How one sign shop owner transformed his business with determination, a thorough plan, and creative commerce.
Michael Wright has never been afraid to dream up an idea and act on it. He got hooked on the sign business right out of high school working at a shop in northern Virginia. A few years in, he followed his love for graphic design to the School of Communication Arts in Raleigh, North Carolina. And after graduating, he wanted independence, so he founded MEWStar Designs in 2003, supporting himself with design work from logos to websites for the next 10 years.
“But my dream was always to have my own shop,” he says. Never afraid to ask for help, he talked friends who owned local sign businesses into letting him use their machines for years. Finally, opportunity arose in 2013 when the owner of a local sign shop decided to sell his business. “He had all the equipment that I had ever dreamed of,” Wright says. He convinced his parents to join him and his wife, Janine, as business partners, and they dove in.
Doing Some Digging
Signworx was a traditional sign shop, providing everything from vehicle magnets to apartment signage for local clients. Just a few months after getting into business, Wright visited a tradeshow in Charlotte, looking for new ideas. Digital technology was everywhere, he says, and when he stumbled across the direct-to-garment hotspot, “I just fell in love with the technology.”
His business partners weren’t so convinced (“basically, everyone was against me,” he remembers), but the resistance he met from his family may have been the best thing that could have happened for the shop’s future in DTG. To move forward, Wright had to come up with a thorough and convincing business plan that would prove the value of the technology.
A watertight business plan is everything when bringing in a direct-to-garment printer. The machines are notoriously high maintenance – especially older ones from four or more years ago – and if they aren’t kept busy, they can do more harm than good to a shop’s bottom line. You’ve got to know that the product will sell.
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