Custom vehicle graphics fuelling explosive growth for sign shop

Photos courtesy TNT Customs Graphics & Signs

The staff of TNT Customs Graphics & Signs in front of their shop vehicles. Left to right: Zac Martin, Braedon Armstrong, Daphany Metzger, Sierra Polomaki, Margaret Chartrand-Poteet, and shop dog, Tao.

By Ginny Mumm

As the economy navigates a long and winding road back to recovery, vehicle graphics are one signage trend that keeps growing. With its ability to generate an estimated 30,000 to 70,000 impressions per day, vehicle graphics remain an efficient, cost-effective branding and advertising tool.

Consumers are also using graphics to customize their personal vehicles, adding colour and style to everything from their everyday ride to motocross bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), boats, and snowmobiles.

One shop that has built its business on designing, producing, and installing vehicle graphics is TNT Customs Graphics & Signs in Red Deer County, Alta. Established in 2017, TNT Customs has grown from a racecar wrap company to one that provides graphics for individual consumers, small businesses, and industrial fleets.

I spoke with Margaret Chartrand-Poteet, founder and manager of TNT Customs, about how the growth in the vehicle graphics market helped her launch thecompany, how she built up her client list, and what trends she sees in the vehicle graphics market.

When did you start TNT Customs Graphics & Signs?

Margaret Chartrand-Poteet (MCP): When I started TNT Customs in December 2017, my boss, Terry Raymond, asked me to print vehicle graphics for his racecars. I had previously owned a spa. I had never even turned on a computer before. So, I googled how to run the top-of-the-line printer he had sitting in the shop. Fortunately, it was a Roland DG SOLJET printer, so there was plenty of information out there, and I learned how to use the printer pretty quickly. I studied YouTube videos to learn how to design, print, and install the graphics.

TNT Customs is seeing increasing demand for personalized vehicle graphics like this custom design for a pick-up truck owner.

I posted the results of those first wraps on social media, and word started getting out. Then I began designing and producing graphics for my boss’ other business and I posted those as well. As the shop became increasingly busy, I put out an ad for some help and quickly found two more employees with 20-plus years of combined experience who were experts in the industry. Now, I manage, handle sales, and take care of the day-to-day aspects of the business. Social media is huge for us and accounts for 80 per cent of our new clients—people like what they see.

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Braedon Armstrong was the first employee I hired on the team. Bringing his contacts, knowledge, and experience, he built the framework of the company. Shortly after that, we brought on Daphany Metzger, who had more than 15 years of experience in design, print, and graphic installation.

We then hired Zac Martin who very quickly became a top-notch installer for us. Since then, we’ve hired three additional employees, and we hire temporary help for production and installation assistance on larger projects. Even so, we’re usually so busy, we have to turn away some work. We are actively looking to hire a few more experienced designers and installers.

TNT Customs designs creative and colourful vehicle graphics for trailers, trucks and cars.

What does your shop look like today?

MCP: We’re in a large standalone building and are fortunate to have a lot of space—approximately 1022-m2 (11,000-sf), so we can accommodate even the biggest rigs and fit several vehicles inside at one time. We also have a wash bay to clean the vehicles.

Our production is anchored by two Roland DG printers. We’ve added the TrueVIS VG-640 64-in. printer/cutter to keep up with our production needs. Our Roland DG printers have always provided excellent print quality, and we get outstanding service from our Roland technicians in Calgary whenever we need anything. We also have a plotter, dual laminators, a heat press, and an embroidery machine to round out our production capabilities. 

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