San Francisco, California
Eileen Gittins, 54, runs Blurb, a profitable print-on-demand startup that sold $30 million worth of books last year.
"People are producers now, not just consumers. They have whole mountains of digital content — images, recipes, and poetry from wikis, blogs, and Flickr — that want to find their way into books. There's a lot of content that wants to be shared and remembered, and you can't gift a Web site.
I realized — hello! — e-commerce should meet desktop publishing and print-on-demand technology. Once we could limit the options down to a manageable number, we could get massive scale out of the operation. We're able to make money off of a print run of just one book, we were profitable in our second year, and our numbers are up 25% in 2009, without advertising. Our business spreads naturally by word of mouth. Moving from the digital world to print as everything else moves in the other direction may seem contrarian. But people want physicality, especially as more and more of our lives are lived virtually."
A version of this article appeared in the May 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.