After 27 years in the sign business, Brandi Smith, Owner of Brandi's Sign Design, was presented with a unique opportunity. Her friend, and previous owner of the business, then called Chris' Sign Shop, wanted to sell and move back to Canada. Not wanting to sell the shop to his competitors, Chris reached an agreement with Smith in June 2017 for her to take over as owner.
"To be honest, it wasn't even on my radar," Smith said. "At the time, I was doing subcontracting work for all the local sign companies, including work for Chris. I have a CNC Machine at home which enables me to route shapes and do big sign jobs. When Chris approached me about buying his business I was pretty excited. Subcontracting jobs are sporadic and he already had an established clientele base. I thought it would be a great way to increase my income."
Smith shared that, despite having a tremendous amount of experience in the sign industry, owning and running a business was definitely new to her. She faced a handful of common challenges associated with new ownership and others more unique to her situation.
"During my first month as owner, business wasn't what I thought it would be," she said. "I figured out that the employees weren't showing up when they were supposed to and that affected the business. I quickly took care of that. Since then, just keeping up with all the work has been a challenge. I still do all the work myself and time management is crucial."
Smith has grown the business through a combination of word-of-mouth referrals and social media marketing. Because of low overhead, she's able to offer lower prices than most area print shops, while still maintaining quality. Smith's custom work includes various types of signs, vehicle graphics, decals, magnets, lettering, stickers, digital printing, one way window printing and more. Her signs and wraps can be applied to cars, trucks, buses, trailers, commercial vehicles, golf carts, boats, planes and anything on wheels.
For Smith, who loves the design aspect of her job, her future goals include finding a reliable team member and learning to better manage her time. She's not as focused on expansion and additional growth as she is on maintaining her current workload, while still providing a quality product.
What advice does Smith have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Fear is an idea killer," she said. "Being afraid is the worse thing. Don't let it get in your way. For new business owners, it's important to always maintain a positive attitude around your customers. They like to see you happy and smiling. Always keep a level attitude and a happy presence."