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Wholesale Sign Fabrication Tips from Art-Works Wholesale Signs & Awnings’ Amy Capobianco

Signarama Downtown’s Maggie Harlow receives wholesale sign advice.

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Amy Capobianco

Amy Capobianco

RECENTLY, I WAS working on a very unusual, fabricated project and looked online for a wholesale vendor that could help me with this specific need. I came across Art-Works Wholesale Signs & Awnings (Pinellas Park, FL). Their website featured perfect examples of what I had in mind. When I called and spoke to their office manager, she was incredibly helpful in talking about product limitations and what I needed to know about the product. I was very impressed with how quickly she put my mind at ease and made me feel ready to talk to my client. That accommodating office manager turned out to be Amy Capobianco.

Amy describes finding a career in the sign industry as a “fluke.” She was in the floral industry, but filled in at a signshop back in 2005, temporarily helping with vinyl work on vehicles, but found herself enjoying the experience of working with her hands, and it kept her interest.

A natural learner, she progressed from vinyl installer to learning Flexi software and doing design, to running the plotter. Permitting and material purchasing were next, and she was a quick study. “I try to absorb everything I can,” Amy said. “I might have [had] the boss draw me a picture to be sure I understood.”

Art-Works eventually switched gears into wholesale fabrication, and Amy was selected to run the installation division, doing everything from scheduling and estimating to setting up inspections and gathering permits. In addition, she oversees the office staff. “I talk to new customers and tell them about what we can do,” she said. “I get involved in larger projects that the owners don’t have time for. I keep things organized.”

The wholesale fabrication business is a very different experience from retail. For small signshop owners who don’t know a lot about fabrication – but have clients who need those products – wholesalers can be a godsend. However, if you aren’t well-prepared for what to expect and what is expected of you, it can feel intimidating. Fortunately, Amy is here to help. “Our job is to teach our clients what we need from them to help them be successful!”

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Successful relationships with wholesale sign companies depend on communicating the details of projects precisely.

Wholesale Advice

Amy offered these tips for how to gain knowledge in working with fabricated signs – no matter what kind of fabrication – and to give you the confidence to sell some new products.

  • If you are searching for a certain kind of wholesaler, ask other signshop owners for recommendations.
  • Know your fabricators’ capabilities and specialties. Interview them about what they fabricate in-house. For example, Art-Works doesn’t do foam-panel sign work; they do custom aluminum and illuminated signs. As you build your roster of wholesalers, you will want to know where to go for which projects.
  • Deadlines are critical, so be sure you understand what kind of lead times your fabricators need, and to incorporate shipping times, if needed. For time-sensitive projects, call ahead to be sure you know how busy they are. If your shop is swamped, it is possible your fabricator is also busy and their lead times may have changed.
  • Quality artwork and drawings are critical to success. Clear fabrication drawings make quoting and fabrication faster, but also ensure you are getting the right product. If you don’t have a good design, hire someone to help you prepare drawings. Many wholesalers do not offer design, but may know good designers they can suggest.
  • Color specification also matters if your sign is painted. “Red” is not a specific-enough color. Ask the wholesaler for the “paint system” or “print system” they are using. Ask about color-matching capabilities.
  • Be sure your final drawing – whether it is your creation or the fabricator’s design, if they offer one – is 100% correct. Do not rely on “conversations” to get your sign correct – be sure to review any work order that is spelled out in detail. Or even better, review it with them over the phone if you are unsure.

Know that the wholesaler wants you to be successful. Learn to communicate clearly and build on your relationship.

Maggie Harlow is the CEO of Signarama Downtown Louisville (Louisville, KY), one of the largest and most prestigious locations for the global sign franchise. Contact Maggie at [email protected]

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