The Dead Pixels Society podcast

The Journey of WCD to Curavate: A Discussion with COO Lindsay Duprey

December 07, 2023 Lindsey Duprey Season 4 Episode 143
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
The Journey of WCD to Curavate: A Discussion with COO Lindsay Duprey
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Get ready to uncover the transformative journey of WCD as it expands with Curavate, a  personalized print fulfillment venture. Our guest, Lindsay Duprey, COO of WCD, discusses with Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society the tale of this evolution that expands from a film and digital lab to a full-fledged print powerhouse. Duprey shares the unique customer-focused approach that WCD has adopted and highlights how they've co-created solutions with clients, enhancing their customer service experience. 

Duprey explores the creation of Curavate, an internal startup within the longstanding family-owned WCD, focusing on the wall decor market. Duprey deciphers the nuances of the branding process, the potential of tapping into the US market, and the wide range of products Curavate offers. Lastly, we delve into the brand's marketing and pricing strategy, shedding light on its playful persona, the challenges of pricing, and its aim to provide value while maintaining a mid to higher-end positioning.

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Hosted and produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning

Erin Manning:

Welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau. The Dead Pixels Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Advertek Printing and IP Labs.

Gary Pageau:

Hello again and welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast. I'm your host, gary Peugeot, and today we're joined by Lindsay Duprey, the COO of WCD in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and she's here today to talk to us about a new brand they've launched called Curivate. Hi, Lindsay, how are you today?

Lindsay Duprey:

I'm great, hi, Gary, thanks so much for having me today. I'm really excited to spend this time with you.

Gary Pageau:

So for the people who don't know who WCD is, it's a longstanding company in the imaging industry. It was a film lab and a digital lab and now a full blown printer. Can you kind of sketch out that whole evolution of the company?

Lindsay Duprey:

Sure.

Gary Pageau:

I'd love to.

Lindsay Duprey:

So let me go back. So West Canadian digital imaging, now WCD, was founded in 1952. So it's a family-run, privately held enterprise that's been in the same ownership structure for over 30 years now Actually I think 38, maybe almost 39. I think you described it sort of. The inception of the business really started as a reprographics company focused on architectural and engineering, and the business has evolved significantly in terms of providing print solutions, information management solutions like scanning, as well as office services or what we call managed services. We're very, very entrepreneurial business. I'm very proud to be a part of the company. We have amazing customers, we have incredible people on our team. But I would say, kind of historically, we've been a regional, alberta based headquartered business and we've actually, over time, I think, grown our services in partnerships with our customers. So it was sort of like looking out to the market to see what our customers needed and often kind of co-creating to respond to their needs.

Gary Pageau:

I mean you used to be like a color lab if there's a, we used to call them to doing film and for the professional market and then kind of went digital. You were digital back in the 50s. I mean you've been a digital a long time but I don't think anyone was digital back in the 50s Anyway. So customer focus, customer focus, customer. You always hear about companies who say they're that. What are some examples of the things you've done that the customers have suggested WCD take on and do, for example, just as an example, one or two things.

Lindsay Duprey:

Yeah Well, so first of all, let me maybe just touch on what you said about being digitally focused, so, and then I'll speak to our customers. So we've actually never been an offset printer. We've always been digitally led from the time that there was such a thing, and I think that was that was somewhat, you know, a business decision, and I think you know part of who we are because we wanted to be agile and I think you know, kind of all along we've wanted to be able to provide sort of more customization or personalization for our customers, you know. And so I kind of think back in the history of the company and things that we've done, like if you take, for example, our on demand print business and personalization. I mean, we got into that with customers because they said we want to do things differently, we want to have a different brand story that we take to market. You know, can you help us with that? And so, you know, that sort of became also the inception of, you know, having creative services in the organization, almost like a little, you know, I would say, quasi agency internal to WCD, so we could really co-create with our clients. Another example of this is our managed services business. You know our customers came to us and said we want you to help us manage our you know, non-core print services on site, and so we really developed a model in Alberta where we could build you know kind of these on site print centers that then could access our broader operation to give our customer scale.

Gary Pageau:

Sure.

Lindsay Duprey:

And these are really, I think, examples of you know, where our customers have said hey, you know, we have an idea or we have a business need. Can we grow this together?

Gary Pageau:

So managed services is kind of interesting because that's something where and correct me if I'm explaining this incorrectly is, you know, somebody has a fleet of printers in their facility or an output service in their facility and rather than having an attack or something from Xerox come in, you guys provide that service. Is that correct?

Lindsay Duprey:

I think that's a small part of it. I think this traditional concept of fleet management. I actually would say it's more like centralized print management where we've bring in a turnkey capability that is partly being administered through the press, through the multi-function device, press or other. But it's really about connecting the people on site, connecting through process, connecting through technology and giving our customers an access point to those services. We're not, like you mentioned, zerox, for example. Our business model has not been let's go and put sizable fleet across every enterprise. It's a little bit more niche, it's a little bit more custom and, I think, more aligned to giving our customers some capabilities on site.

Gary Pageau:

but really, I think, tapping into the expertise that we have in our operations, the best thing about that is you learn more about what your customers are doing and you maybe come up with new products and services for that.

Lindsay Duprey:

Absolutely no question.

Gary Pageau:

But a new thing you're doing see how that segue works is not along those lines, with something completely different, where you've come up with a consumer brand for the marketplace. That's really what I want to talk about today is your new brand called Curivate, which people can go to curivatecom, and this is a website run by WCD. It's a WCD enterprise, but it's not really branded as such. It's a separate thing. Tell me about this. How did this come about that you saw an opportunity in the marketplace to do your own thing?

Lindsay Duprey:

Sure Well, so let me take you back to maybe 2019. The golden years before COVID the golden years before that time that we're tired of talking about. So I would say in 2019, we started to envision a bit more of an expansive strategy in the company. I think this really started when our CEO, karen Brookman, joined the organization so a family run business. I followed shortly thereafter and we'd worked together previously in another company, but we really started to look at the business and all the elements around our creative services capability, our production capability, our technology capability. We started to pay attention to what was going on in the market, in particular, I think, the rise of e-commerce and the rise of more platforms and customers wanting to have solutions that were more integrated to be able to buy when they wanted to buy where they wanted to buy. We really started to pivot our business strategy and get more and more focused on this concept of on-demand personalized print. Funny enough, we'd been in that business for about a decade in terms of fulfilling for e-commerce customers, but it was never really the focal point of our business strategy. It was a great capability and so, as we navigated 2019 into 2020, we really started to see that there was an opportunity that I think we were kind of poised to be a part of, and it actually started really in 2021 when we rebranded the company. So kind of going from this really really proud Canadian Calgary headquartered business, which we still are, to really thinking about how we could become more of a national and global provider. And so as we started to get more connected to that, I think for me personally by the way, I don't have a background in print- so what is your background? You said you came from a company before with yeah so just kind of quickly, my background is really in the legal industry and with a specific focus on technology and cloud-based solutions and legal, but I have had the opportunity to work in large companies, startups, entrepreneurial businesses and everything from sales to marketing, to operations, to technology, and you name it. When I joined WCD in late 2018, I knew nothing about Prank. Like and I can tell you, you know, thank goodness we've got such an incredible team of people, because, you know, I was like what's what's this substrate that you're talking about? What's this like? Four up, four down, like what? What are you really talking about? And you know, everybody was very kind and it didn't roll their eyes at me too too often, not to your face at least. Not to my face, not to my face and and I think I, you know, I saw all of the ingredients and kind of this similarity between what I was doing before and connecting people and process and technology and kind of building this. You know these really integrated solutions and and I was able to learn that you know the industry quickly enough, I think, to get get into action, sure, and so. So, as I mentioned, you know, today I'm I'm the COO and so I'm responsible for day to day operations and you know pretty diverse portfolio in the business but but I'm also, I think, kind of naturally wired to think about you know what's next and what's the? business strategy and and you know how do we grow this business through great partnerships and great customer relationships, etc. Yeah, so, as we, you know, so, as we started to pivot the business and you know, we did this rebrand in 2021, and it was a bit of a meandering road because we thought we're right in the middle of a pandemic should we really do a rebrand like are we nuts? And we sort of felt like the time was right because, we needed something new you know to talk about, to get behind to feel inspired, like as we were, you know, navigating the time that everybody was navigating, and so, of course, we started to get more connected to you know, on demand, personalized print fulfillment, and so, in the context of Curavate, you know what's. What's interesting about this is this was kind of in the making for about 18 months, and so the way that I like to think about it is it's kind of like this internal startup.

Gary Pageau:

Sure.

Lindsay Duprey:

And so backed by, backed by WCD. I mean we're very, very fortunate, I think, in our business is that because it's very entrepreneurial, we're really focused on innovation and I think it kind of felt like we wanted to do something that was creative.

Gary Pageau:

Sure.

Lindsay Duprey:

And, and you know, kind of step out of it you know, have some fun have some fun, some new energy. And you know, the funny thing is is that we've mostly been known. So WCD proper has mostly been known as a business to business or business to business.

Gary Pageau:

Sure, exactly, I mean, that's sort of your your thing is who we are is your customers are serve other people basically.

Lindsay Duprey:

Yeah, yeah, but but the interesting thing is is we had like. So why Curavate? Why?

Gary Pageau:

Yeah. So it's, it's going to pivot into that. It's like, okay, you've got the capability, you kind of want to try something new. Did you test fire this with some of your customers to say, you know, how do you feel about us?

Lindsay Duprey:

We did competing with your, we did, we did. So what was?

Gary Pageau:

that conversation like.

Lindsay Duprey:

Actually, so it was great. So I think most of our e-commerce fulfillment partners know that we've built digital storefronts for many of our B2B customers. We actually have had our own little digital storefront on the WCD site called WebConnect. I think we were very, very mindful, I think, in sharing that with our customers and our partners and we actually got some really, really good feedback early on, and so this is why it was kind of like 18 months of thinking and it didn't take us necessarily 18 months to build an e-commerce front end, but just in the making of is it the right time? Is it why now Right? And I think what's interesting is we have many businesses and consumers that come into WCD and they often ask us I'd really love a canvas made, I'd really love a frame poster, I'd really love some decor, but we never really had a mechanism that would allow them to create something.

Gary Pageau:

Because you were making this stuff but you couldn't just walk in the plan and say I need to make a canvas. There was no order of mechanism, or probably a card or anything like that.

Lindsay Duprey:

Exactly so. It was very man, it was very manual. Ok, we'll do that and it will run through pre-press or we'll do it this way. And we just started to see this opportunity and WCD. We've worked closely with different artists in our community and oftentimes tapping into artists that are local to where we are and utilizing that content for our own personalized gifts for customers, and we just really felt like this was not only an opportunity for us to make it easier for our customers to access these services but, I, think more broadly an opportunity for us to leverage that untapped potential and to bring a new brand and something exciting, not just in our little community but more broadly.

Gary Pageau:

So what markets do you service? I mean, can you ship to the US or any of that kind of stuff?

Lindsay Duprey:

Sure, yeah. So right now our primary focus is the Canadian market. It's interesting because we are starting to see some interest from the US, partially through our network of folks that we're connected to. So Canadian-based Curavate, and I would say sort of phase one, is really North America.

Gary Pageau:

Sure.

Lindsay Duprey:

We want to stay committed to sustainable printing and as best as we can produce as closely as possible to our customers, so that's a focus for us as well is really thinking about the manufacturing and thinking about, as we start to expand into the US, getting more sort of in-country manufacturing closer to customers. But kind of sky's the limit. We didn't want to be confined by necessarily Canada as a geography.

Gary Pageau:

Sure.

Lindsay Duprey:

But we also saw an opportunity. I think, to bring something unique to the Canadian market.

Gary Pageau:

Because it's Curavate. com, not Curavate. ca.

Lindsay Duprey:

That's right, that's right, that's right.

Gary Pageau:

Notice these things. So let's talk a little bit about the product selection, because, primarily, if you go to the website, which I highly encourage everyone to do and this is a 45% off site-wide coupon cyber45 right now and so you're primarily focusing on Canvas, acrylic prints, metallic prints and premium posters, but you guys make more than that. How did you choose those product categories?

Lindsay Duprey:

Sure, well, I think. So we wanted to start more on the wall decor side and you may have noticed, we have some adjacent products, like there's some drinkware and notebooks, and just to kind of provide a little bit of variety. But we really wanted to start in a wall decor because, again, I felt like there was a market opportunity. We had some capacity and sort of untapped capability there. But we see this kind of interesting synergy again with artists and we're getting some early on interest from artists that are saying like, oh, I'd really love to have my creations captured in your platform, and so we see that as a great opportunity to create a platform for artists. And then we also thought, kind of in combination with our creative services, that we really wanted to kind of leverage those capabilities to start to also create our own content. The nice thing about wall decor is it also lends itself nicely to a consumer, but it also lends itself nicely to a more of a B2B environment. So again we have commercial or corporate customers that are saying, hey, we're redecorating our office and we'd love to have all new canvas or all new metallic in our office, and so we thought it was a great kind of entry point portfolio that would allow us to kind of stay true to WCD but also access some new markets and new customers.

Gary Pageau:

Because those wouldn't necessarily be commercial accounts on the WCD side, because you're not talking probably large runs or huge expenses, right? I mean, if you're redoing three or four acrylics in a restaurant, yeah, it's pricey, but it's not really, in my observation, a WCD level experience. I could be wrong on that, but I'm just saying it seems to me like it makes more sense to ship that person towards curivate and let them do them. Now would you do installation or something like that? Would this be?

Lindsay Duprey:

something Well. So, interestingly so we do have, as part of our WCD portfolio, we do have a signage operation, and so we do a lot of install for our customers. So I think if it's part of a broader corporate project where we're maybe doing a rebranding, is something more substantial. Sure, I think we could add that service. I mean, it's really designed. I think the products and Curavate are designed in a way that they're easy to install. They're easy to install products and we've been looking at things like templating and like, if you're like me, I can't hang anything to save my life. And so we've really thought about the templating and how to make this as turnkey as possible so our customers can receive their beautiful creations and then make sure that they're hung properly. So, yeah, it's been fun. I mean, we're just getting started.

Gary Pageau:

Right, I said it just as far as I can tell. It just launched, but I was kind of excited when I heard about it to have you on this. I'm just gonna talk about the launch process, so let's talk about that. Are you doing any media? Are you doing any social? Are you doing some goofy Instagram reels, or you know, I'd love to see Lindsay doing some of that stuff, or so what? What's kind of your go to market for this?

Lindsay Duprey:

I was gonna say do you think I'm like I should be on TikTok?

Gary Pageau:

No, no, no, I'm just. I don't know, I don't know if you have a face or a persona. I mean, I'm trying to, I'm trying to get into, like what, what your marketing approach will be, Because I mean certainly you've seen some of the brands, you work with some of the brands. You sort of have a persona they project.

Lindsay Duprey:

And when I can see from your website.

Gary Pageau:

It's kind of playful, it's kind of fun. Your, your, your, your type. Base is kind of, you know, whimsical, if that's the word. Hopefully I'm correct on that, you know. So is that gonna carry through on some of the marketing?

Lindsay Duprey:

Yeah, yeah, I think it will. So so I'll just speak to our process. So so we went through a pretty kind of extensive process around getting clear on, you know, certainly the product mix, as we, as we talked about you know, going through a process around should this be a WCD brand? Should be a separate brand? And coming up with this concept of Curavate, so really this fusion of curating something and innovation, you know kind of bringing the two together. We went through a process around creating, you know, just sort of the brand story. We worked with an external consultant around all of our messaging strategy. We workshopped it, we debated it. So we now really have a, I think, an early on, full brand and messaging strategy. You know, even the process of coming up with the name was really fun, and then up with the brand and going through various iterations of what that should look like and, and you know, I think. First of all, thank you for picking up on the, on the fact that it's meant to be sort of whimsical and fun, because this is what we were really trying to convey, and we wanted Curavate to be a brand that you could go to, that was gender neutral. So we didn't want anything that was too feminine or masculine or like we just, I think we wanted to create this brand. That was inclusive and you'll notice, you may notice the you right the you dot. It's kind of this concept of you know it's it's your space, it's you focused, it's you know, color outside the lines, don't be, don't be afraid. So the process was was really, really fun. And then, of course, we, we built out a full go to market. We do have some support in terms of our go to market from a you know brand and customer acquisition. So we are, we have built out our Facebook and our Instagram. We're, you know, tick tock. We're just trying to figure that out. And it's just a struggle it is, it's. Yeah, I don't think I'm cool enough personally for tick tock, but we've, you know, we've got some other people around us that are.

Gary Pageau:

Don't sound yourself short, but you know okay, thank you.

Lindsay Duprey:

So follow us on Instagram and Facebook at you dot Curavate. So so we are. You know you're going to see more from us in terms of content. You know you're going to start to see more of us on reels and stories and you know, really trying to kind of get to know, I think, the market and what, what are customers are responding to and and just kind of having some fun with it, getting a bit freed up to have to have some fun.

Erin Manning:

I mean this is.

Lindsay Duprey:

This will evolve over time. We're just. You know, as I said, we're just getting started.

Gary Pageau:

You know one of the challenges that you know folks have in the industry right now is just, it's an industry wide issue because of you know, economic concerns and everything else is sort of this you know deep discount strategy, right, that you know I got to go low ball to get volume and it's, you know, a lot of people in the industry feel struggle with that because they want that. But again, you know you're killing emergence and it's sending sort of a message to the industry that you know. Hey, you know go, you can get cheap canvas at such and such a place. And you know the challenge with that is sometimes you know the product isn't as good or the whole. You know the expectations are not met by the customer. Where do you see Curavate in sort of that tier of of the presentation? You have to say there's the upper level and then there's the mid level, then there's the basement dwellers. Where do you see Curavate sort of being in that stratosphere?

Lindsay Duprey:

Well, so, first of all, we've talked a lot about pricing strategy and we've talked a lot about bringing to market a quality product and always looking for ways to do that more efficiently, because I think if we could be more efficient and, and you know, create more automation and in the manufacturing process, then we have more value. That we can. You know, that we can bring sort of further up to our customers. It is an incredibly challenging time. I mean, I've talked to other e-commerce brands out there and you know trying to kind of vie for market share and you know I was talking to a brand not that long ago and we were saying if you're discounting all the time, then your price is the discounted price. Right, exactly, and that becomes your price and I don't want to be naive to you know how challenging it is to bring a brand to market and and how challenging it is from a competitive perspective. We want to provide value, we want to do fun things around promotional pricing, but we do see ourselves, I would say, as kind of more high and mid, like mid to higher end.

Erin Manning:

Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah.

Lindsay Duprey:

And and that it's like we're not. You know, of course we want to drive new customers to our site and of course we want to drive volume and and we want to, we want this to be successful. But we're being a little bit more kind of slow and steady around our pricing and and kind of looking for feedback and cues from our customers as to where we are in the market. And I am, you know, I'm seeing others that are saying we're really struggling because, you know, we feel like we have to discount all the time.

Gary Pageau:

Right, and it is a challenge. I mean, I'm not saying it's not, but I just as an industry observer from the outside, you know the low ball, you know kind of impacts the industry and that's just the way it's going to be, you know. I mean that that that may just be the reality. Going forward is, you know, people's wallets are thinner than they used to be. They may not have as much money to spend, so they're going to look for that, the absolute bargain-basement deal. But on the other hand, you and I know there's things you can do on the production side to save money that cannot result in a great product, and so, as an industry, we shouldn't go down that road. But on the other hand, it's much easier to start premium and do some discounting than starting low and trying to go high.

Lindsay Duprey:

Yeah. Yeah, well, that's it, and I think you're absolutely right. I mean, as you mentioned, we're doing a little cyber week promotion right now. I mean we're new to market and so I think we want to get Curavate out there, but our strategy is not to try to go really low consistently and then hope that later down the road we can recover that investment. I would say to you a bit of it is. I think what we're trying to convey in this platform is that it's something that you're creating that special, that you feel proud of, that you can have for yourself for many years to come and share with others. And so we're early on in the process.

Gary Pageau:

We hope that we can convey that and certainly are focused on the quality of the manufacturing, and I think we'll find our spot in the marketplace Well and the other thing I think you've done, that kind of differentiates yourself a little bit just from looking at your site, is the design collection, which right now there's three, but I imagine you're going to expand that out with artists, where it's just cool stuff you can make, you know, planners and mugs with cool sayings on them and things like that, and I think that sort of mix is something that people are going to find interesting, because it's not an either or it's a both.

Lindsay Duprey:

Yeah, well, thank you for pointing that out, because you know we're, I think we're, we want to, we want to have the opportunity to draw people in because they see something that they like, right, and if we can create, you know, curated collections and and tap into, you know, other people's creativity and have those designs available in our platform it just gives options right, because maybe the customer will come in and they'll purchase, you know, a kind of prefabricated design. But maybe the next time they'll come in and they'll say I'm going to try this myself. You know, I'm going to try to create something that you know, and I think that it is kind of the best of both worlds, and we this this shop by by design that you mentioned. Like we're just, you know, we're sort of testing this out right now and but we've got no shortage of ideas around what, what this can look like, and and so we're looking forward to seeing how, what the response is like to these designs and then, you know, planning more as we come into the next year. Awesome.

Gary Pageau:

Well, thank you, Lindsay, for your time. This has been fun and illuminating and I look forward to watching the continued success and growth of Curavate. Thank you so much.

Lindsay Duprey:

Thank you, Gary. Thanks for giving us a platform just to talk about Curavate and to share more about WCD. I really appreciate it.

Erin Manning:

Thank you for listening to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at wwwthedpixelssocietycom.

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