We met up with City Paper’s Brad Friedman at The Red Cat in Pepper Place.
A 120-year-old company stays vital by focusing on what has always been most important, the needs of the customers.
“As the evolution of the business has moved from retail packaging, you have to continue to stay ahead of the curve to make sure we are here another century, for another generation,” company president Brad Friedman says.
“Three years ago, I saw the volume in the promotional marketing space. I knew that to have any kind of real growth, we would have to find a way to get into that business. Retail packaging has been great for 30 years, but it is a small pie with a lot of people eating it. To get to the next level, I knew we would have to make some changes. But you have to make sure you are 100 percent committed and have 100 percent of the right people in place,” Friedman says.
“Creating the best promotional product company takes cultural identity and the freedom to be creative. Many companies do it very, very well. We loved the idea of creating a boutique firm with the ability to be personal and hands on.”
The reinvention of City Paper had begun. And the move into creating branded merchandise for clients has paid off. From 2013 to 2015, the company is up 329 percent in promotional products sales. This year could well turn out to be the best year in the company’s long history.
Those impressive numbers are backed up by a lot of hard work and struggle.
“When you change the face of your business, you have to go out and prove it to the clients. We had to educate our customers not to just look at our name, because we are now so much more than a paper company. If it were easy it would happen overnight and everybody would be doing it,” Friedman says.
“We are a company that has clients in all 50 states and abroad, even in South America. We really have only recently been focusing on the city of Birmingham. I feel there is so much potential; we have really just reached the tip of the iceberg for us here. There is so much opportunity with corporate businesses that are based here and privately held firms, as well. It presents a lot of growth for us to really focus on our hometown.
“It is very ironic to say the least, but we have definitely gotten the name out now, and local businesses are starting to understand who City Paper really is. We have been here 120 years, right here in the city of Birmingham. That allows a lot of local businesses to understand that they have somebody in their backyard who can help them with what they need.
“Our most important value add is helping customers understand the significance of branding their business. We know what our clients want and expect and we take the approach of, as my grandfather said, treating every customer as if they have been with us for decades. And whether you are a $150 account or a $1.5 million account, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is treated fairly.
“I think another strength and opportunity is our unique set of abilities from a creative standpoint and a marketing awareness standpoint. That differentiates us from anyone else in the industry.”
“Scaling ourselves properly with the growth that we have experienced is always a challenge. I think it is important that as we continue to grow, especially in our backyard, that we make sure that we have the support we need for clients. Always looking for new feet on the street is imperative, so we are constantly recruiting new individuals to join our team.
“We want to make sure we have the infrastructure to service clients the way they need to be taken care of.”