From the basement to an 8-figure exit: the Mabel’s Labels Story with Julie Ellis

Julie Ellis a co-founder of Mabel’s Labels, one of Canada’s greatest small business success stories.

Back in 2002, Julie and her three partners Julie Cole, Cynthia Esp and Tricia Mumby decided they could do better than the scribbles on masking tape that were being passed off as labels to keep track of for kids clothing and personal items. So, after much research, they brought a brand new product to market in the form of personalized waterproof name labels and tags. From its humble beginnings, Mabel’s Labels has grown into an award-winning, market-leading company loved by Moms and kids alike.

Mabel’s Labels was recently sold  to paper and label giant Avery Labels which lead to Julie’s exit from the business she had founded and run for nearly 15 years

Julie is now entering a new phase of her career as she shares her experience and expertise with other entrepreneurs helping them gain clarity and accelerate their success.

Mabel’s Labels hadn’t;t been looking to sell the business when they were approached by Avery but quickly realized that the idea acquirer “checked all the boxes” and helped them address some big questions: how they would finance further growth and who of the 4 founders would ultimately lead the company.

Julie adds that what’s best for the business may not be what’s best for you personally and what you would do as an autonomous leader is much different than what you would do as part of a 4-person team

While selling a business is often the end goal for many entrepreneurs, the experience can be bittersweet as it was in Julie’s case. As someone who is used to giving 110%, she says it took her at least 3 months to accept the idea that she was able to take some downtime.

Julie is now helping to mentor and consult with entrepreneurs. If you are interested in connecting with Julie, reach out to her through Linkedin here

Learn more about Mabel’s Labels at

Other points Julie covers in our Interview:

  • Success was built largely on the close bonds of the four founders, who were friends from university, two of whom later became related (in-laws) by marriage
  • They looked to address a problem they were all facing as new moms – lousy labels for clothing
  • Took about a year of development and testing
  • Mabel’s Labels utilized social media (which was new at the time) very effectively and built a community based on moms leaning on eachother and having a place where they could meet up and talk
  • Sold their solution direct through online which was also new and unique at the time (2003)

Changing Roles and the Sale

  • The company and roles were restructured several times over
  • Always ran with 4 leaders as a board and were very clear about dividing up responsibilities
  • They were friends first and then family, and it was important that they maintain their personal relationships
  • Selling the business is a lot of work – mostly documentation for due diligence.
  • If you are looking towards an exit, make sure you have your financials, employment contracts and all files in place. It’s essential that you have the systems in place to insure you’ve been gathering this information all along.


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