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Hello from Colorado Springs!

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by SummerSigns, Mar 18, 2005.

  1. SummerSigns

    SummerSigns New Member

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    Mar 18, 2005
    My husband and I own a piece of commercial property in a small city here in Colorado. Over the years, we have seen a few vinyl cutting businesses come in and set up shop. We feel that the area could use a full-service sign shop (the nearest one is 30 miles away). My husband is a general contractor and has plenty of experience in building, woodworking, welding, concrete, etc. I come from the software industry and have experience with design, but mostly through creating marketing pieces for clients. I also have a strong background in market research, which makes me want to research EVERYTHING before making decisions! I have been reading your site for quite some time now, trying to get information to help me make educated decisions about purchasing equipment and inventory for our shop. Other than the obvious (decent vinyl cutter, good color printer, etc.), are there other pieces of equipment or software in your shop you can't live without? I am kind of looking for information on equipment or software that you initially passed on purchasing - thought you could live without, but with experience, realized you obviously needed and that creates value for you. I realize this may be affected by your specialization, but general suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for the site, it has been a tremendous help!

    :thankyou:
     
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  2. WVB

    WVB Very Active Member

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    Vinyl racks are very handy, also to be kept in your showroom so that clients may see various colors etc. Fonts are always good as well. Keep in mind the more you have the longer windows, and other various software titles will take to load/boot up. So the issue is finding a happy medium. I use bitstream to print out all my fonts, as so that the clients can see different type faces. I also use Extensis Portfolio to print out thumbnails of a lot of clipart I have for clients to dig through. Works with Illustrator and Corel (I believe it works with Corel anyways). I just ordered today in fact "The Sheeter" from Industrial Sign and Supply, they had the best price I could find anyways. Cheaper then buying direct from http://weedersheeter.com/ What this machine reminds me of is an old cloths ringer they use to use to wash cloths with. Its a tape application applier. Go to their website and watch the video for better understanding. I also keep Rapid Tac and Rapid Remover handy chemical wise, I have at least 3-4 3M Gold squeegees at all times. Plenty of masking tape for hindge methods, I am sure the list can go on but for a basic idea.......
     
  3. Colin

    Colin Major Contributor

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    Hi, Colorado's great, I was in Durango & Telluride about 12 years ago - cool!
    Now, don't get me wrong, I tend to have the tact of a sledgehammer, but it sounds like you are missing the most important tool for a sign business - DESIGN. This critical tool comes only through time & experience and effort. Computers do not design. I don't know what you mean by your "design" experience, but generally speaking, if it's one of the many other kind of "design" areas and not specifically or very closely related to sign design, you'd be wise to acquire this first.

    Perhaps you do have sign design experience and if so, ignore that.

    Other stuff to have:

    - A very good table saw, or wall mounted panel saw.
    - Skill saw / Jig saw / drills
    - Compressor
    - Exhaust fan
    - Good lighting
    - A good sign software (Flexi, Gerber etc)
    - CorelDraw (12)
    - probably lots of stuff I can't think right now - hand tools etc.
     
  4. jimdes

    jimdes Active Member

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    A cordless phone with a headset or ear baud! Working by myself, I can talk hands-free while working on a project. I save at least an hour a week.
     
  5. Colin

    Colin Major Contributor

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    Yes, those headsets are the best thing since sliced bread.
     
  6. Dennis Raap

    Dennis Raap Active Member

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    Welcome, one thing that would be a big help is to subscribe to a couple magazines SignCraft and Sign Business are both good.
     
  7. WVB

    WVB Very Active Member

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    Feb 25, 2005
    Yes I receive both of those magazines and enjoy them myself Dennis.
     
  8. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    Welcome to Signs 101.

    The thing that I got the most disagreement about when I purchased it and that has turned out to be highly useful, is our 54" metal shear. Our experience has been that we hit into more issues with handling substrates than we do anywhere else. We've been pleased with a unit purchased from Harbor Freight Tools for under $900 delivered ... and it weighs over 1200 pounds.

    Next on my list after obvious things like design software and furnishings, is organizational tools. Of these I have found Extensis Portfolio invaluable for organizing our clipart libraries. For fonts, I prefer Typograf.

    Work tables are also important. If you have the space, build a large one for efficiently making banners and being able to spread out in general. Ours is 5' x 20' (hope we never have to move). :Big Laugh

    Finally, a rack on wheels for large heavy roll stock makes it much easier to handle mag sheet, banner cloth etc. by yourself.
     
  9. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    Yes, Colorado Springs could use a full service sign company. Unfortunately, the city has a pretty restrictive and not very well thought out sign ordinance. The effect of that ordinance is it makes it difficult to impossible for a full service sign company to survive there.

    Also, in my opinion, this ordinance has done nothing to improve the visual appearance of commercial districts in the 'Springs. My parents live in the Colorado Springs area. In my visits over the past several years I have watched the overall average look of signage there deteriorate. Yes, the ordinance has actually made things worse. Just about all the full service sign shops have gone out of business there. But there's lots of vinyl-only shops putting up lots of badly designed clutter.

    A full service custom sign company needs significant electrical sign projects to stay in business. The ordinance makes it pretty difficult for a custom sign company to sell such projects. National retailers and businesses have the political muscle to get a variance, but they're usually giving their work to national sign companies like YESCO.

    The full service sign company is left to compete for much smaller projects. You might get a channel letter job here or there. Most of the time you're going to be running after small monument sign jobs or tiny box cabinets to mount on the store front. The vinyl shops will cut you off at the ankles on price. They'll order a mass produced cabinet and hire someone else to install it. They're not paying for things like crane trucks or the light bill on a manufacturing building, not to mention all the expensive equipment that goes into it. Compound that with the generally high cost of doing business in the 'Springs and the economics wind up looking disasterous.

    Several years ago, you could open a Colorado Springs phone book and find a handful of shops doing UL Listed electrical sign manufacturing. They're all but gone now.

    I don't think I would open a full service custom sign company within Colorado Springs, not unless I was doing lots of sign projects in other cities as well. In the end, any good full service custom sign company winds up having to do that to survive anyway. Our company builds stuff all over Oklahoma and North Texas. We even get into New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado. We would not have survived the last few years if we didn't hustle over those distances for that work.
     
  10. Vector

    Vector New Member

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    Does that weeder and sheeter actually work? The weeder one I'm particularly interested in. I can't imagine that it would be able to handle complex logos and stuff though. The time and frustration that thing could save...
     
  11. WVB

    WVB Very Active Member

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    I just ordered the sheeter and look forward to that. As to the weeder, I think it will be way more trouble then it is worth. If you watch the video key words in a nut shell is practice makes perfect. It takes time to master the machine, time I do not have for such. Just my 2 cents...
     
  12. SummerSigns

    SummerSigns New Member

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    Mar 18, 2005
    Thanks for all the input!

    The cordless headset and the 54" metal shear sound like good ideas. I also like the vinyl racks, but if I know my husband, he will want to save a few bucks and make the racks himself. Which means, I might get them someday. If it is not directly related to the sign business, we probably already have some kind of tool that will work, as I am married to "Tim the Tool Man Taylor's" twin brother. We are opening a shop about 35 miles south of the Springs. I agree that Colorado Springs is a very difficult market to run a small business (not as tough as Boulder - but still a pain). I know the vinyl shops will cut us off at the ankles on price! Hopefully, we can differentiate our services through other products/services offered. I want to create logos, signs based off the logos, initial web/brochure development and overall "brand management" for a small business. I haven't actually made signs before, but I have been involved in the overall design of signs that sign shops have created for companies I have represented. My husband is a jack-of-all-trades - if he can't build it, then he doesn't have the right tool or it can't be done (or he can't find competent help). He wants to go after the big electrical sign business...we will see. I have a feeling he will be putting some serious mountain miles on that truck of his. Again, thanks for the suggestions.:U Rock:
     
  13. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    Here's an additional thing to consider about building and installing electrical signs. A growing number of states are now enacting licensing and certification programs that require full service sign companies to meet certain standards.

    For example, our company does a good amount of work in Texas. The state of Texas now requires all electrical sign companies who do business in that state to have TSMA licenses. That even goes for companies who only do servicing work. All companies must have at least one person on staff with a Master Electricians License or Master Sign Electricians License. All other employees who do any electrical work must at minimum have a Journeyman's Electricans License. Those employees must also attend continuing education courses. That's part of the yearly renewal requirements. We had to send several of our employees to a TSMA seminar in Richardson, TX this past weekend. If the shop builds electrical signs it must comply with Underwriters Laboratories UL-48 standards, or the standards of other listing companies (like ETL, CS, CSA, etc.). All signs must carry a listing stamp with serial number to verify that it is being inspected by that listing authority.

    These requirements can make it tough for some people to start out building electrical signs. But with so many cities having lots of junky, unsafe electric signs installed (with some actually starting fires or shocking the crud out of service workers) this licensing thing was bound to happen. Overall, I think it is a good idea and I really hope something similar will be enacted here in Oklahoma soon.

    I don't know if Colorado has any kind of contractors licensing program for sign companies, similar to those in effect in states like Florida or Texas. But it would be a good idea to check.

    A lot of sign companies in Texas didn't think the TSMA was going to get anywhere with its licensing program. So few companies did anything to comply. Many of them have had to stop selling electrical signs or doing any work on them.
     
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