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This Woman Entrepreneur Took the Franchise Route to Success in the Sign Industry

Now the owner of two shops, Leigh Rand has advice for others who want to follow in her path.



Leigh Rand has built her businesses with hard work and determination, but also empathy. Leigh Rand has built her businesses with hard work and determination, but also empathy.

FUTURE OWNER OF two Fastsigns, Leigh Rand was minding her own business, buying a sign for her personal chef operation, when the thought of owning her own signshop first popped up on her radar. Following 9/11, her husband, a commercial pilot, was looking for other business opportunities, and suggested they consider a sign franchise.

Flash-forward a couple of decades, and Leigh’s husband is back to flying full time, while she owns and runs two signshops — in Annapolis and Arbutus, MD — and leads 13 employees.

Leigh Rand

Leigh Rand

A self-motivated, determined and empathetic industry leader, Leigh has invested much time and effort improving her game over the years, leveraging board groups, business coaches and mentors, as well as networking within her franchise. With help from her supporters, she’s been able to bypass many challenges that women business owners face, including access to capital.

Her biggest challenge as a woman who owns signshops? “It’s not unusual for me to show up [for bid meetings or measurements] at a site and be the only woman there,” Leigh laughs.

Leigh’s shop — like most of ours — was greatly affected by the pandemic shutdowns; however, her business was able to pivot, handling a surfeit of social distance work for large local hospital systems. She also asserts that the pandemic helped her streamline her operation, forcing her and her team to become more efficient.


With her talented staff and appropriate equipment, she is able to take on large, complicated and often fun jobs. Guinness Brewery’s only plant in the US is close by her Arbutus location, and she’s completed some creative and enjoyable projects for them.

Now that her children are grown, she finds herself working long hours — not an unusual story for a hard-charging business owner who is also a mother. She believes being a woman makes her a more approachable and empathetic leader, putting her team’s needs front and center as she has crafted a warm and friendly work culture. Using a combination of perks like free lunches and work parties at her house with home cooked meals (she was a personal chef after all!), shop dogs and merit-based bonuses, Leigh believes her staff is happy, stable and efficient.

Looking back at her successful career, she is glad she went the franchise route. Securing initial training, ongoing support and mentoring opportunities have all helped her get to where she is today.

Her advice for women who are considering owning their own signshop(s)? Try to get some training or take classes for leadership, finance and especially some construction experience. Understanding what’s truly involved in a construction-based sign project is imperative to providing an accurate estimate — one that will be competitive enough to give you a chance at earning the project, yet reasonable enough so you can cover your costs and make a profit. Additionally, it takes time for a new business to turn a profit, so temper your expectations. Finding a mentor is a huge plus.

Leigh believes that a franchise — especially Fastsigns, which is led by a team of strong women role models — might be helpful to a woman who is considering entering the fray. She’s found Catherine Monson, CEO of Fastsigns Intl., to be an accessible leader over the years, and one who always puts her franchisees’ needs first.

As a former Army brat, Leigh is accustomed to traveling and tends to get antsy after staying in one place too long. She spends time away from the shop; however, with remote work she often gets chided by her staff for working just as hard when she’s out of the office. That’s a scenario many women signshop owners can relate to.





Introducing the Sign Industry Podcast

The Sign Industry Podcast is a platform for every sign person out there — from the old-timers who bent neon and hand-lettered boats to those venturing into new technologies — we want to get their stories out for everyone to hear. Come join us and listen to stories, learn tricks or techniques, and get insights of what’s to come. We are the world’s second oldest profession. The folks who started the world’s oldest profession needed a sign.

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