Tiny Prints (A)

By Michael Child, Sara Rosenthal
2012 | Case No. E426A | Length 13 pgs.

The Tiny Prints case describes the founding of the online stationery company in 2004, through its growth and evolution to 2007.  The three cofounders bootstrapped the company from the beginning, primarily so that they could retain control over the decision-making and strategic direction of the company.  While that decision allowed the cofounders flexibility and independence, it also led to capital constraints and a “good enough” culture that had a variety of positive and negative implications for the company.  Ultimately, Tiny Prints was able to grow because of its very specific focus on the birth announcement, and later holiday, market, an emphasis on customer service and innovations in design and distribution.  As of 2007, the founders faced questions regarding their future growth strategy, particularly given increasing competition in the market, and were at an inflection point where they needed to consider the important decision of bringing in outside capital.

Part B of the case explores the management team’s decision to move forward with a purchase offer from Shutterfly or to maintain control of the company and continue to grow organically.

Learning Objective

The key learning objectives for the case include the impact of bootstrapping on all aspects of a company’s growth and evolution, from the culture to the infrastructure and ability to serve customers. Additionally, students will be asked to evaluate the various growth accelerators and decelerators for a startup, different approaches for starting and running a company, and the strategic decisions that result for a company facing high growth in an increasingly competitive market.
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