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Parties, big and small, are what have made Stumps Inc. in South Whitley a success. Not parties in the Stumps office, but parties thrown by customers who are looking for decorations and favors for everything from birthdays to baby showers. Although the work environment is purposely kept fun to encourage creativity, Shep Moyle, CEO and President, says the company is seriously committed to becoming the best and the biggest in the industry.
"The party industry is a $9 billion industry that is growing at a rate of 17 percent a year. The use of party supplies has grown dramatically," says Shep, who was voted a 1999 Ernst & Young Northern Indiana Entrepreneur of the Year. That is exactly the niche that Stumps, and its subsidiary, Shindigz, is trying to fill.
Ironically, when the company was founded in 1926 by Hubert Stump as Stump Printing Co., it was a commercial printing business as well as a newspaper company. According to local legend, in the depths of the depression, Hubert had one nickel left that he could either use to buy a loaf of bread or put into the church collection plate. He took his chances with heaven and the next day, came up with the idea of printed "Memorie" booklets that served as favors from junior and senior proms. Eventually, the company expanded to included lunch tickets, certificates and other school items in its specialty-printing line.
Hubert died in 1949 and his widow, D'Maris, ran the company for eight years before selling it to "Ham" Green. In 1962, the company was moved to its present location in South Whitley, Indiana. In 1974, Stumps was purchased by Moyle's parents, Paul and Mary Moyle. The Moyles expanded the company and added a variety of prom and party products to the lineup, as well as keeping the current school product niche.
Moyle and his wife, Wendy, both of whom formerly worked for Frito-Lay in Dallas, saw an opportunity to purchase the company in 1990 when the elder Moyles retired.
"We wanted to be able to make money for ourselves, not for a giant corporate entity," explains Shep. "It was a chance for us to not only do something on our own, but also to put our creativity to use."
Shep's wife, Wendy Moyle, president of Stumps spinoff, Shindigz, says it was a scary move for the couple, but one that benefited them in the end.
"We were young and it was a calculated risk," she says. "We had a lot of confidence in our own abilities and in our abilities as a team, through." Still, she says, "there were a lot of late nights and a lot of time spent just understanding the business in the beginning."
Wendy and Shep worked together at Frito-Lay and both say their working relationship has always been very strong. "We both have a creative flair and in the last 10 years, we've almost come to rely on each other for that support and for those ideas," explains Wendy.
She says each of them has a different approach towards the business, "but, over the years, as we've grown together, we've come more toward the middle in management style. We've taken the strong points that each one of us has and combined them."
Another benefit of having a spouse-run company is the ability to mix family and work. Wendy says either one can step in for the other when there is a soccer game to watch or a charitable event to attend. "We can work together and keep things going when one of us has something to do. It's a true partnership, at work and at home, " she says.
Printing is still a major part of what Stumps does, but Shep and Wendy have made a conscious effort to direct more of their attention toward the booming party business. Today, Stumps is the nation's leading supplier of prom and party goods, selling more than 14,000 items directly to consumers throughout the United States and the world via catalogs and e-commerce websites.
Halloween is second only to Christmas in terms of spending on decorations. Shep says many of the "smaller" holidays that weren't traditionally big for decorations are becoming popular with consumers who are looking for additional ways to celebrate.
"Each individual celebrates approximately 20 occasions each year, ranging from birthdays to anniversaries to holidays like Halloween and New Year's and it's a challenge to meet the needs of so many unique occasions," says Mark DiMarzio, Vice President of Creative. "That is why Stumps continues to add products to its current offering of 14,000 and strives to create unique, one-of-a-kind products. With over 4,000 Stumps-exclusive products, the customer has the opportunity to create a unique event."
Ironically, a poor economy boosts business at Stumps. "When the economy is down, our business is up because people can't afford to go out and have parties so they throw more of them at home," Shep says. Stumps has also targeted its product line toward the average person, not necessarily people looking to throw lavish Hollywood-type get-togethers that cost a small fortune.
Individually at a reasonable cost is the one thing most customers are looking for. "We have the broadest supply available and we sell at the lowest price, guaranteed," says Shep. "Then we back it all with incredible customer service."
Stumps has eight catalog titles, two websites and two facilities to handle the huge influx of business. More than 7,000 people visit the Stumps website every day.
"The Internet allows Stumps to reach the individuals which they want the products, in the convenience of their own home," says DiMarzio. "It also allows us to bring products to the market at a much faster pace. Stumps can now design, develop, photograph and place on its Internet website a new product in less than a week. This allows us to react more quickly to trends in the marketplace and customers' demands.
"In addition, Stumps can now reach a much larger audience without the initial expense of a printed catalog."
Shep says adding the Internet necessitated a change in thinking for sales and speed of delivery. "You can't use the same process or standards. You have to more a lot faster when you're dealing with the Internet."
It's also made the company more competitive. Shep says they used to update their catalogs every 8-10 weeks, but on the website "that time frame has moved down to every 48 hours."
Ninety-five percent of the orders placed with Stumps are shipped the same day, with a guaranteed policy of shipping within 24 hours via standard two-day Federal Express. Shep is planning on changing that to a one-hour turnaround time in the future.
Peter Roesner, Vice President of Operations, says it takes an incredible amount of organization to keep Stumps ordering machine running smoothly. "We develop our process for speed and are constantly finding new ways to improve the way we do things to get the best quality and efficiency we can," he says. This ongoing process helps insure we offer our customers world-class customer service at the lowest possible prices."
To accommodate this increased demand, Stumps will be expanding to an additional 120,000-square foot facility and installing a state-of-the-art distribution center. Although it has been difficult at times to find enough staff during the peak season, Shep says he doesn't envision the company ever moving away from its roots in South Whitley.
"We've had a 70-plus year commitment to this community and we wanted to reinvest in it with this building. We are committed to this area," he says.