National Small Business Week Spotlight: Matt Villenauve and Labelmatch

Now in its 53rd year, National Small Business Week celebrates the positive impact entrepreneurs and small businesses have on the economy. In honor of this week, we’ll be profiling a group of local scaleup businesses that are connected to our work. These scaleups are established small businesses who have made it through the difficult startup stage and are now pursuing continued growth through innovation.

Founded in 1998, Labelmatch is a manufacturer and distributor of barcode, RFID and product labels. Like most scaleups, the company has experienced its share of growing pains, but thoughtful innovation has allowed an expansion of its North American market. We spoke with President, Matt Villenauve, about the company’s beginnings, the process of embracing difficult change and his vision for the future of Labelmatch.

Tell us about why you started your business?
I caught the entrepreneurial spirit early and it never left. Growing up, I was the kid that sold lemonade, ran a car wash and cut grass. I paid my way through college by running a painting company. I always wanted to start, grow and run my own company. 19 years later, I am doing just that with Labelmatch.

How has your business grown or evolved since you first opened your doors?
We had a specific product niche to get us going. We began with a million labels in a warehouse in Indiana and started by making phone calls. Today we’ve expanded to offer more than 5,000 label-related items.

What kind of challenges have you faced as a small business owner?
Our biggest challenge today is how to effectively reach and educate potential clients on who we are and how we can help. Traditionally, phone contact has been our driving force, but communication channels continue to evolve. With so many options, it becomes difficult to choose, deploy and monitor messages, especially with limited resources. We also find it challenging to source vendors that will be effective long-term partners. We just do not have time for revolving doors with our key vendors.

What will your business look like in the next five years?
The challenge will be to continue offering a boutique feel to our clients as we continue to grow. Our “YES Company” tagline is a promise to offer individualized service. We will provide that, and it is required we do so as we continue to grow our custom label product lines. Digital printing has monumentally changed how our clients do business and we embrace that change, because we see change as a good thing. More simply, we want to offer clients a one-to-one experience while embracing evolving printing technologies.

Why did you choose to start your business in Northeast Ohio?
I moved to Ohio in third grade, graduated from Hudson High School and went to BGSU. Afterwards, I worked for a few large corporations and traveled across most of the United States. Although those other places were new, they were not home. I am truly blessed to raise my family here. Other places may have better weather, but Northeast Ohio has a sense of community that I did not feel anywhere else. It also has a chip on its shoulder. I like that combination.

We ask all the entrepreneurs we profile to give us examples of failures or setbacks they’ve experienced in order to inspire others and show them that every business deals with adversity. Anything come to mind for you?
We experience the greatest adversity when we try to take on too much and lose focus on our core. It took us way too long to realize that we are not strong marketers and we could not move the needle with our internal resources. That said, finding the right partners to help us market the company was and still remains a huge challenge. Today, we rely more heavily than ever on referrals for marketing assistance from other business owners.