CEO & Founder of Great Lakes Label, Tony Cook, began his journey in the labeling business in 1992. This is when he accepted a job at a small company, where he learned the ins & outs of the industry. He worked in the art department, purchasing, estimating, production, planning & sales. He then left in 1994 to establish his own labeling business – Great Lakes Label – in his one-bedroom apartment.
“It seemed like a great plan, of course I had no idea what I was doing.” – Cook
Since Cook had no equipment yet, he began as a label broker. This, however, did not last long since many prospective clients did not want to deal with a broker, but would rather deal directly with a manufacturer. Soon Cook heard from a friend who worked at another label company, that they were throwing out two old presses and that Tony could come to pick one up that night if he wanted to. Cook picked it up and began contacting customers to start gaining business.
In the next few years, he added 3 Webtron presses and a small staff. To continue expanding, he knew he had to begin taking even larger risks. He flew to Europe in an attempt to gain the business of a sizeable power & lighting company. He put everything on the line, & fought for his company. Once he made the deal, he worked with 20 different facilities for them within the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. He was never going to quit, and he’s glad he did not.
As the business continued to grow, he noticed a need in the horticulture industry for labeling & automation. He realized that normal applicators were not able to sufficiently label pots – due to various reasons. The type of label, size, variable data needs, conditions in the greenhouses, etc., all affected the performance of these normal applicators. Tony Cook saw this as a new opportunity. He began to research this further and spent 5 years creating prototypes, until the birth of the first Label Gator® in 2005.
This first Gator was the Two-Sided System. This system is available as a print & apply Gator, or in an apply-only version. The Label Gator® was engineered with growers in mind and was designed with the vision to meet new demands that they are faced with from retailers and “big box” stores. These systems are pre-wired to make all of these dynamic market changes a breeze for our greenhouse & nursery customers. The Gator allows these growers to cut labor costs, reduce their container inventory, and react quickly to the ever-changing label requirements.
Tony Cook gained the first Gator customer by visiting a greenhouse and drawing this Gator on a napkin for them. He gave them a quote, and since they liked what they heard, Tony received 50% down on the machine right then. That summer Cook and his team built the Gator, shipped it, and installed it by October 2008.
The Label Gator® is revolutionizing how greenhouse growers operate, with Gators specializing in solutions for your production operations, propagation, and shipping. A variety of different Gators are available. Check out the affordable, accurate, reliable, and easy to use labeling solutions for the horticulture & gardening world.
Today – Great Lakes Label has moved a couple of times and is currently located at 910 Metzgar Ct. NW Comstock Park, MI 49321. The company operates with 6 presses, more than 60 employees, and at least 12 varieties of the Label Gator® System. This all takes place in our 26,000 square-foot facility that we moved to in 2005. After celebrating 25 years of business & success this past year, Cook hopes for 2020 to be the most profitable year yet.