Born in Southern California, Shelli Gardner’s family moved to Kanab, Utah, while she was still in school. She graduated from Kanab High School, married at 18, and eventually moved with her husband to Las Vegas. Shelli’s sister also married and moved to Las Vegas where their husbands operated a custom home building business.
Both sisters had children and led busy lives as homemakers, while earning a little extra cash as independent contractors for Tupperware and other direct sales companies. At one point, they were introduced to rubber stamping and immediately became intrigued with the craft. Shelli was interested in becoming a distributor for a rubber stamp company, but couldn’t find one with a direct sales approach she liked.
Unable to find the right mix, it sparked an idea for a business. Shelli began to imagine the possibilities of beginning a stamp company that offered a wide variety of stamp styles, high-quality accessories, and an ongoing commitment to customer service and sharing the art of rubber stamping through home workshops with family and friends. Shelli and her sister envisioned the company working much like a family, where each demonstrator could participate at whatever level worked best for her personal circumstance.
In 1988, with little college or business experience, Shelli invested her family’s nest egg (intended to finance building a new home) to launch Stampin’ Up! Building on the business models of Tupperware, Discovery Toys and Mary Kay, the sisters developed a direct sales approach that incorporated their own personal touches and methods.
The initial product line—made up of stamps produced by other companies—fit in a 64-page catalog. Shelli filled orders out of her living room. The business grew and relocated to Boulder City, Nevada. In 1992, the company began custom designing, manufacturing, and selling its own line of exclusive rubber stamp sets and accessories.
In 1993, the business moved to Shelli’s hometown—Kanab, Utah. The company opened a manufacturing plant to produce Stampin’ Up!’s exclusive rubber stamp sets and has since become one of the largest private employer in the community.
In 1996, Stampin’ Up! opened corporate offices and later a distribution center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The product catalog also grew to more than 200 full-color pages, with more than 100 exclusive new designs introduced each year. In 1998, when her sister moved on to pursue other interests, Shelli became the privately held company’s CEO.
Ernst & Young recognized Shelli with its prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year award in 1999.
Shelli lives in Salt Lake City with her husband.
Currently, tens of thousands of demonstrators from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom teach the art of stamping. Stampin’ Up! operates two state-of-the-art facilities including an 80,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Kanab, Utah; and a 300,000-square-foot corporate office, distribution center, and demonstrator support call center in Riverton, Utah.
Shelli Gardner, CEO and cofounder of Stampin' Up!