Question: Where is your business located (city & state)? Who are the customers you serve? What products or services does you company provide?
Crystal Lake, IL (a suburb of Chicago)
My business caters to corporate clients as well as SMBs. Specifically, we deliver solutions for general contractors, property management companies, developers, architects, emerging chain stores, municipalities, and non-profits. Brandmark delivers business identity solutions in the form of marketing support services (logo development, collateral development, website management, social media) as well as signage solutions (interior and exterior signage, wayfinding, ADA compliance signage, digital printing) among others. Our online store as a large variety of ready to order and custom/design online by owner products.
Question: When did you start your business? Why did you decide to start your own business?
My business began in June 2012, incorporating in September 2012. I decided to start Brandmark LLC after 20 years as a corporate marketer and 5 years in the signage industry. I saw that many sign companies did not understand the importance of branding strategy aligned with their signage. My mix of market planning, brand management, and signage made for a unique approach to developing signage and marketing solutions for my clients. I am dedicated to delivering best in class customer service with quality crafted products and skilled installation solutions so my clients receive true value when they choose Brandmark.
Question: Did you quit your "day job" to start your business? How did you initially fund your business?
My previous employer fell victim to a relentless economy, poor financial planing and undercapitalization following an acquisition in August of 2011. By June of 2012 they closed their company. I decided then that building Brandmark was a future I controlled delivering the kind of service that I have always deliver. My business has been funded through personal assets.
Question: What has been the biggest challenge in running your company?
Wearing many hats with not enough hours in the day. Sweat equity comes with a cost.
Question: What’s been the biggest opportunity that came from owning your business?
Because of my marketing skill set, being able to aggressively market my company from day one and not having to overcome a stumbling block that impacts many small business start-ups. As a result, I have experienced positive revenue generation early on.
Question: What has surprised you most about being your own boss?
Cost management and financial planning has always been important to me but now see the true importance of this aspect of business, especially from a start-up perspective.
Question: Is there a success tactic you’d like to share that could help other business owners (i.e. implementing new software, tactic to grow sales, etc.)?
I strongly encourage start-ups to take the time and invest in the branding of their company. Do not take for granted the public's perception of your brand, underestimating the value a professionally designed company personna will have on your early success. Effective business signage and professionally designed marketing solutions will have a positive impact on revenue generation.
Question: What’s the best piece of advice you could give to other small business owners?
Plan to succeed. Establish early benchmarks aligned with corporate goals so that you know when you are making headway. You will never know when you get there if you don't know where "there" is.