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Thread: Fastsigns Franchise???

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Beavercreek, OH
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    Question Fastsigns Franchise???

    Good afternoon all,

    I am looking at starting a Fastsigns franchise. Do any of you have any experience either way with this particular or similar franchise? I am currently unemployed and looking for ways to earn a living within my physical limitations.

    Thanks

    Bryan

    Ok I guess I gotta go out and finish mowing the lawn......

  2. #2
    Bryan

    I'm from your neck of the woods. (Fairborn) There are an abundance of competitors in your general area so be ready for that. The big fish in the pond is obviously WPAFB but cracking that would be hard.

    Do you have the graphic skills and related experience necessary to prepare the artwork for signs, etc? Have you operated the various equipment necessary to make them? The learning curve is steep.

    You mention your physical limitations; does that mean you are not able to do installations? Do you have the means to acquire the equipment you'll need?

    I have no experience in the sign business but I had two Sign A Rama shops as customers here in the St. Louis metro and both folded so it's not a given that you can have success. I have a friend in a St. Louis suburb and he has opened his own shop with a partner. After about a year and a half they are surviving but he has taken no salary yet. (He's an EMT on his day job.)
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

    Trotec Speedy 300, 80 watt
    Woodworking shop CLTT and Laser Sublimation
    Evolis Card Printer
    CorelDraw X5

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Beavercreek, OH
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    467
    Good afternoon Mike, I retired from the USAF while working at WP so access is actually pretty good. As to physical limitations, I can do most things, however, I pay dearly for it, I have a very bad back from my military career. I spoke to the owner of Fastsigns down in Centerville and he primarily deals in printing on vinyl. He does not wood working. Time will tell where this goes.

    Thanks for your inputs!!!

    Bryan Rocker

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Sammamish, WA
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    7,623
    I had a non-franchise sign business for 17 years, and saw 6 of the franchises come and go in our area during that time (3 were Signarama). New franchisees spend a lot of money for the franchise fees, equipment, lease, remodeling, signage utilities, thn labor and it's very difficult to make any money with established competition. Those failures I witnessed had the same problems that led to their downfall.

    1. Underfunded, met the franchise requirements but nothing left to live on while starting up
    2. After training by the franchisors, tried to train inexperienced minimum wage employees
    3. Unable to do enough work in house, had to sub out a lot of installations, neon, engraving

    The sales people from franchisors will make it sound like a sure thing to make money and unfortunately that's just not true. Fastsigns seems to have a better success rate in our area but then there are only 2 that I know of and both have been around over 20 years. Many successful sign businesses (including mine) went under in the 2008-09 recession. Someone will meed to have real experience with graphics and signs. Limiting your services or contracting out for much of it will cost you more money but also frustrate many customers who could go elsewhere to places that do most/all of the work in-house. Employees will need to be well trained and paid. You cannot get government contracts unless paying prevailing wage to your employees, that's running close to $30/hour here now.



    Sammamish, WA

    Epilog Legend 24TT 45W, had a sign business for 17 years, now just doing laser work on the side.

    "One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop." G. Weilacher

    "The handyman's secret weapon - Duct Tape" R. Green

  5. #5
    You might talk to Keith Outten about working with the colleges--Wright State may almost be walking distance for you. I do some sign business with local colleges--by accident--because they are totally disorganized when it comes to signs and awards etc. Every dept. seems to do its own thing.
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

    Trotec Speedy 300, 80 watt
    Woodworking shop CLTT and Laser Sublimation
    Evolis Card Printer
    CorelDraw X5

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Hayes, Virginia
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    13,365
    There's plenty of profitable work to be had making signs for (new construction) large commercial buildings and some building rehab projects. Its a bit slow getting started as you must build a company resume' but once you get some projects behind you life is good!

    Colleges and Universities can be difficult to get a business relationship established unless you have both a state and federal SWAM certification. This also helps to win jobs with large General Contractors these days if they are doing government projects.
    .

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Posts
    1,843
    I am just south of you between West Chester & Monroe. I have had several friends in the sign business the past few years all go belly up. Too much competition down here. I would consider myself in the sign business too, but I have no employees to pay, no storefront to pay for, and no franchise fees to drain my account.
    Franchises do sound great, but like Mike mentioned, you may want to really learn the business first. It's not really a turn-key operation. There are a lot of technical skills to learn and a massive learning curve at that - unless you sub it all out.
    Tim
    There are Big Brain people & Small Brain people. I'm one of the Big Brains - with a lot of empty space.- me
    50W Fiber - Raycus/MaxPhotonics - It's a metal eating beast!
    Epilog Fusion M2 50/30 Co2/Fiber - 2015
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    - Liberty Laser LLC

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    South Elgin, IL
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    217
    I've had similar experience as Joe, having run my own non franchise sign business for over 23 years.
    In the northwest suburban Chicago area I have seen a lot of franchise sign shops open and close. Of the ones that "stay in business" what is actually happening (for a lot of them) is someone buys the franchise and tries to make a go of it. After a year or two they realize what a mistake they made because they're in debt and not making any money and so they sell the franchise to someone else who takes over the lease and equipment lease payments and franchise fees, etc. This new person then tries it for a year or so and the same thing happens again or it just closes up entirely. And there are some that do succeed...

    The new breed of "sign shop" is primarily a print shop, with a lot of, or a majority of the work being printed with inkjet on vinyl banners or self adhesive vinyl film or pvc plastic or corrugated plastic or magnetic material . There's still a lot of vinyl cutting and sticking being done but it's faster to print a job with 2 or 3 colors than it is to cut and weed and apply layers of vinyl.

    Once you learn the technology of the equipment it becomes a question of how cheap are you willing to sell your work in order to compete with everyone else that has similar equipment. Shops get desperate to pay that high rent, equipment leases, franchise fees, employee wages, sales people, etc. and will typically undercut the other guy just to get some money coming in.

    You also have competition from stores like OfficeDepot/OfficeMax and Fedex/Kinkos and Staples.
    Can you compete with their pricing on the same kinds of jobs?
    If you can't compete on price, you had better be able to offer something the other guys can't offer or the customer has no reason to buy from you. In business, loyalty and friendship goes out the window when money is concerned.

    Maybe you can offer superior design skills although the vast majority of sign customers today have no clue what makes one sign look better than another and gladly accept badly designed signs. Maybe because that's the bulk of what's being offered?

    You could offer faster service and delivery - no wait... they already offer same day or next day service and delivery so forget that. Do you like rushing to meet deadlines trying to make something look good while the customer supplied artwork that isn't suitable or has provided insufficient details?

    My advice is if you have a passion for sign making, start small from your home/garage and hit the pavement dropping off cards any places you notice that have existing signs - especially places with old faded or cracked and peeling signs. Yes, you'll have to do it all yourself but you won't have multiple thousands of dollars in costs if you decide it isn't working. You can buy lots of sign making equipment on Ebay from people who couldn't make any money doing it. Vinyl cutters, digital printers, flat bed UV printers and so on.

    If you don't have a passion for sign making and were just looking for guidance while starting a business, there's tons of business opportunities depending on what you like to do and what you're physically able to do.
    Do a search online for sign shops or sign businesses (or any other kind of business that interests you) in your area and see what comes up. Look in the local phone book and see how many are listed. This will give you an idea how much existing competition there is.

    Good luck!
    Materials Conversion Specialist
    I take perfectly good large pieces of stuff & turn them into smaller pieces having dubious value

    LASER: Trotec Speedy 300 30 Watt, CNC: Shopbot PRT, Vinyl Cutter: Summa Sign Pro T750
    Old School: a tool box full of brand new sign painting brushes from the 60's


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Beavercreek, OH
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    467
    Thanks for the input, I have been asking the same questions myself, how can the sign industry keep adding businesses when the market is already full. And yes those franchise fees don't sound like much at 8% ish but it still comes in around $5K a month for their name.......Great thoughts guys and gals!!!!

    Bryan

  10. #10
    I imagine FastSigns are different in different places, but around here, there's about 6 or more of them. Might be 10 or more. Not a one of them make anything. They have a central manufacturing facility in an industrial park here and all the little storefronts do nothing but take orders and send them to be processed by the manufacturing facility.

    We have done subcontracting work for FastSigns, Signs by Tomorrow, Signs Now, Image 360, and probably a couple more. The one's that appear to be really successful are the ones that hustle. They also tend to buy equipment that others in the franchise don't own in the direct area. For example, if no one has a CNC router in your regional franchise network and you buy one, then it's pretty easy to get the CNC routing work from all those in your region. If you bust your butt and work hard and try to grow the business and use the tools available from the franchise, it seems to work. If you think you can buy in and make it a one or two man operation and just keep doing the same thing all the time, you'll probably watch it drain your retirement program to zero.

    I've worked with really successful ones and ones that aren't in business any longer.
    Lasers : Trotec Speedy 300 75W, Trotec Speedy 300 80W, Galvo Fiber Laser 20W
    Printers : Mimaki UJF-6042 UV Flatbed Printer , HP Designjet L26500 61" Wide Format Latex Printer, Summa S140-T 48" Vinyl Plotter
    Router : ShopBot 48" x 96" CNC Router Rotary Engravers : (2) Xenetech XOT 16 x 25 Rotary Engravers

    Real name Steve but that name was taken on the forum. Used Middle name. Call me Steve or Scott, doesn't matter.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Beavercreek, OH
    Posts
    467
    That was one of the things that made me feel uneasy about them, they were all about vinyl and nothing much else and to further push me off I have seen no less that 2 more Fast signs open up in the past few months.......I may do signs in the future but it will probably be along side the one military shadow boxes I want to design and make.....

  12. #12
    There's a guy out there that has made millions by selling a "franchise" sign setup. It's a unique deal because you pay up front to buy the "sign shop package" from him. It's $180,000. For that, you get a week of training, you get a printer, a laminator, a couple of computers, and a vinyl plotter. There are no fees afterwards. It's all up front. You can name your company anything you want, and there's a loose network of other franchise owners on a message board so you can always reach out to them.

    The equipment he sells you for $180,000, at MOST could be bought brand new for about $50,000. I know a guy that meet him and knew all about him years ago and he told me the whole story. Said the guy became a multi-millionaire selling these packages to people that had been bought out from their high paying jobs and were looking for something to get into. He spoke of the lavish lifestyle the guy lived, all because of it.
    Lasers : Trotec Speedy 300 75W, Trotec Speedy 300 80W, Galvo Fiber Laser 20W
    Printers : Mimaki UJF-6042 UV Flatbed Printer , HP Designjet L26500 61" Wide Format Latex Printer, Summa S140-T 48" Vinyl Plotter
    Router : ShopBot 48" x 96" CNC Router Rotary Engravers : (2) Xenetech XOT 16 x 25 Rotary Engravers

    Real name Steve but that name was taken on the forum. Used Middle name. Call me Steve or Scott, doesn't matter.

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