If you go to the home page of BuildASign’s website, you may think to yourself, “This isn’t the type of small, local business that The Austinot normally talks about. And is it even based in Austin?”
I validate your secret thoughts because I thought them too. At first.
Though BuildASign now serves four different countries, employs more than 200 people and pulled in $30 million in revenue last year, the company didn’t start there. In fact, BuildASign’s story began not too differently from many of the Austin entrepreneurs and small business owners who you know and love.
In 2005, Founder Dan Graham, a UT Law School grad, was trying to sell a product in Austin. It was an online web technology that allowed sign companies to sell on the Internet. But sign companies weren’t biting. Convinced that they were onto something, the team continued to develop their online technology. Finally, Dan says, “We actually launched it [BuildASign.com] online to prove out that it could make money. And it did make money.”
BuildASign’s measly 100 square feet of office space – that housed only two computers – was soon too small for the success of the company. In fact, since its founding, BuildASign has grown 50% every year. Just this past May, they moved into a new Austin headquarters that doubled the size of their previous space.
The appeal of BuildASign is that anyone can visit their website, design a sign and order it on the spot. Signs can have unlimited colors and BuildASign boasts a lightning-fast turnaround: your sign can arrive on your doorstep in as little as two days.
How BuildASign Gives Back to the Austin Community
So BuildASign has a solid product. Sweet. But lots of companies have solid products. What really sets BuildASign apart is their active involvement in the Austin community, and their willingness to give.
Here are three examples:
BuildASign has donated more than 240,000 “Welcome Home” signs to returning military service members since 2008. This equates to more than $7 million worth of signage.
This is how it works: visit BuildASign’s Troops web page and create your sign using pre-designed templates. You can even add an image, like your service member’s photo. Signs can have messages like “I love my soldier” or “Welcome home, Daddy.” The signs are provided at no cost; all you need to cover is shipping.
The company also provides free band banners at no charge (again, shipping not included). This is an awesome opportunity for local bands without an advertising budget. Templates for these 3′ x 6′ signs are appropriate for bands, DJ and school musical groups. Use a template or design your own image.
At the end of September, BuildASign hosted CreateAthon Austin, in partnership with the professional association for design (AIGA).
CreateAthon is a really neat event that partners talented volunteers with non-profits who need creative marketing services. For 24 hours straight, volunteers brainstorm and create for their designated non-profit. This year, seven Austin organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas and Hope Alliance, benefited from the generosity of an army of volunteers.
This is just scratching the surface. If you start looking, you’ll be surprised at how much BuildASign contributes to Austin when it comes to giving and volunteering.
Dan Graham has said of Austin, “I love this city. This is the place where I want to grow old.” In his case, it’s not just talk. And that’s something Austinites can be grateful for.
To learn more about BuildASign’s founding and what it’s up to these days, check out this video interview with Dan from We Are Austin Tech:
Where do you volunteer in Austin?
Photos by Nick Simonite, and via Flickr CC, courtesy of Mary Clark and AIGA Austin.