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Meet Melissa Howard of Sign-Up! Signs & Graphics in Tempe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Howard.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My ‘story’ starts in Billings, Montana. My 1st real job was with a Montana artist named Don Eggen when I was about 15 years old. He owned Eggen Signs. He taught me how to use the signmaker 4 program when it still had the x and y moves to space out lettering. We hand cut the vinyl for the great big Pepsi – cola trucks back then. Now a computer does all of that for you! Don basically taught me everything I needed to know at the time for the sign business, so I never went to school for it. I worked for Don until he got an offer to move to Kamiah, Idaho to work strictly on golf courses. I was invited to make the move with them but opted not to raise my daughter (I was pregnant & had a baby right after high school) in Idaho and moved myself and my 3-month-old beautiful baby girl to Seattle, Washington. Where I knew no one, but the opportunity for success seemed greater. I got a job with Northwest Sign Supply and did freelance work with some of the smaller sign shops there as well.

Right after Christmas in 1992, got laid off due to lack of business at the sign shop. and took another path for a while. (That included a lot of moving around) At one point I worked for Fast Signs in Dallas, Tx. And when I moved to Arizona in 1999 I worked for Gretchen at Airpark Signs & Graphics for a short time. I went to Real Estate School but chose to open a day spa in Scottsdale instead. Island Mirabilia. We offered airbrush tanning, an oxygen bar, and massage. There was a sign guy next door to my spa. I started doing little production jobs for him here and there, and when the economy took a dive, decided to let the spa go and start my own sign business in 2009.

Sign-Up! Signs & Graphics was created. As I slowly built my sign business, I also started a small underground club known as Suite 25 or Boss Lady Productions. It made best of the New Times Underground Spots. I met a lot of fabulous local musicians and poets during this time. Some of which I still do advertising for, and one I manage his music business and record label as well. 23 Records. Right now I do mostly all vinyl graphics. A frames, vehicle lettering, storefronts, banners, and shirts. Lots of shirts! I’ve always done advertising and promotions in one form or another. I love to help people create their own businesses and then supply the marketing for them. It’s fun to see people succeed and prosper. One of my favorite quotes “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.” I’ve been fortunate to be able to flow with the tide so to speak, but everything I’ve done has pretty much revolved around the graphics and advertising industry. I think almost any business can succeed with the right advertising!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I won’t say the road has been smooth. A little bumpy and a lot of detours more like! I think the biggest struggle lies in maintaining balance in life. Owning your own business sometimes means you never really ever stop working. But at the same time, I can take lunch or leave town or sleep in, I just may not make any money that day.

I tend to be a workaholic. So pressing shirts at 4 am is not unusual, either. I think single parenting is a struggle all in itself, but owning your own business affords a lot of opportunities I would not have had otherwise to spend with my daughter. She’s grown and in college now, but she’s also one of my best promoters, and workers when I need a little extra help!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Sign-Up! Signs & Graphics story. Tell us more about the business.
The name of my business is Sign-Up! Signs & Graphics. I specialize mostly in vinyl graphics, decals, and t-shirts.

I do everything from logo creation to business cards to vehicle lettering. I would say no job is too big or too small…but that would not be true! I do not get up on the cranes and install larger than life signs, but I do small jobs like a single custom t-shirt or tank top order or a decal for your back window. I tend to cater to the smaller mom & pop businesses, but I have done very large banners for Mark Mitsubishi and Coleman and quite a few of the larger businesses in the valley and lettered some very large motor coaches for ET Limousines and a lot of storefronts. I also have a great network of other small business owners I send referrals back and forth with.

I personally oversee or do every job myself. I like to feel connected to my clients, so when you are dealing with my company, you are really dealing directly with me. I think that sets me apart from most businesses. I can do a last minute job on a Friday night or Sunday afternoon when you may need a quick sign for your garage sale or last-minute custom gift for that birthday party you forgot about, or your favorite game shirt for the tailgate party, or those DOT numbers for your business truck…

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t know that luck plays into life so much as being prepared to open the door when opportunity knocks and then knowing when to close that door before you let all the cool air out.

I had some really bad luck when we first invested into the sign business in 2009 because the man who originally talked my parents and I into investing in his “business” turned out to be a bit of a con artist. He took the money and ran…literally. With all of the equipment and everything. I learned a lot about businesses and LLC’s and partnerships in a very short amount of time.

Pricing:

  • $20 single custom t shirt or tank – $30 custom hoodie – prices vary depending on colors and quantitiy
  • magnets – set of 2 – single color – $65 for small (12 x 18) – $90 for large (18 x 24)
  • banners – $5 sq ft

Contact Info:

    

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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