• November 23, 2014

Good year so far for graphic designers, sign makers

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Posted: Sunday, March 10, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 9:14 pm, Sat Aug 3, 2013.

Local small businesses specializing in graphic design and sign making are having a banner year in 2013.

Killeen-Fort Hood-based graphic designers and sign makers say the secret to success in their industry is finding and focusing on a niche.

Jeff Bowling, owner of Killeen-based Texas Signs and Designs, said he didn’t do that when he launched the business 18 years ago.

Change of focus pays off

Bowling said he started off making simple stuff like posters and banners, but over time he realized he could generate far more revenue by concentrating on large signage. Today, the company is known for manufacturing and installing commercial signage across Texas.

“I was very scared at first, but it’s grown so much — much more than I ever imagined it would,” Bowling said. Now, Texas Signs and Designs handles signs for several corporate behemoths including Best Buy and Home Depot.

“Oh Lord, I could go on all day,” Bowling said. “We did probably half the signage in Market Heights in Harker Heights. We just did the Mattress Firm. We did the Chicken Corral on Trimmier. We did the KCEN-TV studio on Stan Schlueter.

“We’ve progressed more and more every year. This last year, it was slow for two months before the presidential election, but since then it has been gang busters. Not enough time in the day.”

Tax season a busy time

Local graphic companies that concentrate on smaller businesses also are in the middle of an upswing.

Laura Assal, store manager at Speedy Designs in Killeen, said tax season is an important time of year for graphic and sign companies that concentrate on the small-business sector.

“After Valentine’s Day, it can get kind of slow, especially on the heels of the holidays,” Assal said. “But we start booming during tax season. I would say business increases by about 25 percent. That is when people start buying business cards and start upgrading the outdoor appearance of their businesses.”

Jon Bernd, owner of Cali Signs and Graphics in Copperas Cove, focuses on providing large-format printing to local small businesses. He said the tax season boom is easy to explain.

“People want to make sure they can pay their bills first, so January is the slowest month,” he said. “It takes a little bit to get going, but tax season definitely has a big impact.”

Bernd opened Cali about two years ago. He chose Cove because of its growth potential.

“The city is more open for growth than it has been in the past,” he said. “I think (the city) realized there is actually a population here, and it is continuing to grow. The sales might as well stay in Cove.”

Diverse services

Graphic Concepts in Harker Heights is constantly building new revenue streams. From adding services at its new Fort Hood retail location, the company is always looking for new ways to provide useful services to customers.

“We’re probably one of the most diverse local companies in our field,” said Damian Sisko, chief operating officer at Graphic Concepts. “It’s not just cards and designs.”

Sisko said to be successful, graphic and sign companies must think of ways to diversify whether business is good or bad.

“The danger in any business, especially small business, is getting complacent,” Sisko said. “You can’t do things the same way forever. It’s always good to open yourself up to as many ideas and people as possible. It’s not only about creating new revenue. It’s about being able to get your customers exactly what they need.

“By offering as much as we can, we always have the possibility of building our customer base.”

Of course, choosing a niche or expanding goods and services doesn’t guarantee success.

“I want to say, ‘Yes, choosing a niche is important,’” Bowling said. “But there is more to it. More business comes as a company’s reputation grows. It takes a lot of word of mouth to be successful. And the only way to generate word of mouth is with results.”

Enough business ‘to go around’

Local small businesses specializing in graphic design and sign making believe there is enough business for all of them.

“Killeen being one of the fastest-growing cities in America for the last few years, yeah, we’re busy and there is enough to go around,” Bowling said.

While Bowling spends his time traveling around the state handling signage for the big dogs, Assal spends most of her time in the Speedy Signs storefront with her bulldogs, Sadie and Bear. She said she is not worried about one company monopolizing the local market.

“There is plenty of business for everybody, and we all specialize in different things,” she said.

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