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If you can build it, he will name it. Bryan Welton, MBA ’04, has become an entrepreneurial superstar putting company logos and brands on anything and everything. His Internet firm, Namify, is one of the fastest growing private companies in America.
Bryan Welton started Namify, a hugely successful Internet business, in his family’s small home in Provo, Utah. Inventory was piled up in the three bedrooms, the living room and basement. The work was constant back in 2001 and so was the threat of shutting down.
“I put everything on the credit card and we had a month to get the money back,” says the 34-year-old entrepreneur. “We were always a day from bankruptcy. Our motto was, get to work, get the clients, get orders in and get orders out.”
Eleven years later, Namify has been called one of the fastest-growing private companies in America. It now operates out of an 80,000-square-foot warehouse in Springville, Utah; has additional offices in Portland, Denver and Frankfurt, Germany; four factories in China, and 1,000 employees, direct and contract.
What happened? A savvy businessman saw a market niche when no one else did, and it turned out to be huge. The idea is simple. Namify will take the logo or brand of a company and put it on anything, from name tags and security IDs, to hoodies and even air conditioners.
When the NBA’s New Jersey Nets needed branding, Namify put the players’ names on their lockers and NBA and team logos all around their arena. Namify also did engraving for a presidential summit, producing nameplates, IDs and seat pocket covers for George W. Bush’s entire cabinet. The company even printed lanyards and badge holders for backstage passes for Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never tour and Madonna’s 25th Anniversary tour.
Recently, Welton had a call from a fellow in the air-conditioning business who was frustrated that his company’s press-on stickers were being peeled off after repair jobs. He wanted to permanently engrave the front of every unit. Welton’s company solved that problem. And one of Welton’s most popular products is engraved toilet plungers that real estate agents give to home buyers. “We can ‘Namify’ anything,” he says.
Soft spoken and at times philosophical, Welton believes his ambition stems from growing up in the northern California woods, “in a poor, hard-working family.” His dad was a logger in Lake Almanor, populated mostly by blue-collar folks, with a heavy influx of wealthy vacationers during the summer.
In 1982, after release of the first Rambo movie, Welton remembers watching Sylvester Stallone walking around town. “I saw from these well-off people what money could buy and it pushed me do better,” he says.
Work has always been Welton’s hobby. As an 11-year-old, he made pocket change sweeping up pine needles at the lake. While a senior at Brigham Young University, he launched a website for a small engraving company partly owned by his father-in-law. Its domain name was nametags.com.
The site brought in so much work that Welton began handling the overflow. Out of this he started his own online company, engraving name tags and badge-holders for conventions. “By 2001, I’d gone into manufacturing because no local engraving or print shop could match our speed and demand,” says Welton. “Today, we call it the ‘hot potato principle.’” It means never sit on an order. He believes most companies work too slowly. Ask a shop to produce trophies for a soccer team and they’ll have the order ready next week. He wondered why it takes other shops so long when the actual work takes three hours.
Welton wanted same-day service to be a Namify hallmark. He even created special software that alerts managers when production slows anywhere in the chain, allowing them to immediately jump on the problem. Speed is hardly a new idea. But most manufacturers produce the same product all day long.
“With us, if you look at the end of our line, every single product is different and we’re sending out 100,000 to 120,000 pieces a day,” says Welton. “We basically took the Henry Ford efficiency concept and applied it to a customized model.”
His innovations have attracted customers worldwide, including 386 of the Fortune 500 companies. But as business has grown, so has his family—he and wife Jenny have six kids—and Welton says that has changed him in positive ways.
“I’m a more peaceful guy now and I think it’s because I have four daughters,” says Welton, who is also a bishop at his church. “They’ve softened me up. I used to work for money and survival, and now my true peace comes from watching my children grow and watching others in the company grow.”
To that end, he still pushes Namify to get better, just as he did in the early days. He remembers getting visits from bankers and high-end businessmen asking about his profit and loss statement or his return on investment. He had no idea what they were talking about. “I knew what worked, but I couldn’t explain it to smart people,” says Welton.
Realizing something was missing, he enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix, finishing his degree in 2004. He loved the real-life approach of learning from facilitators who actually work in the field.
He recalls talking to a Florida banker about every facet of Namify, thinking how great it was that he could return to work and apply those principles directly to his business.
“My big boom—my growth—happened between 2002 and 2004 while I was studying for my MBA,” says Welton. “The University of Phoenix was my partner in building a multi-million dollar business.”
Leo W. Banks is a writer in Tucson, Arizona.