colour when coffee was poured into it. This certainly helped in convincing EI that we were a technology company!
Were there any interesting or unusual circumstances surrounding the inception of the company or its evolution?
Our previous business in commercial print was badly affected by the bank crash. We had recently invested and were producing a lot of work for banks and developments but we had to close due to a collapse in sales.
Cupprint was a company set up as an R&D project previous to this, but we believed in its potential. Cupprint began trading from scratch with 7 people in 2009 with very little investment, in the hope of earning a living.
To come from a situation where our previous business had failed and start a new business from scratch in the middle of a huge recession, and make a success out of it is huge credit to our team. It was the belief in the product and the execution of delivering this product that overcame all the odds.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
We experienced difficulty convincing investors and banks to secure funding. Thankfully, with the help of Enterprise Ireland and Ulster bank we able to secure the funding the company needed.
Ulster Bank at time was the only bank to support us. The Director of Business Banking at Ulster Bank, Sam Beamish, took a personal belief and interest in the product and helped secure the type of funding we needed, which in turn helped us secure funding with Enterprise Ireland. Without EI and Ulster Bank we wouldn’t have survived.
What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?
We work mainly with resellers and, at the very start; we struck a great relationship with the largest Irish disposables distributor, Bunzl. They believed in our product and helped our growth at a critical stage. They have a great sales team and still continue to grow sales in Ireland year-on-year to this day.
What are the biggest challenges you face now?
Our growth has been exceptional every year and our biggest challenge has been managing this growth. Our first QTR 2014 is up 50% on the same period last year. Considering the long lead times for materials and machinery, we have always coped, without affecting our USPs.
In the coming year, we are looking to expand into the US market and we have plans to move into the B2C market with some of the largest online printers in the world already interested.
What is your biggest business achievement to date?
Starting a company in the depth of a huge recession with 7 people and, within five years, employ more than 55 people in a local area in the West of Ireland.
What were the best & the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?
Worst: We were told you can’t make a living out of low order quantities from a very large distributor.
Best: Talking to Enterprise Ireland about exporting was the best advice.
What top tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today?
“Find your niche” – isolate your USPs that set you apart from your competitors.
SMEs usually can’t beat big companies on price, but they can definitely beat them on customer service and flexibility.
Do not be afraid of the export market. Ireland has the best help in the form of Enterprise Ireland for selling into new markets. We also have a very competitive logistic network for shipping to Europe. Visit/exhibit in tradeshows in Europe and find partners interested in your products.
Were there any early signs that you would eventually follow an entrepreneurial path?
We have always run a family commercial print business since I was born so, in some shape or form it’s in my blood!
Has anyone acted as a mentor to you?
My father Hugh has been handing me down “been there done that” t-shirts in business for years. His wealth of experience and knowledge is key to everything I know today. Business is nearly all we talk about and we have a great relationship because of it.
Has your “Irish-ness” contributed to your success?
Not really. It can help in some networking definitely but it’s not a factor in what we do. Customer service is the main factor and you do not have to be Irish just for that.
How do you generate new ideas to stay ahead of the curve?
Being from an engineering background has given me a great understanding around what machines can and cannot do. I spend a lot time thinking about what is possible with cups and try new methods all the time to offer something different. If you can offer a point of difference you can sometimes take price out of the equation. We have offered methods never seen before on cups such as bespoke embossing; foil stamping and lottery/voucher cups.
When making a new hire, what key characteristics do you look for?
Enthusiasm and technical ability is important.
Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector/industry?
We have always experienced fantastic growth even in the depths of recession so we can’t really put any current growth down to an upturn.
What do you believe it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
Right product. Right place. Right price. But the final “p” is the most important: persistence. Work hard and don’t give up.
If you were to invest in a sector, what would you consider the next “big thing”?
The computer entertainment industry. I believe cloud gaming, if the technology is right, will be a huge industry. Paying a subscription to have a console quality gaming experience on a mobile device will be the next big thing.
What do you believe is your company’s competitive advantage?
Being the first company offering short run fast turnaround cups, and delivering this product with the best possible customer service. We’re also able to add new variations, new products, improved traceability and quality whilst looking after our customers.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get your business where it is today?
I started the business with a very young family and I worked for a long time for little or no salary in order to make it work. To be away from family, for very little reward at the start is very difficult to do.
How do you recharge your batteries?
I go home to my wife and kids who supported me through the difficult times and it all feels worth it.