British printing firm Moo crosses $1bn of lifetime revenue

Richard Moross has been a multiple Wired 100 entrant and became an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year in 2010. Photo:

Richard Moross has been a multiple Wired 100 entrant and became an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year in 2010. Photo:

Richard Moross’ first business card was given to him as an employee in the early 2000s. “It was an incredibly validating and interesting moment,” he says. “It’s not quite your name up in lights, but I saw it as being part of the tribe.”

Moross was founded and is the CEO of Moo, launched in 2006 and now one of the world’s fastest-growing print and branded merchandise businesses. From its Camden headquarters, Moross oversees around 450 staff, while success in the US has seen the firm post record earnings, with sales rising to $93m (£72m).

In 2022, Moo will have surpassed $1bn in lifetime revenue. This follows 14 years of growth, with the exceptions of the pandemic year 2020 and January and February of that year.

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Moross had started his dotcom business twenty years earlier. He credited Moo to two early jobs: two years at followed by two years at the design firm Imagination.

“Sorted was a fun thing, the world was our oyster but we failed to deliver that. Imagination, a more mature company with hundreds of employees, was an entrepreneurial business.

“Moo is a mix [of the two]. “It is made of modern rails, but the focus here is on design and brightness.”

Richard Moross has managed to make Moo into a genuine disruptor in the print industry.

Richard Moross managed to turn Moo into a real disruptor in print.

He received a card while working at Imagination from an Apple employee. “I thought these were interesting tokens of our modern lives that have no personal application tool, only used by professionals,” adds Moross, who received an MBE for Entrepreneurship in 2015. “I found it weird that these tactile, useful, functional, aesthetic things were just for businesses. It was something to explore.”

Moo’s first prototype was called Pleasure Cards. The idea behind it was to create a personalized business card which consumers could buy and use for both social and business purposes. “It made total sense to me,” adds Moross.

He left Imagination at the end of 2004 after only a few investor meetings. After four months he secured his first £150,000 cheque, turning a powerpoint presentation into a formal business.

“The fundamentals of the business model were very sound,” he says. “Printing is a high margin industry and has been around for 500 years. The market was novel because no one made personal business cards, and no one knew they were needed.

“It’s much more about giving somebody something, the tokenism of it. The fact that it has design, the paper use, the materials, it’s like a little flyer for you. The little brand in your pocket is part of your narrative.”

Moross thought that since business cards are constantly being replenished, consumers would continue to buy them, similar to the subscription trend of today. Yet Pleasure Cards was launched in 2005 to “almost zero fanfare”, akin to a “golf clap moment”.

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He adds: “It was very hard to have your dreams smashed in front of you but it was a very good learning experience.

“When you are going to create something entirely new, you need to have a lot more money and a stunningly clever way to market it. You are essentially changing behaviours and trying to create demand for nothing.”

The internet was a great place to do e-commerce and spend time. Moross talked to social networks about the best way to use a product that was ordered online, and create buzz. Revenue share partnerships were then forged — along with a name change to Moo — to help their customers make personalised cards.

Flickr was a big success, and the products expanded to include greeting cards and stickers. By 2007, Moo began selling directly to customers and establishing direct relationships. This allowed businesses to use Moo to design their business materials.

The business card is still Moo's biggest product seller. Photo: Moo

The business card remains Moo’s most popular product. Photo: Moo

While other companies focus on the price, volume, or breadth of their product range, Moo focuses on its own design, manufacturing, and ecommerce. “It’s the trinity of those three things that make us quite different but also enables us to make high quality products,” says Moross.

When Moo launched shipping to the US, they experienced instant success. “As a UK headquartered and founded business we got lucky with demand and doubled down,” admits Moross.

Moo opened a new factory in New England, Boston, to add to its Dagenham plant. Today, 60% of the company’s employees and 80% of customers are US based. Moross claims that the US’s entrepreneurial society and business-friendly outlook has helped the company achieve success.

“There are elements of print in structural decline, but in an $800bn industry, within the sectors we operate our target market is $100bn,” the Briton says.

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Moross, who started out in the tech industry during the dotcom era, is a self-confessed lover of print and design. He still enjoys physical books and reads The Weekend FT. “I like owning and feeling these products,” he says. “The more digital our lives become, the more powerful the analogue tends to be. Moo doesn’t need to be 100% of the market. We make premium quality products that cut through in a very digital world and there are tons of opportunities in the next decade.”

Moo CEO’s business tips

On using list-making Trello

Richard Moross explains how he uses the day-to-day application, starting with a ‘parked’ column.

“It is for things I know I need to do but don’t need to be actioned now. It is divided into Moo work and non-exec boards, as well as personal things.

I have tasks labelled ‘this week,’ ‘today,’ ‘done,’ and I am moving things left to right. In addition, I have a newsletter column and a goldmine that I share with my team.

Moo designs, manufactures and sells premium print and branded merchandise in the UK and the US.

Moo manufactures, designs and sells premium print- and branded merchandise both in the UK as well as the US.

There are some columns that have colour coding and each column has a timer. A square bracket indicates the number of minutes to do the job and the date that it’s due.

It’s like air traffic control or a hospital’s triage list. It’s really my assistant’s job to punish me and push things into the ‘done’ list!”

Business and brands

“It’s really important that they create engagement with their employees. Particularly now that many are working from home more, it’s important that these [products such as diaries or water bottles] We can bring these things home and still feel connected to the companies we work for. I’d like to believe that we play a part in the modern workplace. We like the tactile nature of the products we make at work — increasingly so given how virtual our lives are.”

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