Our President, Andrew Alford, has built Liftoff as we know it today from the ground up! Andrew has been in the business for quite some time now, and his story stands as a testament to Liftoff’s history and the drive of one hopeful young entrepreneur. So sit down, grab some popcorn, and prepare to get to know all about Andrew in his journey in this Q&A-style interview!
Liftoff: Andrew, we want to hear your origin story. Where did your career begin, and how did it lead to the creation of Liftoff?
Andrew: My journey in this industry is a long one; it all began back in 1999 when I was working as an AS400 developer at a healthcare system based in Atlanta. Things were going great that year. I had just purchased my first home, we welcomed our first child into the world, and my career was on the fast track to a bright future. That is, until one fateful day that November. Our company was purchased by a healthcare behemoth and our entire team was released that same day.
Searching for jobs wasn’t as easy as going to LinkedIn or Indeed back then. I made multiple trips per week to purchase copies of each Atlanta metro-area newspaper I could find. After a couple of weeks of seeing very few tech-related jobs, I found one that caught my attention: “Ground floor ecommerce opportunity.” It seemed like a long shot. They were looking for technologies I hadn’t used in a professional setting previously. That afternoon, I ran to the nearest bookstore and crammed as much knowledge as I could before responding to the inquiry.
The next morning, I received a response looking for an interview that afternoon. I put on my Sunday best and made my way to the interview with my stomach in knots. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades that I would get this job; this was all happening so quickly!
I met with the hiring manager and developed an instant rapport. The project sounded exciting; it was going to be the first-ever web-to-print ecommerce website, allowing customers to design and proof their checks online. My concerns melted away; I knew this was something I could do. It was a quiet drive home from the interview. I was anxious to have an answer. As soon as I arrived home, I checked my email and found my offer letter. It was official! The next week, I began my adventure in the industry at Continuous Checks and Forms, a printing company with a national footprint based in Peachtree City, GA. It was a dream come true.
Within a few months, we launched our first web-to-print application, and it was a massive success. Over the next 8 years, I would develop dozens of high-powered web-to-print applications for our clients. This online success allowed us to rebrand the company to CFC Print Solutions, and later to Printegra.
In 2008, we were acquired by Cenveo, a then $2.5B publicly traded global printing giant. I had the opportunity to join the higher ranks within the company, eventually overseeing the technology development for over 32 individual companies. I learned a lot in this role and gained a lot of new leadership skills and experience working with some of the largest household brands in the world.
I had always wanted to create something of my own, and in early 2012, that dream became a reality. Jay Scammell, CEO of Graphic Dimensions, listened to my vision and agreed to invest in the idea of a better commerce platform for the industry. We started small; as employee number one, I wrote the very first bits of code that eventually became Liftoff. As we grew, we were able to hire experts in each functional area of the company, and I was able to eventually shed the role of developer and focus on growing the organization.
Today, we’re servicing an incredible variety of subscribers, ranging from emerging small businesses to multi-billion-dollar enterprises. We’ve come a long way in such a short time, and it’s exciting to think where we’ll be just a year from today.
Liftoff: What do you do in your position here at Liftoff?
Andrew: I’m the president, a role that comes with many hats. My primary objective is to provide a platform that is impactful to our industry. This entails working with our subscribers to understand their challenges and needs and translating those obstacles into meaningful features on our platform. Parallel to this is providing a sound work environment where our team can realize their maximum potential. Beyond that, I work directly with the leadership within Liftoff to ensure they have the resources and direction necessary to take us to the next level.
Liftoff: If you had to pick just one, what’s your favorite platform feature?
Andrew: Records would have to be my hands-down favorite feature. Records enable you to create scalable, custom databases that can be used nearly anywhere in Liftoff. Need to create a custom DAM that integrates with our web-to-print workflow? Want to create an RSS feed? Need to store data, images, or files? Records is the ultimate repository for storing not just data, but any digital asset!
Liftoff: Tell us about your childhood hero.
Andrew: My grandfather. He grew up during the Great Depression and was forced to leave school in the 3rd grade to work on the family farm and ensure they had food on the table. The farm was his life, and he put in 13+ hours a day, 7 days a week up until he turned 80 and was no longer physically able.
At first, it was his work ethic I admired and aspired to live by. It wasn’t until later in life that I truly understood his sacrifice and what it meant to provide for your family at all costs.
Growing up in a broken home, he was the one consistent male role model in my life. He taught me how to be a gentleman, helped me navigate my moral compass, and most importantly, how to lead by serving others.
Liftoff: Let’s end our chat with something meaningful to you. Do you have any hobbies or passions?
Andrew: I love music and the art of recording. Music is truly a universal language and way to express ourselves that supersedes human-created boundaries. I have somewhat of a penchant for learning new instruments and currently play guitar, bass, trumpet, trombone, tuba, piano, and drums.
During the mid-90s, I was in a band that toured the Atlanta area and had the opportunity of opening for bands such as No Doubt, and Silverchair. I have a suspicion that if I weren’t peddling ecommerce today, who knows, maybe I’d have played music professionally. A person can dream!