Lawrence Sign Up is located just north of downtown Lawrence, KS and has been quietly servicing the custom sign and custom printing needs of businesses, schools and people alike for the last 3 years. Ben Koehn’s business offers a wide variety of services from printing stickers to wrapping automobiles and everything in between. In this interview we not only find out what makes Ben’s business tick but we also learn about how Ben has become a part of the Kauffman Foundation‘s One Million Cups group.
(Interview 09/03/13 – Weather Kansas City 87 Degrees & Sunny)
Ben: Hello, this is Ben Hartman with kansascity.bloggerlocal.com. We’re here in Lawrence, Kansas, with Ben Koehn, owner of Lawrence Sign Up. We’re going to talk with him a little bit about his business and some of the aspects of starting up an entrepreneurial venture. Ben, if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got this business rolling that would be awesome.
Cohen: All right. Thanks for having me, Ben. I’m excited to be a part of this and pretty much how I got started was I moved to Lawrence from small town Kansas about 10 years ago now. I went to school at the University of Kansas. I worked a part-time job in the sign industry, graphic arts sort of stuff. Ended up liking it quite a bit and could not get a job out of college so I had some money saved up and put to the side that I was going to purchase a vehicle with. Instead I put that on a down payment for a business loan and bought the Signgarama franchise that I worked at, bought the customer list, the equipment. Ended up changing the name, moving down the block and that was about three years ago now.
Ben: Awesome, so you took a risk and it’s worked out so far. What are some of the practical applications that people can get from your services?
Cohen: Most of it is information, conveying information in a visual element so be it as simple as a birthday banner for a very small audience of family and friends that would be in a living room or a front yard that tells those individuals why they’re there or something as large as an illuminated sign on 6th Street at a shopping center here in Lawrence. Just getting out information about individuals, businesses, and institutions and conveying that information in signage.
Ben: You guys are doing automobile wrapping, correct?
Ben: Is that a big trend going on lately, wrapping vehicles?
Cohen: Yeah, it’s really picked up steam probably the last five years. There’s been a lot of developments and advancements in the graphic film technologies and overlay elements from companies like 3M, Armand, Avery, and Oracal. All of those companies have put a lot of R & D dollars into ways that they can make the films better, last longer and conform around the contours of complex shapes that you normally find on vehicles.
Ben: That’s definitely an emerging technology that’s starting to become applicable, right?
Cohen: You bet. What better than having a mobile billboard, if you’re a plumber or a roofer and you have a truck that you’re driving around town anyway you might as well have it be a literal moving billboard.
Ben: True. What are some of the businesses you’ve worked with in town?
Cohen: We’ve worked with Rueschhoff Locksmith and Securities. We’ve been working with One Electric. We work with various groups up at the University of Kansas. We’ve done some things with First Management. We’ve worked with some of the car dealerships. We do a lot of things with Lawrence High School and Free State High School.
Ben: A wide variety of customers in your base.
Ben: You were telling me a little bit about the One Million Cups pitch program through the Kauffman Foundation previously. Can you tell us about your experience there and what it’s like?
Cohen: They just started a 1 Million cups here in Lawrence a little over a month ago and I was fortunate enough to be approached by the individuals that were starting the Lawrence Chapter of it at the initial inception of the project. I was able to present, actually just last week I think it was in the fourth or fifth session that they ever had. It was a pretty rewarding experience. One Million Cups allows all entrepreneurs to get in front of a captive audience and kind of pitch them on what their start-up idea is or any problems that they’ve faced in their start-up and then receive direct feedback in a twenty minute question and answer series shortly after their six minute presentation. I enjoyed it quite a bit and I was happy to be a part of it.
Ben: So you definitely recommend that then?
Cohen: Absolutely. If you’re in Lawrence I believe it’s Wednesday mornings at 9:00 a.m. at the Cider Gallery over near the new Poehler Lofts over in East Lawrence.
Ben: Cool. We’ll definitely link to that website so people can find their way to that. Wrapping up here, do you have a crucial piece of software or app that you use that’s definitely needed in your business that you couldn’t do it without?
Cohen: We have quite a few industry-specific programs that are necessary for us to operate at the way we operate as far as the volume and quality that we need and also tracking data. We have a product called SignBox that’s cloud based that handles all our estimation, project management, production management, permitting, I mean pretty much all day-to-day aspects of the business, and then, of course, there’s software that runs all our print drivers and keeps the wide format printer moving
Ben: A crucial tool for your business.
Ben: All right, thanks for giving us a minute out of your schedule here. We’ll check back in with you soon at kansascity.bloggerlocal.com. Thanks again to Ben Koehn at Lawrence Sign Up.