Fort Collins, CO, USA 80524
Maureen and Todd Boyt took a leap of faith when opening their label printing business, and that spirit has guided them and their team to great success. The Boyts have built a business based on digital printing and environmental responsibility. Plus, they encourage their employees to take risks and make mistakes in the pursuit of excellence, and that atmosphere has led to
Todd Boyt, president and owner of Leapin’ Lizard Labels, began his printing journey in 1984, working for a company in Atlanta, GA that produced the covers for Time Magazine, People, Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated. Boyt’s roles ranged from running presses to managerial, and he eventually made the move to RR Donnelley.
Despite finding success in his early career, Boyt opted to go back and finish his business degree before channeling his entrepreneurial spirit. Even though he spent his early years in the printing industry working with larger formats, he recognized an opportunity in the label printing segment – specifically with digital printing. Boyt got his first taste of digital while at RR Donnelley, which relied on HP as its digital printing vendor.
“While I was doing my research, I came across a company that printed labels digitally – it was on a large scale but it was digital,” recalls Boyt. “I said, ‘I can do that,’ so I started trying to secure funding. However, that was in 2008 during the recession, so that proved to be difficult and ultimately did not happen.”
Despite the challenging economic times, Boyt set forth with a vision for his business. He did not have to go far for his first facility space, as Leapin’ Lizard Labels got its start in Boyt’s basement.
“We were lined up to work with HP on the digital side and GM for finishing, but I could never secure the funding,” explains Boyt. “My wife, Maureen, and I cashed in our IRAs, and we went super small scale. We built a huge website, and then we put an Epson 4800 desktop printer and an Allen Datagraph ADSI finisher in our basement. Pretty soon we had six desktop printers and it took up the whole basement. We just moved on from there, and we kept adding to the business.”
With the ability to add an Epson 4800 printer for just north of $2,000, Boyt kept adding to his arsenal. Epson offered an excellent service plan to him, as well, making the digital journey an increasingly attractive one.
“About six of those desktop printers were about all the finisher could keep up with. Eventually we ended up with a lot of Epson 4800 printers,” he adds. “At that point, we were at high enough capacity that it made sense to look for a digital press again.”
The process of opening a business during the recession made for many sleepless nights for Boyt – literally. “As far as sleepless nights, we ran those printers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They would only run four hours at a time with a full roll of material, so every four hours during the night I would get up and change the material.”
The recession was advantageous for Leapin’ Lizard in other ways. The printer targeted other startup companies that were seeking short-run batches of labels, which perfectly suited the digital label printing model. Boyt relied on clients ordering five and 10 labels – in 10 different versions – at a time. This established a client base for Leapin’ Lizard Labels, and a host of referrals ensued.
Taking a digital leap
As more and more manufacturers were introducing full-production digital label printing presses, Boyt made the decision to reinvest in Epson. Quality and customer service guided him in that direction, plus he was familiar with the platform and could ensure consistency for his customers moving forward.
“I first saw the Epson printing presses at Labelexpo Americas in 2009 when they were just coming out with them,” states Boyt. “My team and I went back and took a hard look at the technology, and I really liked it. We have a lot of our original clients still, and we still have to match that first print we printed for them. The Epson SurePress allows us to do that, but much sharper.”
According to Boyt, the purchase of the Epson SurePress L-4533AW put Leapin’ Lizard Labels on the map. “The biggest milestone for us was when we got that first Epson SurePress,” exclaims Boyt. “One of the reasons is it put us on another level and on a platform for going toe-to-toe with our competitors on a larger scale. To start with, most of our clients – but not all of them – were local mom and pop shops and farmers’ markets, and we just worked those across the nation. Whenever we were traveling, we were at farmers’ markets. Whenever my kids were traveling, they were at farmers’ markets handing out business cards, and that’s how we built up our clientele.”
Leapin’ Lizard Labels installed its first Epson SurePress in 2015, and the converter has since added two more of these presses. In fact, Leapin’ Lizard Labels has had so much success with the digital printing equipment, the new facility in Fort Collins is equipped with bays to install three more.
Upon installing its first SurePress, Leapin’ Lizard Labels dropped its cost of goods over 60% because the materials do not require a topcoat. While the converter uses a topcoat on its material, it was significantly less expensive. That feature created better cash flow for the business, as well as the ability to compete on a higher level.
The business has grown exponentially as a result. What started with Boyt and Jeff Davis, affectionately coined the “Edward Scissorhands of Stickers,” in the basement has evolved. The company recently moved into a new 6,400 square-foot facility in Fort Collins. In addition, the original two employees have grown to a roster of 23.
To complement its fleet of digital label printing equipment, Leapin’ Lizard Labels has teamed with a host of suppliers to round out the business. On the finishing side, Allen Datagraph recently supplied Leapin’ Lizard Labels with a fifth machine, which serves as a plotter to finish small runs without dies. In addition, the company has also invested in a GM DC330 finishing unit.
As far as materials, the converter has partnered with Acucote, which crafts material to Leapin’ Lizard Labels’ specifications. The company also leans on UPM Raflatac, Mactac and a lot of specialty materials from Wausau Coated Products.
Digital printing has enabled Leapin’ Lizard Labels to receive an order at 4 pm on a Monday that has to ship out on a Tuesday. The company is able to set up the press and hit print, and upon arriving in the morning the job is complete. The robotic nature of the press – complete with software and hardware all produced by Epson – allows the press to run successfully unattended.
For our quick turnarounds, from the time we get a print-ready file, we usually ship in 3-5 days,” notes Boyt. “If a client is in a rush, most of the times we can turn it around the same day. We have a lot of Amazon drop clients, where if we get the order today, we have to ship it tomorrow. With Epson, once we have the file all we have to do is send it, and there’s no monitoring. With a flexo press, you’re not walking away from that.”
Today, Leapin’ Lizard Labels does a lot of work in the food and beverage spaces. Health and beauty, however, comprises its No. 1 market. Over the last three years, the company has embraced the craft brewery, winery and distillery markets, which should continue to see strong growth. Boyt and his team also produce specialty work for multiple industries that might be incorporating variable data printing, such as asset tags or control panels, that require a label. Leapin’ Lizard is seeing expanded orders for CBD, as well.
Boyt has leaned on his own experiences in creating a dynamic workplace atmosphere, one that encourages risk-taking and experimentation. The company then tracks the data to further improve their process efficiencies.
“I’ve been in printing since 1984, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” says Boyt. “If you’re in printing you’re going to make mistakes, especially if you have multiple tasks going on. We’re very tolerant of people making mistakes and learning from them – really putting a process in place to correct them. We use those mistakes as a learning opportunity. We’re all about correcting the process and not people. People are free to fail, learn and help each other out. On any given day, you’ll see people in one department helping another department in order for them to hit their goals for the day.
“I have a great leadership team. Everyone is free to make decisions, and everyone is free to make mistakes. We’re constantly listening and trying new things, and we listen to everyone – even if it’s a new employee,” he adds. “They may ask the question that makes everyone look at each other and say, ‘Why are we not doing it that way?’ We may institute a change that day, and that’s our culture.”
This goal-driven company also boasts a profit-sharing plan for its employees. “It’s our intention for everyone to get their profit share every quarter,” says Boyt. “If we have to work nights and weekends, we’ll do that to make sure everyone gets rewarded.”
Boyt’s 23-person team has also shown impressive initiative. Cross-training is a pillar of Leapin’ Lizard Labels’ operations, and the employees have taken a lot of that on their own shoulders.
“I’m so proud of my team,” he states. “We have employees that we brought in to operate printers, and on their own they would learn design – and our employees strive to perform 4-5 roles within the company. If we need help in one department, we can have employees switch over and we’ll operate at 100%. It’s not like they’re going to help but only complete 50% of the work, they’re going to be operating at 100% capacity. Just seeing them grow and learn on their own, seeing how much they can accomplish, has been great. They can negotiate pricing and do plenty of things we’ve never asked them to do. And every day I come in they probably have 10 ideas that they thought up, and they bring these ideas to the table.”
Customer service has guided the converter’s entire operation, too. In addition to two customer-facing employees in both administration and marketing, the company has 10 designers that interact with customers on a daily basis. To evaluate its customers’ satisfaction, Boyt relies on Trustpilot to ensure the best levels of service.
“We use Trustpilot to ask customers for their honest review, and we use that as our benchmark,” explains Boyt. “We look for a 5-star review, and anything less than that – or any comment that comes in the review – we’ll call that client and work with them to ensure we get them what they need. If I go to lunch and we get anything less than a 5-star review, by the time I get back three people will have analyzed the situation, discussed it, and will always have a remedy or will have called the client before I get in to the office. Our goal is to get labels in your hand correctly as quickly as possible.”
That customer service was on full display throughout the pandemic, during which Leapin’ Lizard Labels excelled as an essential business. “We didn’t know any more than anyone else at that time,” comments Boyt. “Once we saw the picture of the atmosphere we were going to be working in, we split our shifts up so we only had a few people working on the floor at any one time, and we had our designers work from home. We grew 31% last year, so our problem was making sure we could get material and get the work out on time. Our team has been the biggest reason for our growth.”
The digital nature of the business, with equipment driven by automation, significantly aided the company’s growth. “When we split the shifts up, it actually worked out better for us,” adds Boyt. “With the ADSI finishers and our Epson units, one person can run multiple pieces of equipment.”
Focused on the Future
For Leapin’ Lizard Labels, business has been booming throughout the last eight months. According to Boyt, there is no sign of slowing down, either. In addition to making provisions for future Epson presses, the leadership team will continue to explore new technologies, applications and sustainable endeavors to improve operations – both internally and for its customers.
Boyt is still anticipating the completion of the facility remodel, which began when Leapin’ Lizard Labels upgraded to its new building. “We’re always evaluating new technology to see what would be best for us and our clients going forward, whether it’s software or hardware,” says Boyt. “We’ve tried to speed up a permit process in the middle of Covid, trying to line up contractors, which has been a challenge. I think we’re through the hard part, though, and we’re really looking forward to the future.”
In terms of new applications, Leapin’ Lizard Labels will increasingly explore flexible packaging solutions, namely stand-up pouches. Meanwhile, the GM DC330 finisher has the ability to convert booklet labels, which is expected to help clients in the CBD space who are required to navigate a host of regulations.
“We have a lot of existing clients asking for stand-up pouches, so our strategy for this was to get out equipment up and running at the new facility and then really delve into this space,” explains Boyt.
All of Leapin’ Lizard Labels’ business decisions come with an eye on sustainability and efficiency for both customers and the environment. The company has purchased solar power and wind power for the operation of its equipment, and it diligently recycles.
“We recycle everything we can, including all of our ink cartridges,” comments Boyt. “Our processes are designed to give back to the community, since we work with a local group here called PlanetWise to make sure we have LED lights. So, we’re doing everything we can to make sure we conserve energy in our processes.”
Boyt’s team also recently began printing samples for a host of CBD clients on dissolvable paper, which have looked quite sharp on the Epson SurePress.
“The brand was blown away when they saw these labels,” adds Boyt. “We have a lot of clients that ask about sustainability. One of the great things about our Epson presses is they use water-based inks, so that’s a big selling point for a lot of our customers. We probably get asked about sustainability 3-4 times a day.”