Job: President/co-owner, Chautauqua Sign Co. (Falconer, NY)
IN 2004, KRISTIE Voty started at the bottom rung of Chautauqua Sign Co. – or “super, super-entry level,” as she put it – for the small sign company. “I just painted backgrounds of signs and picked up the [shop floor],” she said. Now, Voty is entering her fourth year running the company. “You’re ctonstantly pushing your limits, whether it’s design, engineering, creativity,” she said. “Everything is pushed. And it’s extremely satisfying. Your sense of achievement every single day is through the roof.”
As the years went on, Voty accumulated more responsibility. She taught herself Adobe Illustrator, which came in handy when the then-owner purchased a large-format digital printer. Voty started doing logo design, and digital wraps and banners, creating her own clientele. She progressed to taking over sales, and then production. She learned how to work the CNC machine. “Right now, I do all the sales, design, digital printing and CNC work,” she said. “I do most of the installations.” What doesn’t Voty do for her shop now? “I don’t pick up the floor anymore – sometimes,” she said with a laugh.
Chautauqua Sign is known for its unique designs and handcrafted signs, specifically carved gold leaf. “We do things old school. We don’t spray signs; we hand lay out our paints,” Voty said. “Even so much as putting an apple on a carved, gold-leaf sign. I will hand-carve that apple and hand-paint that apple, so it’s not 100% computer-generated. Those hand elements give it a defining characteristic.” The shop’s work chiefly comes within a 60-mile radius of its location in southwestern New York. Chautauqua Sign doesn’t advertise because 95% of the shop’s business is word of mouth – they have 30-year repeat customers – and Voty has no reason to believe that trend won’t continue. “If you do a good job and treat people well … that referral is the best form of compliment,” she said.
Voty could expand Chautauqua Sign in multiple ways, but she’s content with the status quo. “The bigger we get, the less I get to enjoy what I’m doing,” she said. “The last thing I want to do is get stuck in the office doing only design, sales and paperwork. I want to be out there working on stuff. That’s what I enjoy doing.”
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