West Coast company finds new home in Milwaukee

By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller

StickyLickits could be Wisconsin’s next great startup success.

Company founder, Linda York, has developed a product that supports healthy eating in kids while encouraging kids to have fun with their food. The company makes edible stickers featuring some of the hottest stars in the Pre-K universe, including PAW Patrol, Elmo and Sponge Bob.

The product is as easy to use as the company tagline “lick it! stick it! eat it!” implies.

Kids select an edible sticker from the collection, lick the flavor-free sticker and then stick it to any food that might need a little extra pizazz to make it appealing to a child’s palate, like a fruit or vegetable. The sticker adds whimsy to the food, but won’t change its flavor, ensuring kids experience the real taste of the food.

The California-based company, founded in 2017, already has distribution deals with some of the biggest food retailers in the country, including Walmart, Kroger, and Albertson Companies.

So, how does this West Coast company with so much buzz become a Milwaukee story?

York was introduced to the opportunities available in Wisconsin through the Fellows Program offered by the Food Finance Institute (FFI). The program, supported by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), provides business development education to any active food-focused business in the nation.

Through FFI program director, Brad Rostowfske, York discovered that Wisconsin is at the epicenter of the food manufacturing industry. All of the ingredient suppliers StickyLickits uses to make the edible stickers are located in the state. Already interested in the region, when Rostowfske shared WEDC business relocation incentives with the recent Fellows cohort, York began to seriously consider bringing StickyLickits to Wisconsin.

York contacted the Milwaukee 7 Economic Development Partnership, to explore relocating her company. After working with Rebecca Gries, the Vice President of Corporate Expansion and Attraction, York concluded, “Milwaukee is where we want to be. We liked what Milwaukee had to offer the most.”

The company quickly found a building on Milwaukee’s northwest side where it can manufacture the allergen-free, vegan edible stickers. The facility will be run by the former CEO of the company that worked with York to develop the proprietary recipe for the edible stickers.

StickyLickits is ready to begin doing business in Milwaukee. What stands in the way of this possible Milwaukee success story is funding.

StickyLickiets has been a bootstrapped company, until now.

Pre-pandemic, StickyLickits outsourced the manufacturing of the edible stickers to a manufacturer located in Washington. During quarantine, the ownership of the business changed hands. The new leadership of the company decided to change the focus of the business, leaving StickyLickits without a manufacturer.

York scoured the country for another manufacturer to produce the edible stickers but could not find one that was able to both meet the company’s stringent allergen-free requirements and produce the stickers in the volumes required to fulfill the wholesale orders from retailers.

York knew StickyLickits was well-positioned for success, so she pushed forward and decided to open her own manufacturing facility. Opening a facility would get her products back on store shelves and reopen the flow of revenue.

York has the product, the location, and the customers. Now, all she needs is capital to set the plan into motion. The experienced entrepreneur is actively raising funds to relocate the business.

Fundraising is a hurdle for most startups, and the odds are against StickyLickits, despite its proven track record of success. In 2022, Women-led companies only received 1.9% of all of the available venture capital. Bank loans to early-stage startups are also rare. 

York knows the statistics, but believes Milwaukee is the place where those odds can be defied.

Will StickyLickits raise the capital it needs to become another Milwaukee success story? Linda York is betting on it. 

To follow the progress of StickyLickits, connect with the company here.

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