The paper trailblazer
AS CEO, SALLY POFCHER TURNED A LOCAL STATIONERY CHAIN INTO A NATIONAL SUCCESS
ally Pofcher ’94 was accustomed to hearing it everywhere she went. “ I love Paper Source,” people would gush, referring to the Chicago-area stationery store. Pofcher herself had fond memories of the store, having shopped at the Evanston store while a student at Kellogg. So it was something of a homecoming when she moved her family from San Francisco to Chicago to become CEO of the company in 2007.
Today’s Paper Source is largely unrecognizable from the company Pofcher took the reins of nine years ago. When she stepped into the CEO role, the company had 19 storefronts nationwide. Now, there are 103 Paper Source stores. Annual revenue has increased from about $20 million in 2007 to nearly $150 million in 2015. Online business has grown by 25 percent every year since 2007. Perhaps most important of all, Paper Source has shifted character, from a company once known solely for cardstock and crafting supplies to a more design-driven and curated-crafting experience. Paper Source introduces thousands of new items each year, with almost half of the assortment designed internally.
“Building a brand experience that has some theater to it, but also has a really compelling economic side, was kind of the ultimate retail sport,” says Pofcher. “ It’s been the most exciting professional accomplishment of my career.”
Pofcher seemed the ideal choice for Paper Source CEO. She cut her teeth as a partner at McKinsey & Company, working with apparel and footwear companies, then as senior vice president of strategy at The Gap. Her time at each was focused both on revitalizing excitement for brands with flagging customer interest, while also improving merchandise strategies and profitable growth plans.
Building a big business out of a tiny chain of stationery stores that elicited a passion among dedicated customers was Pofcher’s challenge as CEO, but her work paid off so much that Investcorp, owners of kitchenware retailer Sur La Table, acquired Paper Source in 2013. Last September, Pofcher transitioned from CEO of Paper Source to become chairman of the company, and a fellow graduate, Winnie Park ’99, was named the new CEO.
For Pofcher, the time was right to step aside at a high point and explore new things personally. The same month Pofcher became chairman, Paper Source moved into a new 150,000-square-foot warehouse in Forest Park, Illinois. Plans are in place for great growth in 2016, as Paper Source will end the year with nearly 120 stores nationwide.
“It’s definitely hard to separate yourself from something you’ve built. I think about the products, the store and web experiences, and the team of people who make it happen, and I’m extremely proud of it all,” Pofcher says. “ It’s the right time for me to shift into a coaching and cheering role as a new team continues the Paper Source journey, while I take time to innovate a bit myself.”