Good question! Let’s start with what a Guild is. A Guild is an association of artisans, craftsmen or merchants of a given trade. They were common in medieval Europe, with associations of metalworkers, locksmiths, or even shoemakers.
The guild would form agreements between members, splitting up sales territory, and set standards and best practices for their industry. Instead of competing against each other, the members of the guild would benefit from having aligned incentives.
We started the Sticker Guild in Portland, Oregon in the fall of 2016. We currently stand at six member organizations, all digital vinyl printers in the Portland Metro area. Our members benefit from a simplified standard pricing structure (not required, though many have adopted it out of ease of use), use of our proprietary software, and formalized trade-printing contracts with associated members.
What is trade printing?
Trade printers only print for other companies - they have no customer-facing storefronts or website, no customer service line, and only print expertly prepared files. There’s a lot of advantages to this - lower customer service costs, no advertising expenses, and a streamlined production process. Other printing companies hire them to do the jobs they can’t or don’t want to do, at wholesale cost. The customer could go directly to this company, but the trade printer would not take the business! It’s not worth it for them to go through the extra hassle. A design studio, or affiliate printer, subcontracts printing work for them, and takes their cut for customer service and print file setup.
Wait, isn’t that Outsourcing?
Technically, yes, but not the bad kind of ship-your-job-to-china type of outsourcing. It’s more of a sharing economy, help-your-neighbor, spread-the-love kind of thing. Our guild members are printers, first and foremost. Everyone has their own clients, their own printers, and have run their companies successfully for at least a year.
At Treehouse Stickers, we print all the orders we can in-house. Whenever we are delayed for mechanical problems, or simply have too many orders to print in the time we promised, we go to the guild and ask someone who isn’t as busy to print for us. They have the same kind of printer, on the same material, and, with the print file we send, make stickers that are virtually indistinguishable from ours. You, the customer, can’t tell the difference -- you just know they arrived on time.
Couldn’t I just go to that printer and have them make my stickers?I suppose you could, it’s a free country after all. Our contract includes a ‘non-circumvention’ agreement, that no one will solicit anyone else’s client, or they forfeit all revenue from that client -- so no one will spam you with a bunch of sales-y emails. There’s a good chance that they have the same prices as us anyway, without the proof-match guarantee or turnaround time that we offer. Not everyone is great at setting up files (and they often send files for us to set up for them,) but we figure we can provide a better experience for our customers together.
People have argued that Guilds act more like a cartel than a trade union. That’s not our intention here. We can’t effectively leverage a monopoly, and don’t intend to. We’re never going to to handle every sticker that gets printed - but if you don’t absolutely love the stickers you’re getting now, upload your file to us. I think you’ll agree that using Treehouse Stickers (and the sticker guild) is the easiest, fastest, and most reliable way to get your stickers.