July '22

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1 2 G R A P H I C S P R O J U L Y 2 0 2 2 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M S I G N A G E & P R I N T I N G B efore buying the Signarama fran- chise in Roseville, Minnesota, in 2019, Ederick Lokpez was a mar- keting executive and director of strategy for a U.S. bank. He got laid off in 2018 and was offered a job with Accenture, which would have required him to travel four days a week and be away from his family. Sitting in the bleachers of his son's hockey game, he decided he couldn't do that anymore and decided to start his own business. He began researching what would be better, buying a business that was already up and running or starting one from scratch. He decided it would be easier to run a business that already had a history and clientele. He chose Signarama Twin Cities, a small Signarama franchise in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area with only three employees that specialized in vinyl work and fleet graphics. When COVID hit, the shop wasn't prepared to make PPE or items to separate cubicles like many other sign shops were doing. Most of the work that didn't pertain to vinyl was outsourced, so the company was not being competitive, he says. Lokpez tapped into Signarama's network of franchisees to see what they suggested for how to grow the business and most rec- ommended buying a CNC router. At the time COVID hit, 45% of his business stemmed from vehicle graphics. During COVID, that work dried up. He decided to buy a CNC router and put it in the 2,400-square-foot bay that was used to do vehicle wrap installations. "It has transformed my shop," he says. Now, only 15% of the shop's revenue comes from vehicle wraps, while "routed products are 40% of our net revenue and it has opened a whole different perspective, different outcome for how we run the business." e shop now has six employees and, even with COVID, his business grew 38% in 2021, which was the "best year the shop has ever had since 1994," Lokpez notes. "A lot of that has to do with all of the router products, all of the things we were outsourcing." Cody Smith, CAMaster, says "most customers know they are giving away margin by outsourcing." Sign shops that do a lot of aluminum 3D letters, but have it outsourced because they only do digital finishing, simple cutting and vinyl, are "giving away so much profit margin. If you brought that task in the build- ing, that task will help pay for the machine on top of the other tasks you are able to do." But buying a router isn't just something you can do overnight. It takes planning and foresight. e first step is to figure out what Making Room for Routing CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE ADDING CNC TO YOUR SHOP B Y P A U L A A V E N G L A D Y C H Buying a router takes planning and foresight. First, you need to figure out the projects and signage the machine will take on. Then, determine the best one for the job. (All images courtesy Signarama Twin Cities)

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