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New business advice...

Discussion in 'Newbie Forum' started by plamo, Mar 11, 2007.

  1. plamo

    plamo New Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Hi everybody,

    I have the opportunity to buy an existing home-based sign business and relocate it to my city. I am not in the sign business myself, I am in metal design / fabrication but I am looking to go into business for myself with something I would enjoy doing. My background is actually in industrial design which I think would help me in the sign industry, as I have no experience in it (other than reading these forums). I really need some advice as to a good way to start out. Basically I see three options:

    1) Buy this business which includes everything I would need to get into commercial signage for around $50,000. The main equipment included is a Gerber Dimension 200 router and HS 15+ plotter, along with lots of misc equipment and sign making supplies. It would be unlikely I would keep any existing clientele as the business is currently in another city, so I would basically just be buying his equipment / inventory and starting over. I would also recieve some training from the existing owner.

    2) Start my own business with limited equipment (maybe just a plotter?) and learn the business at night while I keep my full-time job.

    3) Forget all about it and keep working for the man and regret it later.

    Now, obviously #2 is the safe choice, but I worry a little that if I don't go into it full tilt, it might never be more than a hobby (even though it's a scary idea to give up a regular paycheck).

    I would like to know what areas of the sign industry are a good place to start that would allow me to learn and expand as I gain experience, while still making money. Is vinyl lettering the cheapest and quickest way to make money? Is it really worth it to spend the money on a CNC router at this point (even though I would love to work with this machine)? Is there a specific area out there I should focus on to start? What equipment and brands would you recommend to start with?

    Sorry for the long post, but I would greatly appreciate any advice you guys might have. Thanks a lot!
  2. JimJenson

    JimJenson Active Member

    Nov 4, 2006
    I am not trying to discourage you, but I learned a long time ago (the hard way too) not to get involved in a business you don't know reasonably well.
  3. Cadmn

    Cadmn Very Active Member

    Aug 19, 2005
    IMHO RUN Far Far Away as fast as you can.
  4. Craig Sjoquist

    Craig Sjoquist Major Contributor

    Jun 18, 2004
    To see if you would even like the sign industry I suggest you go to school and learn about it you'll learn advertising design and sign making in it's many forms of todays world ... I learned by hand 32 yrs ago in school surely they most likely don't teach that anymore... another is work for a sign making shop ..still hard headed # 2 is best ....cause you really don't know what your getting buying someone elses $50,000 box of goodies ya got money to burn go ahead make someone rich ..... so ya no school is near by so ya can work and study ....... start reading books on the sign industry advertising design and sign making from Ato Z thank you n enjoy life
  5. imaSIGNr

    imaSIGNr Very Active Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    Just off the cuff, but with your background in metal design. A CAD plasma cutting set up would be a great niche market. You would be able to produce something that could become greatly in demand. I'd assume you've got welding equipment etc. Still 50k is a lot to fork out for something that may not be your cup of tea. Sounds like you might have the right components. What you know already could be combined with the sign making software and go for it........
  6. jdelbar1

    jdelbar1 New Member

    Feb 22, 2007
    I feel your pain

    # 3 can not be an option. You will always regret that you did not do try something and working for the MAN sucks.

    #1 without clients is almost like #2 except a lot less expensive.

    Just my 2 cents

  7. Flame

    Flame Major Contributor

    Apr 26, 2006
    My advice, leave that equipment alone and start off yourself... fresh. That sounds like a fair chunk of change for some equipment and supplies. Take out a 25K loan, buy a 42" plotter, a small engraver, a bunch of vinyl and supplies, a table, a nice computer and maybe even some other odds and ends. Then everything is NEW, you are starting fresh, and you'll even have warranties!

    That's my advice. Good luck with whatever you choose though.:thumb:
  8. Ian Stewart-Koster

    Ian Stewart-Koster Active Member

    Sep 27, 2003
    Qld, Australia
    WHY is the vendor of this home-based sign business selling it- is it no good? is he no good? is there no market? does he not know the work ? is he no good at design & layout? is it not legal?
    You need to find out if what you are interested in is viable, and bringing in cash from the day you take ownership, or are you just buying a bunch of obsolete equipment and software.

    Whatever road you take, the learning curve will hurt, Think carefully. Spend carefully. The industry is littered with others who thought that is was that simple, and all they do is undercut each other, make it harder for the rest of us to make a living, and they frequently produce an inferior short-lived product too, in an effort to cut costs.
  9. Pro Image

    Pro Image Major Contributor

    Nov 28, 2005
    If you put your mind to it you can do anything............I am with Flame on this one don't buy the used equiptment........I would do a little more research before shelling out any money..................Try some sign magazines and design and layout book.............then when you have some more info you can make a better decision.................
  10. gbahue

    gbahue Member

    Feb 28, 2007

    Spending $50K doesnt mean that you'll earn $1. Especially if you are moving the business to another location. For that kind of money you need to learn the business, get some ongoing clients that will help keep the lights on and have an understanding of how you are going to operate the business on an ongoing basis. I'd opt for #2 as you learn the business, you can make the choice to cut ties with the man. No shame in working for the man if you have a plan.

  11. SignosaurusRex

    SignosaurusRex Major Contributor

    Mar 7, 2007
    Washington State
    I too, am with Flame. I applaud your ambition! Get educated, do your research, seek out the voice of experience, be on the patient side, Think hard & work hard. BEST OF LUCK!

  12. Replicator

    Replicator Major Contributor

    Nov 19, 2006
    Sun City, AZ
    Test the waters first . . .
    Buy your own equipment after maybe working for someone else on a part time basis
    and discover what your getting yourself into before committing to spending
    thousands of dollars and then maybe regretting your decision.
  13. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

    Nov 29, 2003
    Kahului, Maui
    #2 B

    work for a different man... a sign-man.

    you could make money in signs dozens of different ways, with dozens of different combinations of equipment & supplies... why buy that guys combination. The combination should be based on your likes & dislikes... as well as the opportunities in your specific market. You can't know these things, so getting a job as a sign guy in your area for a year or so makes the most sense.
  14. Vinyl Dad

    Vinyl Dad Member

    Mar 7, 2007
    I have been in the sign work for only 4years.Its a lot of work, that I didn't see commin into it. I too think new equipment is the only way to go.What kind of money can you sell the used equipment for?(if it don't work out) New stuff will hold a better return.The small stuff is just that.Look for good help.Weeding,cutting,building the signs,Digging holes,cement,welding,small crane rentals for gas stations carports.Lots of things I didn't expect. ITS FUN!
  15. Sign Prophet

    Sign Prophet Member

    Jan 5, 2007
    I am With Isign on this one because you should get a feel for the business first and then set it up the way you want it. I wouldnt buy used equipment that you now nothing about and hope that you can just figure it out. Just my own opinion. Good luck with whatever you choose to do.
  16. player

    player Major Contributor

    Apr 24, 2006
    Why the sign biz? Because it is for sale?

    Do you have any experience in any areas of the sign biz?

    Do you currently have space (free garage, shop etc) available now?

  17. Geary

    Geary Very Active Member

    My BEST Advice.....LAYOUT SKILLS!!!!!

    Do Option 2 and learn ALL you can about LAYOUT. LAYOUT is the key. LAYOUT skills is the ONE thing that separates the good guys from the dorks.

    In other words....keep your day job and purchase everything you can written and illustrated by these guys: Mike Stevens, Dan Antonelli, and Bob Behounek here: https://www.signcraft.com/secure/cart/items.asp?cat=7

    Did I mention learning LAYOUT skills is the key to success in the sign business? :tongue:

  18. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

    Apr 17, 2003
    Valle Vista
    As cool as it would be to have a CNC, I would crawl before getting into a slow jog....what are you going to do with it? I could do a lot with it but I would have a few clients lined up before I ever purchased a router.

    Vinyl is not the fastest and quickest way to make money but it is a good entry level way to learn. Way too many people are getting vinyl cutters so you will will have to compete with seasoned sign shops and a handfull of newbies. CNC would be great if you know how to run it and have built up some market for it but I think it could just end up being expensive clutter in your garage if you can't sell, design, produce and install 3D work.

    I would buy a few books, subscribe to SignCraft, Signs of the Times, Sign Business and then after getting the feel, buy a vinyl cutter and find people to sub CNC and print work out to till you build up enough skill and market to use it.
  19. plamo

    plamo New Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Wow! Thanks for all the responses, it's greatly appreciated. To answer a few questions:

    - The guy is selling the business due to health problems and he wants to semi-retire. He has been operating it for 22 years. He is willing to do some training with me.
    -The router is only 2 yrs old, the plotter about 10. I have calculated (based on his original purchase prices w/ depreciation) the replacement costs for all of his equipment at approx. $44,000.
    - I chose the sign industry partly because of this business opportunity. However, what I'm really looking for is a business that will keep the creative side of my mind satisfied. I feel like I've gone stale at my job and I need to involve myself in something that I will enjoy doing.
    - I have no experience in the sign biz, but I am an industrial designer and these skills would translate well to the industry. I am a creative person that needs an outlet!
    - I have a garage and a (temporarily) undeveloped basement for space.
    - I have a ton of experience with a CNC punch, as well as some experience with a CNC router from my days at school. I think the router is something I would have the most fun with, but it's also the most expensive. Plus, "fun" isn't really part of a good business decision. If there is a market there however...

    So...if I were to go with option #2, is vinyl the best place to start? What's the best equipment to start with, taking into account value? Size of plotter? Brand name? ...

    Thanks again for all the responses. Keep 'em coming...
  20. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

    Nov 29, 2003
    Kahului, Maui
    oh, I realize I said 2B... I meant 3B

    ...but if you insist on #2

    ...well since you are in Canada, the market there would dictate what you should sell.

    Maybe vinyl, maybe CNC work...

    ...What part of Canada did you say you're in?
    ...Who else is selling signs there? Who is buying?
    ...What are they buying & selling?

    ...& what signs are out there in the community?
    ...What signs aren't?

    There is a thread somewhere started by our fearless leader Fred, called something like: There is no "best" (plotter/printer/price etc.)

    The reason the best advice above is to go work for a sign shop, is because even though you have dozens of excellent signmakers here who are willing to spend a lot of time here helping each other out... you need too much information to get here. You also need to give us waaaaayyyy more information to get useful information in return. That is the information you can't get here. What you should do. Once you figure that out, we can help you do it... but the "what you should do part, is probably go get a job at a sign shop. Sorry to say, but I think that is by far, the very best advice you will get here... But, wait awhile & you will probably get the advice you want.

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