Happy beginning: Printing firm that helped spearhead food bank campaign gets new name and new owners

Happy Branding
Now under new ownership, Capital Printers has been renamed Happy Branding. Photo courtesy Denis Sabourin

One of the capital’s largest marketing agencies is breathing new life into a printing firm best-known for helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Ottawa Food Bank with a campaign that caught the attention of actor Ryan Reynolds and iconic hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan.

Xactly Design & Advertising acquired Capital Printers late last year after the company ran into financial trouble. 

The Westboro-based printing company made headlines two years ago when it partnered with the Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers brand to produce T-shirts that eventually raised more than $300,000 for the Ottawa Food Bank.

But the firm began to struggle, and last year owner Will Kolanko approached Xactly founder and CEO Denis Sabourin – whose company is just a few blocks down Richmond Road and had worked with Capital Printers on various projects – about joining the company as a partner. 

"Capital had done some great things with Wutang and had done some really good products. They just had a bit of a tough year."

Eventually, Sabourin and Kolanko agreed to a deal that saw Xactly acquire Capital Printers’ office and equipment. 

“Capital had done some great things with Wutang and had done some really good products,” Sabourin explained. “They just had a bit of a tough year.”

Seeking a fresh start for the company, Sabourin renamed it Happy Branding. Two other local entrepreneurs – K6 Media founder Christian Lavergne and Ottawa Bookkeeping Solutions owner Denise Hutchinson – have also come on board as partners in a bid to help revive its fortunes.

“I wanted to do something that had a very positive feel to it, and something that wasn’t very traditional in that space,” Sabourin said of the decision to rebrand the company.

Once a thriving organization with a payroll of about 20, Capital Printers was down to fewer than half a dozen employees when Sabourin took over. He’s hoping the new name and a revamped business model focused on creating “customized wearables” such as hats, T-shirts and other merchandise that are “fashionable and comfortable” will revitalize the business.

'Should be fun'

“(Merchandising) should be fun, but it becomes so boring and automatic,” Sabourin said. “It’s not just buying shirts and hats to buy shirts and hats.”

Sabourin and his fellow partners are now in the process of renovating Happy Branding’s home at 255 Richmond Rd. and expect to officially open the new-look store this fall. The company hopes to be back up to about a dozen employees by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Sabourin’s other long-standing marketing venture is poised to celebrate its 20th anniversary later this year. 

Now at 30 employees, Xactly is already one of Ottawa’s biggest marketing agencies, with a client list that includes prominent local law firm Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall as well as fast-rising RV rental platform RVezy. 

But Sabourin isn’t about to sit still. He said he’s had “a few conversations” about acquiring smaller local agencies in a bid to accelerate Xactly’s growth trajectory. 

“They didn’t come to fruition, but we’re still looking,” he said. “At some point, I realized it’s easier to acquire a company and get the staff and a few clients than it is to grow organically.”