February 8, 2019
By Jason Cramp
The Speedpro Signs franchise in Grand Prairie, Alta., was opened in 1995 by Peter and Eve Lepinski. In 1996, Jennifer Metituk started as a signmaker in a three-person shop learning the basics of vinyl signmaking and installation with the Lepinskis. During this time, the shop’s first printer was a Roland PC600, which added to the range of products the shop could offer. Five years later, Jennifer, and her husband Dave, both 24 at the time with two infants, purchased the business from the Lepinskis and became the youngest franchisees in the group.
To achieve success, the Metituks had to hit the ground running, learning and recovering from their mistakes, and working harder than ever. In the first two years, they doubled their business and then doubled it again—it was a rollercoaster they had no idea how to ride other than using their instincts. As a result of the company’s accelerated growth, the Metituks moved the shop in 2005 to its current location—a 186-m2 (2000-sf) retail storefront that is accessible and visible off of a busy highway.
Today, the company typically employs four to five full-time staff and three to four part-time workers. As Speedpro Signs is located in a remote, mid-sized city, the company has a full-time installer on staff. The shop is equipped with three printers (two Roland VP 540s and one HP Laytex) along with a traditional plotter and laminator, and a Gerber computer numerical control (CNC) router for completing dimensional projects.
Although the last five years have been intense at times, the Metituks are settling down and cannot help but wonder when the next stage will begin. This is a ride they have enjoyed for 18 years.
During this period, the Metituks not only successfully developed Speedpro Signs into a booming business—which was recognized as the national winner of Sign Media Canada’s 2018 Signmaker of the Year Award—but also raised their family, expanded their team with some people who they consider family, and established a loyal customer base.
“When you get recognition from those in the industry it really wakes you up a bit to see it from the outside looking in,” says Jennifer Metituk. “We tend to move on to the next project so quickly that it’s nice to take a moment and look back at what we’ve accomplished over the last 18 years and see how far we have come.”
Sign Media Canada spoke with Speedpro Signs’ co-owners about their career as signmakers, how their business has grown, and what the future holds for their company and the sign industry.
Sign Media Canada (SMC): What type of signage does your shop primarily make?
Jennifer Metituk (JM): Our shop is modern with a hint of old school. We use a lot of coloured vinyl for many reasons such as looks, consistency, and cost. We serve small- to medium-sized businesses in the area so we have to do a little bit of everything. What we enjoy is working on creative marketing efforts, being able to consult and enhance a great idea, whether it is wall murals, wraps, or a dimensional sign. We are known for our vehicle wraps and being part of and contributing to the car culture. In fact, one year, one of our wraps won ‘best paint’ in an annual car show against hundreds of other cars and it caused quite a stir.
SMC: What type of projects have you been working on recently?
JM: At the moment, the economy in our area is booming so we are working on a lot of new logo creations, which we then turn into life-size projects. Seeing a new brand come together is very satisfying. Lately, we have also been doing a lot of window murals. These projects are hard to install in the winter but right now our clients’ storefronts are really stepping it up.
Over the last few years local schools have become a large part of our customer base as they have all started to pay more attention to their brands and physical spaces. Being able to improve these particular environments is fun. Automotive dealerships are a big part of our business, too. These clients typically let us geek out on some of their projects, whether it is redesigning a retro stripe or blanketing their demo models.
Once some of our projects are recognized, such as the Arctic Bear mural, we have more requests to ‘play’ a little more. At the core, 80 per cent of our work is typically small business signage. The trick is remembering no matter how simple or mundane a project may seem to us, it is important to our clients and they see the work we do as a form of magic. When looking at projects through our client’s eyes it helps us keep things in perspective.
SMC: How much of the sign-making process is handled in-house?
JM: We handle 80 per cent of all work in-house. Some dimensional projects, lighted signs, and fabric printing are handled externally. With our franchise we are allowed to offer the products we want, which gives us a lot of freedom to be creative.
Our suppliers are very involved and we love working with them; Grimco is our first call for all things Avery, and ND Graphics has been amazing to work with as well. In fact, Dave is an Avery Certified Installer. That said, we wrapped our first truck in 2003 before eco-solvent printers were available. We did not only have to order the wrap printed from Vancouver, but we also had never installed one before. Thanks to Dave’s insanely good instincts, the wrap turned out beautiful. It was installed with no reprints on non-air egress material at that. Further, it lasted for more than 10 years.
SMC: What does your project planning and design process involve?
JM: Typically, a standard consultation is conducted to determine the needs of the client and the project. For more complex jobs, we like to know how creative we can get, and sometimes all it takes is a really great concept. For example, we had our designer get really creative on a storefront project without any expectations from the customer. Three years later, the client came back and said they were ready to move forward with the job. Although we had to redesign some things for budget considerations and, of course, real-life execution, it turned out amazing. Sometimes the material is the inspiration, while other times it is the creativity. Regardless, we find a way to make it work.
SMC: How is technology changing your business?
JM: We deliberately embrace new technology as quickly as possible—from production to sales and design. This allows us to be agile and leverage everything we have.
One might also say we are a little obsessed with efficiency in our processes. For instance, we track everything possible, while at the same time ‘touching’ projects—physically or digitally—as little as possible.
For instance, more than 10 years ago we stopped proofing by e-mail and fax and moved to an online system. This was until we found software that allowed us to proof from our point-of-sale (POS) system. Many shops do not like the ongoing costs of this software but we can prove, based on the volume of work we do, that keeping track of every project and the various stages they are in would require nearly double our current staff.
We also recently upgraded our raster image processor (RIP) with the new printer and now wish we did this much sooner. The production efficiencies we gained in this upgrade alone have been almost as impactful as when we added the Rollsroller flatbed applicator years ago. We are interested in any technology that is capable of making jobs simpler and faster for our staff.
SMC: What is the key to staying successful in the sign industry?
JM: First and foremost is passion for the work. It is not always going to be 100 per cent of every part of the business, but it changes as a company grows. If one loses their passion it becomes harder to get up and go to work every day.
Also integral to our success is being thorough on everything we do. We constantly evaluate our work and ask ourselves, “Would we pay for that?” Further, should a client migrate to us after having difficulties at another shop, we take a moment to make sure we are not inadvertently doing the same things that may have upset the customer in the first place. To this point, our staff embraces this mindset as well.
Finally, we leverage everything we can to enable us to do our jobs as owners and paying staff to do other duties. There is no harm in being the signmaker and having someone else do the customer-facing activities.
SMC: What are the future plans for your business?
JM: We have our eye on the new HP flatbed printer but are working out a business case for it. Being so far away from the main city centres means we have to rely on ourselves and make things happen internally. As such, having a range of tools at our disposal is always handy.
The next biggest objective we have is finding someone who wants to continue this for us. It would be nice to find a couple in their 20s with the same aspirations we have who can see a bigger picture for the shop than we can after so many years in the sign industry.
For more information, visit www.speedprowest.ca.
Source URL: https://www.signmedia.ca/speedpro-signs-canadas-2018-signmaker-of-the-year/
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