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Seeing that the writer and poet Oscar Wilde once quipped, "Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it," I'm sure even he would drop a few dollars on my pick for The Motley Fool's "11 O'Clock Stock": Vistaprint (Nasdaq: VPRT) -- a company brilliantly printing its way into history one small business at a time.

Vistaprint fast facts:

Market capitalization

$1.5 billion

3-year revenue growth (annualized)


5-year revenue growth (annualized)


Cash & investments | debt

$172.3 million | $5.2 million



Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
EV is enterprise value, which nets out the company's debt and cash position. EBITDA is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

Vistaprint, the leading online provider of marketing products, literally built its emerging empire on the backs of regular old business cards. Its successful campaign of offering free business cards (with its logo on the back) has proven to be a low-cost way to spread word of its printing prowess, turning customers into unwitting marketing agents, to the tune of more than 4 billion cards distributed.

While business cards once dominated Vistaprint's business, they have shrunk to about 30% of revenue. Vistaprint's goal is to become the online source of "all things marketing" to the micro- and small- business community -- offering everything from signage and stationery to marketing materials and promotional items (i.e., tchotchkes). Vistaprint has even begun to meet its clients' digital marketing needs by providing low-cost websites and email marketing campaigns.

Why Vistaprint?
So why does some glorified online print shop deserve our hard-earned dollars? Here are my top five reasons, in no particular order, why Vistaprint is a larger force than the market is currently giving it credit for.

1. Alpha-dog status
While Vistaprint didn't invent the online printing business, it's out to dominate it. By the company's own estimates, they are multiple times larger than their closest competitor. That's very impressive given that the $100 billion U.S. commercial printing industry is fragmented among 35,000 different players -- with most having revenues of less than $5 million. Vistaprint has been able to grow quickly within this cluttered field by focusing on the marketing needs of microbusinesses, which the company estimates is a $25 billion opportunity (between the U.S. and Europe). Even FedEx (NYSE: FDX) Office and OfficeMax (NYSE: OMX) have decided that it's easier to partner with Vistaprint than try to beat them.

2. Patently awesome
While the barriers of entry into general printing may be relatively low, Vistaprint's ability to dominate the mass customization of microsized orders is uncanny. With more than 40 patents issued, 50 pending, and more than $250 million spent in research and development, the company is not shy about taking potential infringers to court.

3. Opportunistic operator
Vistaprint still has its founder, Robert Keane, running the show. Keane is a Bezo-esque type of leader who hatched the original plan for the company during his time at INSEAD – The Business School for the World. He is an opportunistic leader who reframes problems into potential opportunities. For instance, in late 2008 when the company's stock price dropped precipitously, he engineered a massive $46 million dollar buyback at an average of $17.82 per share, which proved both rewarding and timely.

4. Going commercial
While Vistaprint isn't a household name – except maybe for those operating home-based businesses – it's started to leverage its existing infrastructure in order to capture those small, family-centric printing needs. While the company entered the market to help smooth out the seasonally weak holidays, the move also exposes its growing product offerings to a wider audience base. Add in its small, national television campaigns, and Vistaprint might be on the way to earning a spot in the family circle of trust.

5. Miss-underestimated Opportunity
After missing revenue expectations and guiding fiscal 2011 estimates lower, shares took an absolute drubbing, falling 36% one day last week. While extremely high expectations were built into its recent $62 stock price, at $32.80 the market is seriously underestimating Vistaprint's current and future earnings power growth.

Printing money, printing growth
No matter your opinion of Vistaprint, you cannot argue with its amazing history of profitable growth. The company has grown from $6.1 million in revenue in 2001 to $670 million for fiscal year 2010. That's a 69% compounded annual growth rate -- all done organically.

And not only did Vistaprint grow, but it did so profitably -- and increasingly so. While competition among major commercial printers tend to limit profits, Vistaprint's proprietary print technology has allowed it to compete as a low-cost producer while still achieving operating margins that would make your local printer envious.

Oh, did I mention that the company has done this with a balance sheet that has gone from lean and mean to absolutely pristine? Cash and short-term investments have mushroomed from $3.1 million to $172.3 million over the past seven years. While Vistaprint's growth has come all organically, this war chest leaves it able to make strategic acquisitions in the future -- see Vistaprint's 2010 acquisition of custom embroidery company Soft Sight.

With Vistaprint, you have a company with an enterprise value / EBITDA of about 11, growing at more than 20%, with a rock-solid balance sheet. Add in an additional 1.6 million new customers during last quarter and a reliable revenue base comprised of 67% repeat customers, and you've got the makings of company on a mission.

The last company I've seen that has been able to create such obscene growth opportunities within a relatively staid industry was Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN), which dove into the relatively benign and boring book sales business and leveraged its online leadership to become one of the fastest-growing retailers in the world. Sure, history may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme. And with the recent drop in Vistaprint's stock price, it sure sounds a lot like a multibagger investment in the making.

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"11 O'Clock Stock" is sponsored by Motley Fool Stock Advisor. The Motley Fool will wait at least 24 hours after this publication before purchasing shares of Vistaprint. To see an FAQ on "11 O'Clock Stock," click here.