In this three-part series, we get a behind-the-scenes look at how a few folks in D/FW became entrepreneurs. If you’ve ever had a desire to hang out your own shingle, you can learn from their successes, their missteps and the continual evolution that is running your own business.
Entrepreneur. Founder. CEO. Whatever you call yourself, if you’re a business owner, the buck stops with you. And chances are, you’ve got a heck of a story to tell about how you got your business off the ground and running. Because, let’s face it, just like we’re the hero of our own life story, if you’re a business owner, you are the hero of your business’s story. And every tale is different than the next.
In this three-part series, we look at three very different stories of getting a business off the ground. From how they got their start, to their mistakes, to their mission statements, these businesses, in form and function, are just as unique as the people who run them. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at our first local business owner to find out how he did it.
It was a sign
Back in 2013, Roger Carroll decided it was time for a change. “Having spent 25 years in sales and marketing in various apparel businesses, it was time for me to move on from corporate America. After looking at my options, I figured it wouldn’t be a huge leap from putting corporate logos on textiles such as shirts, jackets, and headwear to putting corporate logos on glass, acrylic, and aluminum,” said Carroll. So, he bought a sign business, which was a package purchase from a company called SIGNworld, and Cowtown Graphics & Signs was born. “We opened for business in the fall of 2013 in 2,500 square-feet with myself and Brandon Chilcutt, my General Manager. We added a second employee in the fall of 2014 and recently added a third full-time employee in March of this year. Growth has accelerated this year and we are up 75 percent over this time a year ago. We are quickly expanding our customer base and product offerings,” said Carroll.
Sounds easy, right? Buy a business and watch it grow. Well, as Carroll explains, there’s a lot more to it than that, especially in the beginning. “Coming from corporate America, one of the toughest challenges is the lack of resources. Starting from scratch you simply must do a little of everything. You can be working on a customer quote and if your computer goes on the fritz, there is no IT department down the hall to help. You do the payroll, pay the bills, hire and train the employees, call on customers, write up and produce the orders, and on and on,” said Carroll. He was the first to admit that it was overwhelming at times. “The first couple years I vacillated from exhilaration to sheer terror on a daily basis,” he said. But, after the initial growing pains, Carroll has been able to relax a bit and handle the normal ups and downs that come with being a business owner. “Now as I progress through the week I take the days in stride knowing that with smart trouble shooting and consistent application of what I have learned building the business, everything will turn out fine,” said Carroll.
A different do-over?
While Cowtown Graphics & Signs is on track to doubling their business this year to half a million dollars in annual sales, which is very impressive growth for such a young company, Carroll still would have done a few things differently if he could do it all over again. “The first couple years were very tough as we developed our customer base through networking and internet marketing,” said Carroll. “I would have gone to a pay-per-click internet campaign from the day we opened. It’s simply how most everybody finds most anything they are looking for these days. Don’t scrimp on marketing; there’s no business without customers.”
As far as other advice he had for people wanting to go into business for themselves, Carroll said that it’s critical to get help when you need it. “Go into business “for yourself,” but not “by yourself.” Seek help and advice from others; there are tons of resources out there that can help you for free. Start with the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center (BAC),” said Carroll. He also wanted to remind budding entrepreneurs to live by the Golden Rule, like he and his staff try to do, with both customers and each other. “We take care of our customers, act professional at all times, and treat each other with respect on a daily basis.”
Perhaps the only regret that Carroll has about starting his own business is that didn’t do it sooner. “I should have done it ten years earlier,” Carroll said. But just the fact that he gets to help his customers tell the world about themselves is proof that he made the right choice in 2013 to start his own business. “The biggest thrill is seeing a customer’s face light up when they see their beautiful new sign on the office wall,” said Carroll. “A business with no sign is a sign of no business.”
Cowtown Graphics & Signs is a full service commercial sign company. They design, fabricate, and install signs of all types for exterior and interior use by businesses, both illuminated and non-illuminated. For more information, please visit www.cowtownsigns.com.