Love Letterpress? Then Hop on Piggyback!

The concept behind Piggyback is so simple and so ingenious, it’s unbelievable that no one thought of it before! Here’s the rub: We all know that letterpress tends to be crazy expensive, but much of the cost arises because you are paying to set up the press. Piggyback groups its orders together, sharing set-ups so as to reduce fees … and then passes the roughly half-off savings along to you.

But while the Piggyback price for single- or double-sided business cards, notecards and envelopes may be bargain basement, the quality is top drawer. Your order is letterpressed on the crème de la crème of papers: Crane’s Crest, the choice of Founding Fathers, English Royalty and US Presidents since 1801, now under the Mohawk umbrella. But the design and brand are all yours. I spoke with President& Founder Lee Zuniss about how the Piggyback concept came to be — and where he’d like to carry it.

Q. How did you get into printing?

A. Family business. My father started ALDINE printing in 1982. I worked with him, my mother, brother and a team of up to 80 people at one point. Now, they are a strong team of 40. I was mostly in charge of sales, branding and marketing at ALDINE throughout my adult life, with a few passions that took me away for a few years here and a few years there. Playing poker professionally, acting and dabbling in real estate are the big ones. I’m still acting today.

About five years ago, a series of events that the universe presented to me made it very hard to hold back from creating Piggyback. Since then I’ve spent most of my time nurturing Piggyback and my acting career. I’m always available for my family and ALDINE when they need any support.

Q. How did you come up with the brilliant idea for Piggyback?

A. Well, first of all, thank you for using the word “brilliant.” I promise you that will never get old.

Specialty printing is going to cost you. People who understand the work and expense that goes into printing know this.

I know this on a deeper level than most people, obviously.

Every once in a while we would have a print project on press that was crazy elaborate. We had a client place an order once that had every bell & whistle you could possibly imagine. It was letterpressed in two Pantone colors on one side and duplexed to another sheet that was engraved in the same colors. Both very luxurious (and expensive) papers. Parts of the logo were blind embossed, there was a tiny element of foil, they were die-cut with rounded corners AND the edges were gilded with gold engraving ink. We printed three sets of 1,000 cards per person and the total bill was $9,000.

In specialty printing we set up our printing plates in multiples of even numbers, otherwise there is a space missing. So, business cards for example are most efficiently produced in batches of two, four, six, eight and so on. In this case we had three sets, hence one free space. This is where I got the idea for Piggyback.

We could have either filled in that forth space with either an extra set of cards for one of the existing three people OR … I could have reached out to a designer friend or amazing client and say, “Would you like a set of crazy fancy, $3,000 business cards as a gift? You have to be ok with these pms colors, letterpress on one side, all of the printing specs, and just send your ready-for-print artwork within 30 minutes!” In this case, I called the client and offered them the fourth space as gift for all of money they already invested. They appreciated it!

There was barely any extra time or money invested in making this additional set of amazing cards. So, I thought this can be a business! As long as someone is okay with Crane Crest paper and black ink, they have an opportunity to have new letterpressed business cards at about half of what it would normally cost by sharing (or piggybacking) with other like-minded people, the cost of setting up the press.

Only Piggyback was going to be the other end of the spectrum when in comes to bells and whistles. One paper, black ink only. What Aldine offers boiled down to it essence. About one and a half years later, I launched Piggybackletterpress.com. It’s been growing slowly and steadily since day one. We have received only positive feedback and we are so grateful for that.

The mantras and words that I have used and continue to use as a guide throughout the evolution of Piggyback are simplicity, minimalism, integrity, transparency and accountability. Whenever something gets complicated, I see it as a sign to take a step back and observe. How can this be more simple? It truly helps me every single time. I use it for all kinds of business decisions, from the paper I chose and stand with to choosing our e-commerce payment platform that is incorporated into our website.

We are very passionate about personal growth, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We’d like to organize some events that bring our community together in a fun, nurturing way.

Q. Was there a certain job you received that gave you the feeling, “We have arrived!”?
A. Yes. The New York Times.

Q. Do you have any favorite jobs?
A. Yes! Here are a bunch that we love.

Q. Do you have plans to expand into categories other than business cards and notecards?
A. Yes. Possibly notebooks, but I’m really trying to promote postcards and notecards. They are such an inexpensive, effective and powerful way to communicate. Even more powerful today because emails are becoming less and less effective in business communication.

And, who knows? I have an entrepreneur’s brain so I’ve got so many ideas! That’s where “keeping it simple” come in as my guide. We’re keeping it at business cards and notecards for the time-being, but in the next month or so, (we’re planning on introducing) “half orders.” Currently we only offer sets of 250 cards. This might be too many cards for certain people. Also, we are offering European sizing (85 x 55mm) now, instead of only the standard US sizing (2 x 3.5).

Q. What was behind your decision to use Crane Crest?
A. It’s my favorite paper. I was toying between Lettra and Crest, and Crest won because I thought Lettra might be a little bit too toothy for some people. It’a a crowd pleaser and Crane obviously has a resonance to it that ain’t bad for name recognition and branding.

Q. Do you envision starting to offer any other Crane papers down the line?
A. Probably not. That would go against keeping things simple. The least amount of options the better in my opinion. Especially when your option is Crane.

Q. Your clients can upload their own designs – or you’ll help them out for a minimal fee. Can you share any images of cards/notecards you helped design?
A. Absolutely …

Q. In an ideal world, where would you like to take Piggyback?

A. We are thinking of making Piggyback into a global letterpress resource to help letterpress shops flourish, offering things like preferred pricing of letterpress paper and our recommendation of inks, which are then discounted to the  the Piggyback Community.

Q. How can folks get the ball rolling?

A. First, you’re going to want to download Piggybacker’s Guide E-Book. And our strongest “call-to-action” right now is sending out samples to anyone who requests them. Suddenly my business cards are looking a little plain, and I’m guessing yours might be as well. So get your free Piggyback PiggyPack here. Or, start your order here, and it’ll be shipped in 7-10 days (but usually sooner). Oh, and keep checking back for to hop on with whatever’s up Piggyback’s sleeve!

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