Chew on this: The printing market in the United States accounts for more than $132 billion in annual sales. "[But] walking into a local print shop is usually a terrible experience; the error rate in traditional shops is 10 percent. That's made establishing our [business] on the Web much easier," says 39-year-old Royal Farros, founder and CEO of iPrint.com, a Web site that's gunning for a giant slice of the quick-print market for letterhead, business cards, greeting cards and more.
Exactly how does this site handle printing? Very well, smiles Farros, who says his error rate is less than 1 percent. "And we deliver the printed products at prices that are 25 to 50 percent below retail," he adds.
How does he do it? IPrint's secret is products that are truly WYSIWYG. Using design tools on the iPrint site, customers create their own documents quickly and easily, says Farros, who claims interactivity is key to iPrint's success. "So much of the Internet is static information. We offer interactivity in the visual dimension. Customers have fun creating their own products online," Farros says.
Farros won't release exact sales figures but says the company grew at a rate of 35 percent per month in 1998 and achieved sales of more than $1 million. Not bad for a virtual company that was launched in 1996 with seed money provided entirely by Farros (from selling a desktop publishing software company he'd founded).
In a bigger play, though, Farros has moved to co-opt possible avenues of competition: "We're providing private-label services to many large office supply chains--OfficeMax, for instance," he says. Log on to OfficeMax's Web site (http://www.officemax.com), place a print order, and you'll use iPrint's tools and technology without necessarily knowing it. "We see great potential for our private-label side," says Farros.
Even so, he adds, "I'm terrified about changes in this marketplace. With the Internet, you never know what's coming next. All we can do is build our brand--and make sure we stay ahead of the curve."