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Moms sell company for $12 million

Mabel’s Labels was recently purchased by CCL Industries. We put co-founder Julie Cole in the HOSS Seat to chat about her success and what’s coming next.

It all started out as a basement business and 13 years later the rest is history.

You see, Mabel’s Labels, started by a group of four moms (Julie Cole, Julie Ellis, Cynthia Esp and Tricia Mumby), has been sold for $12 million (CDN).

The business went from a basement in Hamilton, Canada, to a 14,000 square foot facility, and just this week their company was bought by Canada-based CCL Industries. The four owners will now report to Avery, CCL’s North American Division.

The company opened for business in 2003 by the four moms who discovered there was huge gap in the market for durable kids’ labels. Today the company is widely known for its durable labels for families, and its growing line of products featuring baby labels, child safety products, sports labels, household organizational labels and seasonal items.

HOSS Magazine had the opportunity to interview co-owner Julie Cole about the company and its rise to success.

First, tell me how it feels to sell Mabel's Labels for $12 million?

We are really excited about the sale of Mabel’s Labels. We have been at this business for 13 years and it was time to do something to bring Mabel’s Labels to the next level. We knew it was going to take some sort of investment, and partnering with Avery/CCL was the perfect solution. We are delighted that we will remain in our current facility under the same leadership of the Mabel partners, and all of our amazing staff will be staying on. It’s exciting times for sure.

What prompted the sale of your company?

We were not actually for sale, but we were approached by Avery/CCL, who had been watching and admiring our company for many years. We met with them and had many discussions. Nothing in these discussions felt wrong about the fit for Mabel’s Labels. As we got to know more about Avery/CCL and their team, the more sense this made to us.

What is next for you and your co-founders and co-owners?

Three of us are staying on. It is pretty much business as usual at Mabel’s Labels. We will continue to create amazing products and foster our remarkable community. One of our partners is going to transition out to do other things of interest. We will miss her so much, but we are excited that she has a new adventure ahead of her.

Can you tell me when and how the company was formed?

Mabel’s Labels was created because there was a gap in the market for a product like ours. My partners and I had had conversations about such a product and thought there was a problem that we could solve. We launched almost 13 years ago and the four partners remained active in the business the whole time.

What was it like starting out?

It was tough times. We worked out of one of the partner’s basements during evenings and weekends. We were doing this while some partners had full-time jobs and some had small children. There was a lot on our plates, but we were committed to Mabel’s Labels from the start and were passionate about our business.

Can you tell me about some of your struggles along the way?

There were many challenges we faced – but with each one, we learned and gained opportunities. Having four partners can be a challenge – we had four different personalities and four different opinions to deal with. But it also meant we had four sets of hands and four brains on the business. We made a great team and working together certainly contributed to early growth. It was also difficult at times dealing with growth. It may sound crazy to say that, but sometimes it felt we just started understanding our business and we’d have a growth spurt. With growth comes change and different challenges: we always had to adjust, re-adjust and learn.

Can you tell me about your triumphs and successes?

We’ve enjoyed many successes over the years. In addition to business awards and fantastic press coverage, we are most proud of the amazing products we’ve created. We have a strong online community of loyal customers who we feel very connected with. Creating a community like “The Mabelhood” is very rewarding.

What are the key reasons as to why your company has been so successful?

Firstly, we created a great product. That really is our secret sauce – being able to stand by our product. Also, having a market that feels so connected to our brand has contributed to our success. Our customers and community members spread the word about Mabel’s Labels to everyone they know and talk to. We wouldn’t be here if not for the incredible word of mouth out there.

Why has Mabel's Labels become such a well-known household name?

I think our brand story has been an important part of getting the Mabel’s Labels name out there. People are very interested in the story of the four moms in the basement who created a must-have product that families cannot live without. We are a trusted brand because our product does what we say it will.

What are the leadership traits you and your team have and how do they directly relate to Mabel's Label's successes?

Every one of us has a very different leadership style, and that is a great thing. There is no one perfect way to lead. One thing we have in common is that we share the same core values and we are honest and transparent.

How is it being a mom and running such a big company?

It is hectic. I have six children and a busy business. There are times it’s absolutely crazy and I love every minute of it. My children are so proud of what we’ve created at Mabel’s Labels and I feel as though I’ve been such a great role model for them. The Mabel children have seen their entrepreneurial moms work hard for something they’re passionate about.

What advice would you have for young women and men who want to get into business?

So much advice, so little time. Clearly, you have to have a fairly good appetite for risk. Starting a business is very stressful both financially and emotionally. It takes a lot of energy and lack of sleep to get the job done. I would also say to make sure to ask for help, talk to people who have started businesses and pick their brains. Be sure to come up with a business plan. You want to make sure you have some direction and stick to the plan to avoid distraction and going off course.

Is there anything you would like to add?

We are so thrilled for the future of Mabel’s Labels and delighted that we will be a part of her continued success.