Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, my name is Gevorg Hambardzumyan and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Front Signs. I started the company along with three of my friends back in 2016. Now it’s one of the lead sign-making companies in Los Angeles and the largest in Burbank, CA.
Front Signs is a full-service sign making and printing company, offering top-notch signage solutions to business owners. Our services include designing, sign-making, large format printing, painting, installation, maintenance, and permitting. We offer a large selection of outdoor and indoor signs but the products we specialize in are 3D Signs & Letters which are the perfect solution for interior branding. Channel Letters and Lightbox Signs are extremely popular among business owners who want to advertise their brand and attract clients 24/7.
Front Signs is a B2B company, meaning that we target business owners who want to promote their brand through our signage medium. Apart from this, we also have a B2C e-Commerce platform for sign-making called Square Signs. But as Front Signs was our breakthrough, it’s what I’ll be focusing on.
We’ve built our business from the ground up with our own funds. At first, we were alone, just four of us. Now we have 42 employees and our team continues to grow with our company bringing in average monthly revenue of $800,000.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The beginning of our story takes us back to Armenia in the year 2008. All four of us are from Armenia, where we established our original sign-making business which had great success among the locals. This encouraged our desire to expand our enterprise outside of Armenia. Full of enthusiasm, we made up our minds to launch a new venture in the highly competitive market in the United States.
We knew a no guarantee move. We already had a successful business in our home country but the industry in America was a whole different playing field. Regardless, we wanted to dig deeper into it and took the risky leap forward. We took all of our previous knowledge and moved it to a larger market, without having any idea whether it would work out or not. As I look back now, it was definitely the right thing to do at the time.
In 2016, Front Signs was established in Los Angeles, California. At first, we had a small team of four and a few of our friends who helped us take our first steps into the new market. We spent long days and sleepless nights planning and sharing ideas. We all had one goal: to establish a first-rate sign-making company in LA. We were confident that we could do it and determined to succeed.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Our product is somewhat different than those offered by typical retail businesses. Creating premium signage involves 3D visualization and a vast understanding of different types of indoor and outdoor, illuminated, and non-illuminated advertising mediums. Most companies need to produce a product before launching their business. We, on the other hand, had to launch the company and attract customers first. Only then were we able to design and manufacture our first product?
There is no specific design for signage that we could prepare and produce beforehand. We needed a customer with a certain idea that we could bring to life. We had no difficulty in designing and manufacturing the first product at Front Signs because we already had years of experience in the industry.
The biggest challenge was finding reliable suppliers which we were able to do after a good amount of time spent on research. When we received our first order, we had all the supplies needed along with the professional team who could realize it. That’s how it all started. Step by step, the list of our customers grew and we managed to go from one customer to now more than 500,000 customers nationwide.
At first, we were mainly working for companies in LA but with time, we started providing signs around the country and even in Canada. As mentioned earlier, we not only manufacture signs but also install them and provide all other services required in the industry. We collaborate and employ people around the country to install the signs and provide maintenance services to our customers whenever needed.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Everything started with the idea to expand our business to Los Angeles and eventually the US, to make it more successful as we went along. I can say that the process started way before the actual launch when we were still in the planning phase. Once we had a clear plan that the four of us were satisfied with, we got to work.
We had prepared for this launch years before the actual event. As I mentioned earlier, we had a similar business in our home country so we were already familiar with the industry. We knew what actions needed to be taken before and during the process of launching. It’s a self-funded business so we had to calculate everything very carefully before investing in it. It wasn't a small investment - it cost us $2,000,000 so we had no room to fail. Fortunately, all the investment and hard work paid off.
The physical launch process for us started from the search for a facility that was fit for our business. We were looking for a facility that would allow us to have the sizable machines and technology required for sign making and printing all in one place. Once we found the facility, we went on to the next step of purchasing the most advanced equipment in the industry. This was followed by boring paperwork that all entrepreneurs have to go through when launching a business.
Once the facility was ready to go, we hired a team of online marketers to spread the word about our business around the country. Of course, we also needed a professional website and this is where developers came into play.
This is how it all started. We had the facility, all the required equipment, the website, and professionals marketing our business on all online platforms. The toughest part of the process was the waiting game.
What my colleagues and I have learned during the process of launching the business is that patience is the key to success. You can’t expect to achieve your goals on the first day you launch the business. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same applies to any fruitful enterprise. It will take time until you get your first and long-awaited customer. So, my advice to beginner entrepreneurs is to be patient and success will be on your side.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
In the era of social media, the wisest thing business owners can do is to use the power of the internet strategy to promote their brand. We used everything from SEO and Google Ads to social media campaigns on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to spread awareness and boost our brand. After some trial and error, the gear will start to turn. Be ready to invest in advertising. If you can handle it all by yourself, great! If you can’t, hire professionals who know how to make it all work.
Nowadays, people spend most of their time online, and social media is where your customers are ‘window-shopping’ at all hours. Though of course, being a B2B business, we have hugely benefited from our in-house salespeople as well. Direct contact with people is very important in gaining their trust and getting repeat customers.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I think we’re at the peak of our business career. Recently, we moved to a larger facility and started working with bigger names which is an indicator of success in the industry. Of course, like most other businesses, we’ve also had ups and downs in our career, especially during the pandemic - but the future looks promising!
In the ever-growing list of our customers, we have renowned names such as Coca-Cola, FedEx, Six Flags, Disney, Armani Exchange, Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles Times, MGM Resorts, and many more. This list is on an exponential incline day by day. I’m satisfied with the results so far. Our customers are mainly getting in touch with us by filling out a form on our website or by calling us directly. The important thing is that we’re already recognized among business owners, so they know how to find us.
In the future, we plan to enlarge our team and produce signs for other distinguished companies. We’ll see where the future takes us - I’m confident that it’s a good place.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Definitely. During the past few years, I’ve managed to learn a lot more about this business and I’m sure there is still a lot more on the horizon. Most of the insights I’ve gained have been thanks to the resolve to face challenges head-on. You can’t be a successful businessman without mistakes and failures. So, I always try to learn from my mistakes, analyze them to see what went wrong, and try to avoid making them twice.
For instance, one of the aspects that I realized you can’t build your company without is marketing. Investing in it is the right choice. Marketing is the bridge for transferring your intentions to your customers. Showing them how your business can benefit theirs will benefit your own. It’s a mutually beneficial cycle.
Therein lies the value of our service - it’s essential to every business. We provide outdoor advertising for other companies but we also need to advertise ourselves to attract customers. There are tons of other examples but I’m not going to cover them all. Just know that the process of building a business is not as smooth as it may seem and there’s always something new to discover along the way.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Email marketing: MailChimp
- Documentation: Google Workspace
- Internal communications: Slack, ClickUp, and Zoom
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
To be frank, when we were first starting our business, I didn’t really have time to read or listen to any podcasts. I can’t say that I was influenced by a particular book or resource back then. But now, whenever I have time, I try to fill in the gap with reading and I’m also getting into podcasts.
I’m beginning to utilize the value of easy to digest sources of information. They’re very convenient so whenever I’m on the road, especially in traffic, I turn on podcasts such as Entrepreneurs on Fire or Youpreneur. Mostly, I listen to business-related podcasts to get updates on the latest news and trends in the industry. I always learn something new and try to implement it in my work.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
This may sound cliche but one piece of advice I can give to entrepreneurs who are just starting is to believe in themselves. No matter what others may say, take it with a grain of salt. Just follow your gut feeling because it never betrays you. Often, your ideas may seem so huge and unrealistic to others that they will try to tell you it’s impossible to achieve and that you’re wasting your time and resources. But just because it’s unrealistic for them, doesn’t mean the same is true for you. We all have individual dreams and must commit to them to bring them to life.
Never compare yourself to others. Just believe in your vision and whenever you feel like you have an idea that can become something great, do it. If you have a bad feeling about something then don’t be afraid to quit despite popular advice. Don’t listen to others, you are more aware of your capabilities than them. Don’t let anyone underestimate you and never underestimate yourself. Even if you know you’ll fail, just try it for the experience. You won’t get anywhere in life without overcoming failure. You can ask any successful person you want; they will all agree that they failed once or twice before they reached their present success.
Don’t be scared of your own ideas, no matter how big they seem. Don’t fill your mind with what if’s. People often say, “what if I fail” or “what if it won’t work out the way I planned?” But why think about the negative? Rather, think about what it would be like if it works out. Have you thought about that? So, just believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who share your vision and values. Together, you can reach heights that may seem unattainable to others.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
As I’ve noted, we recently moved to a larger facility. Consequently, we have many open job opportunities and are looking forward to enlarging our team. At the moment, we have open positions in the following fields: sales specialist, warehouse worker, sign maker, printing specialist, and sign installer.
These are all paid, full-time positions, so if anyone finds themselves a perfect fit for any of them, they’re welcome to apply. You can find open positions on our website. We always keep the list updated so check it out and feel free to get in touch.
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Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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